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Is Apple beefing up its own apps’ rankings in the App Store?

App Store
Apple may be promoting its own apps on the iPhone App Store instead of giving fair billing to apps that deserve Top Chart positions. When checking on the App Store from a desktop, certain apps like Keynote and iMovie aren’t ranked in the Top 20 Free section, or have lower rankings within it. However, when viewed on an iPhone, these comparatively unpopular apps show up with a boost to their ranks.

Rankings seem to vary based on the model of phone you have. TechCrunch compared an iPhone 5s with 6s, both running the same (latest) version of iOS at the same time, and found different Top Free Chart rankings.

For example, Pages, the app, ranked seventh on the Top 20 chart on the iPhone 5s, while it sat in sixth place on the 6s. Numbers was in ninth on the 5s, and one behind again on the 6s in tenth place. iTunes U was listed as number 11 on the 5s, but on the 6s it ranked 13.

While devices of certain types have different charts from each other — meaning iPads and iPhones don’t list the same app rankings — this is the first time different rankings have popped up for the same type of device (or rather, the second time according to this tweet).

Yes, something could be off in the algorithm that ranks the Apple Store’s apps. If so, it begs the question when it will be fixed, since the current situation works out conveniently in Apple’s favor. Sensor Tower, the app store optimization firm started looking into this last week.

The company tested the App Store on different phones running 9.1, the newest version of iOS, and encountered similar errors. Apple apps that have already been downloaded show up in the Top rankings, even when they shouldn’t be there at all. Force closing and relaunching the app resulted in random redistribution of the apparently overrated apps.

A device running iOS 8.3 didn’t suffer from the same problems. According to Sensor Tower’s data, the only Apple apps that should legitimately be in the Top 10 are GarageBand and iTunes U.

Still the problems remain, even if they can’t always be duplicated. And this isn’t the first time Apple has been given the side-eye for playing favorites. A few years ago, MacStories reported that users searching the App store for related terms would find themselves redirected to Apple stock applications.

Hopefully, Apple is not actively cheating third-party developers out of rankings and sales by purposefully putting its own apps in the Top charts. Since the company has yet to issue a related statement, Apple users are left wondering.

Aliya Barnwell
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Aliya Tyus-Barnwell is a writer, cyclist and gamer with an interest in technology. Also a fantasy fan, she's had fiction…
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