In the past few days I have uncovered a scam that is currently using the Apple App Store as its base. It exploits the fact that the application in question is currently only available on iPhones and not on iPads. It is also benefiting, I assume, from the fact that the iPhone application itself got publicised this weekend on the BBC Click programme.
This is how it works –
A company called Prisma Labs have invented a brilliant application that converts photographs to paintings in a style chosen by the user. Here are ‘before and after’ shots of what the software did to one of my photos:
I’m not sure why but at the moment the application is, as previously stated, only available on an iPhone and is, at the moment anyway, free. When you search for it in the iPhone version of Apple’s App Store it looks like this:
If, as I did, you search for it in the iPad version of the App Store you get this:
Only in this case you pay £1.49 for it.
Unfortunately for those who do what I did and choose to pay the £1.49 without reading the reviews posted by others, the app you get is not Prisma’s photo editing software but a child-like hangman program riddled with advertisements.
I have no idea who wrote this app but they appear to have convinced Google to advertise with them! They have even posted some bogus reviews in the App Store to convince users that it’s the real thing (i.e. Prisma’s photo editing app). Presumably Apple could do a little detective work to find out who posted those recommendations and are paying the company that posted the app a percentage of the fee.
In the big scheme of things £1.49 isn’t a lot of money but if the software has been downloaded even a thousand times, and given the publicity the iPhone app was given on the BBC at the weekend that may be an gross underestimate, that’s a decent return for the effort.
The thing I find most worrying is that Apple themselves have apparently fallen for this trick and are, by default, sponsoring it through their App Store. Do they not vet programs before they allow them on their site? Despite there now being a long list of bad reviews attached to the download link, nobody from Apple seems to be reading them.
I have, of course, reported the issue to Apple by email and I will publish an update on this site when I get an answer and especially if I get my £1.49 back. In the meantime if you are going to buy any software from anyone read the reviews first!