Are app store reviews reliable?

Published January 29, 2021

Are app store reviews reliable? Well, anyone who knows anything about app store reviews, or online reviews in general, knows the answer is no. App reviews are gamed by developers and the overall rating generally corresponds to how much the developer games the system rather than anything useful.

But that's not really what prompted me to write this.

There is an internet drama being played out between Reddit's WallStreetBets (WSB) and some hedge funds. WSB has pumped up the price of Gamestop stock, which has led to various hedge funds losing a huge amount of money. This should be fine - the hedge funds were gambling on something that didn't happen, and they knew the risks.

However, in response to this, some platforms have restricted the trading of Gamestop stocks. This infuriated a lot of people who were investing in Gamestop stocks, as the platforms' behaviour influenced the price of the stock.

Predictably, a lot of people started leaving one-star reviews on the Play Store, and, for example, Robinhood's rating plunged from around 4.2 to 1 star.

Unpredictably, Google has since removed hundreds of thousands of one star reviews from Robinhood, restoring their original rating of 4.2. Google has questions to answer about why they're deleting reviews that voice legitimate user complaints.

Personally I think it's time we dumped store ratings. They're artificial and unhelpful at the best of times, and if app stores are going to artificially manipulate them then they're completely without use.

Filed under: technology, apps, google

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