Apple Pulls 1,000 Apps from App Store After Fraud Claim

Apple pulls applications from its iPhone App Store after an accusation surfaces that the developer, Molinker, posted fake reviews about the mobile applications. Apple's App Store has been expanding rapidly, offering as many as 100,000 apps in November, and research company IDC predicts that the online storefront will contain about 300,000 apps by the end of 2010.

Apple on Dec. 7 pulled more than 1,000 applications from its App Store after reports of a developer posting fake positive reviews. That developer, Molinker, has denied the charges leveled against it by a blogger, and has said it has contacted Apple to work out the problem.

Glyn Evans, owner of the blog iPhoneography, got in touch with Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, after a reader with the handle "SCW" wrote to him about the alleged review-and-ratings scam.

In an e-mail to Schiller that was posted on the iPhoneography blog, SCW wrote:

""I have just looked at 44 of the reviewers who posted reviews for this Molinker Inc app "NightCam Pro" & EVERY review except 2 of the 44+ are ALL FAKE 5 [star] reviews. ... If you investigate ALL have ONLY reviewed ONLY Moniker apps.""

SCW's letter, as posted on the blog, continued, "I will almost bet that all of these users redeemed 'Promo Codes' for these apps in order to only access the U.S. App Store and publish [this] endless slew of fake postings."

On top of that, SCW also asked Apple for compensation: "I think I deserve an investigations reward for unearthing this blatant attempt at misleading and stealing from the public."

Apple may very well have agreed with SCW's assessment, as it yanked Molinker's 1,011 applications from the App Store on Dec. 7. When the blog Appfreak contacted Molinker for a response, it received a confused e-mail in return.

"We got an e-mail from Apple yesterday [Dec. 6] which told us our contract is changed to pending status," the owner of Molinker's Website domain reportedly replied to Appfreak. "We had contacted Apple for [an explanation of] such sudden changes, hope we can get quick response and actions from Apple."

Apple's App Store has been expanding rapidly. By November, the App Store had increased in size to carry 100,000 applications, with Apple claiming over 2 billion downloads.

"The growth in mobile devices will ignite an explosion in mobile applications, with the number of iPhone apps tripling to 300,000 and Android apps surging by a factor of five or more," research company IDC predicted Dec. 3.

That explosive growth will likely increase pressure on Apple to weed out developers that flood the store with useless or fraudulent applications. Apple has pulled applications before, occasionally in response to public pressure; for example, in April, after outcry from various groups, Apple yanked a "Baby Shaker" App, in which users could "shake" a virtual infant using an iPhone.