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Am I seeing corruption on Google Play? How's this possible – legal?
24 points by vitovalov 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 21 comments
When I went to Google Play to check if our recently published game was in the subcategory Top New Releases of Games category, I entered some random games to see what's good about them. One that really caught my attention and shocked me is the Calculator: The Game by Simple Machines: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.sm.calculateme

I'm not advertising them; I'm trying to understand how they got 844 ratings while Installs says: 10-50? Updated on July 13th and today is 16th, I'm sure the installs data and ratings is up to date for that date.

But how can they have so many ratings and only 50(max.) installs? As far as I know Google Play allows you to rate an app only when you have installed it. I can believe that it's possible to download and rate it without launching, but still looks strange to me to have that many ratings.

Are we seeing corruption? Have they agreed with Google somehow? Is this cheating?

One possible explanation could be that the ratings count is updated immediately while the install count is updated at a slower rate...

From our experience as publishers and creators of these apps: https://play.google.com/store/apps/dev?id=548828401423122855... I know that the delay is max. one day. Both for rating and installs. I'm sure that the numbers you see in the store now, are from yesterday, but still they don't match.

From what I saw based on my app (released over a year ago), installs lags, but reviews don't. I think installs lag only for a day, but maybe they lag for longer due to some factor such as a different country or a holiday/weekend

Sharing a gif that will serve as a proof in case they do some changes to this app page. https://twitter.com/vitovalov/status/886563706494218240

Apart from that, I continue monitoring, and the numbers of ratings keep growing. Also I noticed something strange when you refresh a couple of times the play store page. https://media.giphy.com/media/3ohryBbqtYeAkomS3u/giphy.gif It appears to be two different counts of ratings? Crazy...

Aren't there farms of mobiles on racks in Thai and Chinese houses set up specifically to game those ratings? (Remembering some arrests within the last month or so...)

I guess you mean this one: https://www.theverge.com/2017/6/12/15786402/thai-clickfarm-b...

Would be easy to assume there are many such setups around the world.

Speaking of which, how are they controlling iPhones like this? I cannot imagine they are all jailbroken, so how do they achieve automation like this?

FB also has a huge setup like this https://code.facebook.com/posts/300815046928882/the-mobile-d... but it doesn't exactly say how it is done.

Manpower is cheap in developing countries, why automate any of it?

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Clc-CCAUYAABB76.jpg That particular image is from a TV show, but when people say "click farms", that's what to picture.

Imagine creating email addresses to make app store accounts to rate apps. For 10 hours, every day, for $1/hour.

$1/hour is more than a reasonable rate for this in any developing country.

Most blue collar jobs pay significantly lower.

I am asking how, not why/why not. In the video you can see that they did actually automate it.

I'm sure Google/Apple know about this and have the measures to detect it. It's as easy as see the location of the IP from which they installed or a lot of other parameters they track.

What surprises me is that they allow this since it's totally unfair to developers like me and my girlfriend that make a great effort in the time free of work to make those apps...

I am more interested in the part where they control the devices programatically rather than what they are doing with it.

I think the OP is asking about this in particular:

As far as I know Google Play allows you to rate an app only when you have installed it.

If someone was using "farms of mobiles", you'd expect the installs to go up too.

Arrests? For gaming an app store rating system?

I don't think the install number is accurate or maybe based on something else than actual, physical installs? Also if you install / deinstall does that count as install (it should imho) or maybe not?

i'm not sure how easy it is to farm Play Store accounts; maybe someone knows? You need gmail which then turns into a Play store account right?

Does install count per device and how far does Google go in limiting that?

These days is harder to create a google account since you need to make the sms verification process. That's now a requirement to be able to login to Google Play Store. The installs count since the moment you pressed install button. They don't decrease when people uninstall. However the uninstalls are visible in developer dashboard.

Is installs the current number as opposed to the total over time? That would allow people to install, rank, then later remove, and so make sense of the statistic.

Another option is that people get to rank each device install but only count as being one (person with an) install? That would allow for such "corruption".

So you'll download an app, find it brillant (see how many 5 stars it got), and then remove it ? Well if this is so, it's surely some form of cheating. The question is : is Google have a system to permit it or have it been misused and abused ? I believe it's the second option (as explained on other comments) but either show there is a problem with rating.

Installs mean the total number of installs in the whole lifetime of the app. Also it doesn't matter the device. What counts is the google account. So every install = 1 google account registered in Google Play Store. Also google requires to verify the account with an sms these days.

download numbers are absolute, independent of any version or uninstalls of the app. the store updates the number with a lag. the ratings can be done only after download and are shown faster.

Also the time will show if this is true. If tomorrow the installs count doesn't grow to 1000-5000 or at least 100-500, it's cheating for sure.

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