1 min read

App Store Ratings Are Often Misleading

The App Store's rating system gives established apps an unfair advantage over new apps. Many early entrants have capitalized on a less crowded marketplace and some have even figured out how to leverage in-app mechanics to nudge users for reviews at opportunistic moments, collecting a wealth of 5-star ratings.

Since the App Store displays a lifetime average rating, a legacy app that's deteriorated in quality can still sport a misleadingly high rating. For example, an app with a 4-star rating backed by tens of thousands of historical reviews can keep that rating intact for years, even if it's currently receiving mostly 1 or 2-star reviews. This makes it tough for new, perhaps better, apps to compete on an equal footing, ultimately shortchanging consumers who are seeking the best solutions.

I'd welcome any shift in the App Store that prioritizes weighting review recency. I'd even welcome a new metric that makes it easy to assess an app's current (not lifetime) rating. Adding more ways to slice and dice app ratings doesn't seem in line with Apple's general approach. On Steam, for instance, you get two sets of review scores: one based on the past 30 days and another that covers the product's entire lifespan. This level of transparency could be a win for consumers and could also drive developers to up their game, especially if recent ratings had a more pronounced impact on App Store visibility and chart positioning.

Implementing any change would require a fine balance to serve both consumers and developers effectively. But with the right tweaks, I am optimistic the App Store could make ratings more meaningful, less misleading and more fair for everyone.