Reports surfaced a few weeks ago that Apple made a few tweaks to how the top charts are populated in its App Store (via Inside Mobile Apps). The algorithm changes were never officially confirmed by Apple, but mobile data and ad tracking analysts noted that the chart-topping apps appeared to be redefined based on how much each is put to use after being purchased in addition to the total number of units sold. Despite Apple’s lack of confirmation, it is fair to speculate that the intent is to limit app publishers’ ability to “game” chart positioning by taking advantage of limited-time sales and App Store reporting “off” time, such as the final couple of weeks in the year.
Now the Cupertino-based tech firm seems to have made another change intended to create a more fair and balanced environment for App Store rankings. A forum poster at TouchArcade received a new app via a promo code and quickly found that the app rating function wasn’t working. The issue was brought to Apple customer support, which came back with a pretty definitive response: “I am sorry to inform that it is no longer possible to rate or review an app if it was downloaded using a developer’s promotional code.”
Probably a smart move on Apple’s part. As mobile app usage numbers rise (and rise exponentially) alongside the number of apps themselves, top product charts have an increasing impact on sales as users come to use them as a sort of base for app recommendations. If sales numbers and nothing more dictate the layout of those charts, rankings can easily be influenced by items that are on sale. Determining positions using a broader set of criteria gives a more accurate account of which apps people are finding to be most useful.
Locking promotional code downloads out of the user review process is a natural outgrowth of that, for reasons that should be fairly obvious. What’s to stop a developer from handing out download codes to the sum total of the development and PR teams? It’s not like those people are going to give their product anything less than five stars.