CNN for iOS Gets Hit With “Fake” Reviews Pushing Fox Up the Ranks

Politics are making waves on the App Store yet again. This time the target is CNN’s iOS app. For most of last week, the app has seen an increase of 8,200% in negative reviews.

To put this in perspective, before the “attack” the app was getting an average of 35 new reviews every day. During the attack, that number ballooned to as much as 5,000 new reviews in one day — more than 95% of which negative.

Politics on the App Store - CNN App Flooded with Fake Reviews

Most reviews are from the US, with some contribution from Canada and the UK.

As you can see in the chart above the attack has mostly subsided, and on the 10th CNN put out an update which reset its low rating. However, as a result, the app’s rank has taken a small hit, dropping the app from its stable 3rd rank in the News category down to 6th in the US.

It’s worth noting that during this attack on CNN, Fox News got a small increase in positive reviews. While too small to consider, it did help push Fox up the ranks, where they now sit in CNN’s old chair, 3rd in the News category.

We took a closer look at what the reviewers were saying, and the results could have been guessed by anyone who reads the news. “Fake news”, “biased”, and “Trump” top the list. Reviewers were also pretty liberal with their language, sprinkling helpful words such as “garbage”, “propaganda”, “trash”, and “terrible”.

It’s hard to tell whether these reviews are the work of some automated bots or a real lynch mob of unhappy users, but one thing’s obvious – this was a focused political attack through the App Store.

Bring App Data Into Your Big Picture With the Grow Integration

We love seeing how other companies use our API to bring actionable mobile data into their solutions. Today we’re going to look at Grow, a powerful reporting and BI dashboard platform.

Grow’s goal is to bring actionable data into every part of your company. From mobile data to expenses and performance, Grow focuses on making disparate data sets easily accessible.

Use Appfigures for app analytics in your Grow dashboards

What we like:

  • Visualizations are simple and easy to understand
  • Data updates in real-time
  • Lots of integrations
  • A clean mobile app that’s easy to use for technical and non-technical folks alike.

While trying out Grow we came up with pretty interesting data combinations you might also find useful:

  • Mailing list open rates (from MailChimp) + App downloads + Daily Active Users – A simple way to see if those marketing updates are actually driving engagement.
  • Website pageviews (Google Analytics) + App Store Views – Keep track of how well your app’s marketing site/page is at getting potential users over to the app store.
  • Total revenue (Appfigures) vs. Expenses (Quickbook or your bank account) – Visualize your bottom line.

This is just a taste of what you can do with Grow + Appfigures. Give Grow.com a try or check out other dashboards we’re built into.

Wider In-App Analytics Coverage With Flurry Analytics

Track in-app usage along side downloads, sales, ranks, and more with the Flurry Analytics integration for Appfigures

Having all your app performance data in a single place is a necessity when making data-driven decisions. This is why we’re constantly working to connect with more data sources that our members use for tracking downloads, revenue and in-app usage.

Today we’re expanding coverage for in-app usage tracking with support for Flurry Analytics, one of the top 5 most installed analytics SDKs in iOS and Android apps.

When you connect your Flurry Analytics account, we’ll automatically sync usage data, including: active devices, sessions, and more for all your apps.

The new data will be available in the Usage reporting suite, so you can break it down by date, country, and app. In addition, usage will also be available as a secondary metric in your sales and ads reports, so you can quickly connect the dots and make comparisons across different data sets like revenue and active users.

This integration is available to all members across all plans. Link your Flurry Analytics account by going into Account settings > Linked accounts.

With more than 50 integrations, we make it easy to keep track of all your apps from a single dashboard. However, if there’s a data source you use and we don’t support yet we’d love to know about it.

Track app sales, hourly ranks, in-app usage, and more with Appfigures

New Integration – ONE by Aol

Benchmark ONE By Aol with Appfigures

We’ve integrated with Aol’s new ad network ONE, so you can track your revenue and other monetization metrics right from your Appfigures reports.

The new integration brings the full set of ad metrics, including: requests, impressions, clicks, and revenue, into the ads suite of reports, so you get the most accurate bottom line through the site, app, and API.

Use the ads suite or reports to easily benchmark your ad revenue and performance across countries, apps, and networks.

With more than 50 integrations, we make it easy to keep track of every thing, but if there’s a data source you use and we don’t support please let us know.

SEGA Sets Its Flagship Title Free (With Ads) and Users Love It

Just before the weekend hit, SEGA added the original Sonic (Sonic The Hedgehog) to the new SEGA Forever Collection, dropping its price from $2.99 USD to free with ads.

Based on the app’s ranks, the move was a big success with Sonic racing to the top of the App Store within hours of the update.

As of right now, Sonic is the #2 free app in the U.S., and #1 the Games category, as well as Games → Action, the title’s official category.

With this new pricing model, SEGA is reducing the friction caused by an upfront payment, but still manages to monetize with ads. For ads, SEGA seems to be relying on a handful of 3rd party ad networks, including AdColony, AppLovin, Chartboost, Facebook, Fyber, Mopub, Tapjoy, Vungle, and others.

In addition to ads, the game also has an in-app purchase to remove all non-SEGA ads. A great move that shows they care about the gamers who would rather pay. The in-app purchase goes for $1.99, a lower price than what the title went for originally, but we believe the free model + ads + the IAP will net more revenue over time.

It’s worth noting that while SEGA dropped the price of both the iOS and Android version of the title, it’s the iOS version that’s seeing a huge uptick in downloads so far while the Android version is slowly climbing up the charts.

With this move, SEGA is showing up its rival Nintendo, which released its flagship title Mario Run as a free to download but $9.99 to play last year. The move by Nintendo resulted in thousands of user complaints, and even a drop in Nintendo’s stock price.

Push Notifications for New Reviews and Sales Reports

Since rolling out Alerts last year we’ve sent more than a million emails and Slack messages. Our members love them, and use them to stay on top of their reviews without having to constantly be looking at their reports.

With the latest update to our iPhone app, Alerts for new reviews and sales reports can now be sent directly to your device as push notifications.

Real time alerts for app reviews from Appfigures

Enabling alerts from within the app lets you select the type and the frequency (real-time, or daily). Our goal was to keep the setup simple, and in the future we’ll bring more flexibility for filtering.

We’re already hard at work on new alert types that will go beyond reviews, which we’ll be rolling out in the near future to the site as well as the app. If there’s a specific type of alert you’d like to see please let us know.

This update also includes a few other improvements:

  • Force Touch support, so you can quickly peek at (and pop) reports.
  • Sharing a review now shares a direct link to its card.
  • Simplified login with Touch ID, password manager support, and the ability to login with your Google account.
  • Support for iBooks.

Get the update. Not tracking with us yet? Start your free trial →

We Now Support JSON Feed

A popular feature built into the reviews report is the ability to create custom RSS feeds for new reviews. Set relevant filters, press a button, and get a unique RSS feed you can import into your favorite reader or your own code.

Today we’re excited to release a small but fundamental enhancement to our reviews feeds: JSON Feed support.

We have a lot of technical members and we know they like to integrate app reviews into their existing tools and workflows in creative ways. If you’re still reading, you’re probably one of them.

RSS feeds are great for consuming content and also for working with data programmatically. Our API gives full access to reviews, but sometimes you just want something simple to hack on. The advantage of using the RSS feed is that it doesn’t require an authentication step and is super simple to set up right from the reviews report. The downside from a programmer’s point of view is that XML can be a bit of a hassle to parse with modern tools.

JSON Feed, co-authored by long time Appfigures member Manton Reece, provides a format that’s very similar to RSS but uses JSON instead of XML. For example, here is a JSON feed that’ll show you the latest reviews for our iPhone app:

https://appfigures.com/reports/reviews/json/10193:lzkbrYQos50pkfoMV03TOQ/?sort=-date&products=41308333846

We think this is pretty neat, and hope this new format makes it even easier to consume data. Porting our existing RSS feed into a JSON one was actually quite simple as well. It probably took more time to write and edit this blog post.

For us, supporting JSON Feed serves two purposes. In the long run, we’re doing our part to help replace XML with JSON, and in the short run we’re giving our more technical users a simple way to interact with their data.

Login to generate your own feed. Don’t have an account yet? Sign up for a free trial →

App Store Cleanup Continues – 50,000 Apps at Risk

Apple is getting serious about cleaning up the App Store. The first wave came in the fall of last year and resulted in thousands of “abandoned” apps being removed from the App Store. Apple is at it again, this time targeting apps that mention their price in their name.

We analyzed more than 2.2M free and paid iOS apps, looking for apps that use their price in their name. 

The Gist

  • More than 50,000 apps and games mention “free” in their name.
  • About 2% of those aren’t even free.
  • Games are the largest group both in absolute number of apps (a tad over 33,000) and as a percentage of total apps in the category (7.5%).
  • Spotify, Disney, Zynga, and EA Games are among the popular developers that use “free” in the name of at least one of their apps.

We started our analysis by looking for apps that mention their price in their name. Although Apple didn’t single out a specific term, running a few queries showed “free” has the most hits and is most likely the term Apple dislikes the most. This analysis focuses on it.

Offending Apps by Category

Let’s jump in. Here’s a category breakdown of the apps we identified. 

Games, as you probably could have guessed, are the largest offending category by far. More than 30,000 games use the term “free” in their name. While most use it once (kind of ok?), we came across quite a few that use “free” twice and even three times. 

Although it’s the largest category, it’s not the only category. Education and Entertainment follow games, with Utilities and Photography right behind them.

Not All “Free” Apps Are Actually Free

You’d expect apps that mention the term “free” in their name to actually be free. But they’re not always. In our analysis we found that roughly 2% of apps are actually paid, and about 40% that use in-app purchases.

The Impact

Continuing on this thread, let’s look at the number of offending apps as a percentage of all apps in their category to gauge the impact this cleanup has.

7.5% of all games are currently in violation of this new rule. The Photography and Entertainment categories could be thinned by about 3%, with Music, Education, and Reference standing to lose more than 2% of apps. Lifestyle, the category with the most apps, stands to lose the least — just under 1%. 

Why Is Apple Doing This?

On the App Store, apps rarely show without their price, so adding the price in the name isn’t really helping the customer. Instead, developers are primarily using this technique as an optimization for search results. It’s obvious why Apple wouldn’t be thrilled about that.

In addition to ASO, it’s also making the App Store look bad. While many developers use the terms gracefully, in our analysis we came across a few that weren’t. Those developers were stuffing their — otherwise simple and customer-friendly — names with two or three instances of the word free making them much harder to read and much less customer friendly.

Who’s Doing It?

You’re probably thinking this technique is something less popular developers are using to gain an edge. We thought so too, but in our analysis we found apps from several well ranking developers that do this, including: Spotify, Disney, EA Games, Zynga, Big Fish Games.

Not a Sweep. Yet.

Unlike the last clean-up, Apple isn’t actively removing apps from the store but rather rejecting new apps and app updates through the review process. 

This means that the App Store still has thousands of apps that are in violation of this new rule. It’s not clear whether that will change, and if so how quickly. What is clear is that Apple is serious about cleaning up the App Store, so if you’re a developer you should keep to the rules.


About the data

These insights came directly out of Explorer, a platform we’ve built to identify trends and get to know apps, developers, and SDKs. Try it out for yourself →

Viewers Can Now Manage Email Reports

Email reports for your mobile apps

Email reports are a core component of the Appfigures platform, giving you a summery of key metrics. They’re so useful, that many of our members rely on them for keeping tabs on their app portfolio daily, some even collect them.

For legacy reasons, we’ve always treated email reports as an account feature. This meant only users with the “admin” permission were able to manage them. We’ve now removed this restriction, giving viewers complete control over scheduling email reports for all of their apps.

If you’re a viewer and would like to manage your email reports simply head into your Account setting area and select the (new) Email reports tab. There you’ll be able to see any reports already scheduled, modify them, create new ones, and remove ones you no longer want to receive.

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to get in touch.

A New Overlay to Make Visualizing Performance Over Time Even Easier

Visualizations make data analysis simpler and more intuitive, that’s why they’re a core component of the Appfigures platform. From the get-go we set out to build reports that enable you to quickly recognize trends and provide the flexibility to combine multiple metrics.

Today we’re adding one more: Prior Period, a new overlay for easy data comparisons over time.

The Prior Period overlay does what it name suggests, and plots the metric you have selected for the date range prior to the one selected so you can see how your app grows over time, across any of the 25 sales, ads, and usage metrics we support.

Using the new overlay you can quickly visualize before and after effect. Easily visualize things like whether an ad campaign had an impact on downloads, if a new feature increased session duration, how revenue compares to last month, and many other types of analyses.

The new overlay is available now to all members on all plans, so go ahead and try it out!
Not tracking with us yet? Get started free.