Crapware in the iTunes App Store – a case study

Wed, Dec 10, 2008

Analysis, Featured, News

There’s been a lot of talk lately about whether or not 99 cent apps are ruining the app store, but more than the price, it’s the abundance of crapware that can often make browsing the app store a somewhat jumbled experience.  While there are certainly an impressive number of great iPhone applications that do amazing things, the following example of iPhone apps epitomizes everything that’s wrong with the app store: Shitty software with limited functionality that doesn’t perform as advertised.  In this post, we’ll look specifically at iPhone apps developed by ‘Ethan Productions’.

A “Weather History” app that gives you a date, but not a year.  Lovely!

There are 39 programs in the App store that were developed by ‘Ethan Productions’, including the one pictured above.  Nearly all of Ethan Productions’ applications are 99 cents and generally offer functionality that can easily be attained for free.  Some of the applications include titles such as “Quote of the day”, “Insect Picture of the Day”, and “This day in history”.  In addition, there are  language apps that give you a new “word of the day” in either French, Italian, German, Russian, Irish, or Spanish.  And oh yeah, each language has its own unique app, and for all of the above mentioned apps, you have to wait 24 hours for each fact/picture/word to refresh.

So what’s the problem?  Well, nearly every app from Ethan Productions has abysmal reviews that complain about apps that don’t work, have too many ads, and even a few that suggest the developer ripped off ideas for already existent free applications.  In addition, every app from Ethan Productions has a 5 star rating from someone named “EthanWA”, presumably the developer himself.  Also, any glowing review for an Ethan Productions app seems to have been written generically by someone who gave every app from Ethan Productions 5 stars.  Essentially, the only positive reviews are from Ethan himself and his buddies.  And if that weren’t enough, EthanWA took the time to give competing applications 1 star reviews.

Some of the reviews from EthanWA for his own apps include:

  • “This app is sweet.  AMAZING pictures.  I love that I can just take a screenshot and save the pic as my background.  Great app.  Highly recommend”
  • “Been looking for something like this”

Some of the user reviews, however, aren’t so forgiving:

  • “Stop charging money for crap we can easily get for free via the web”.
  • “EthanWA – interesting how you give every EA Productions program 5 stars and then give every competitor 1 star.  And you have the same name as the guy in charge of EA productions.  Weak.”

Regarding his “Word of the day” app, one user wrote,

“Only displayed one word due to a ridiculous amount of ads.  Completely unusable”

And another wrote,

“Why can’t you use normal ads like most ad-supported apps?  I touch the screen and an ad appears and I can’t do anything. It’s ridiculous. I deleted this app in less than 5 minutes..”

Ethan Productions even has a 99 cent app that counts down the days till Obama takes office.  The reviews for this app are pretty funny.

  • “Too bad I can’t give it 0 stars..”
  • “I downloaded this just so I could write a review about how stupid the developer is.”

Clearly, Apple needs to do something about developers like EthanWA before their lowest common denominator crapware proliferates the app store to such an extent that users have trouble finding worthwhile apps.  And as the app store continues to grow, this problem will only become more apparent.  It’s unclear, however, what steps Apple can take to combat this.  Should apps with abysmal reviews be tossed out of the store after a few weeks?  Should they be relegated to a less prominent “sale bin” area of the store, separate from the other more quality apps?  Eventually Apple will need to take note of this before browsing the app store becomes too much of a hassle for users.  Until then, users will have to navigate around applications such as the following:

Is this “Advice” app worth 99 cents?

From the “Weather Picture of the day” app.


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8 Comments For This Post

  1. Mebone Says:

    What’s wrong with that weather pic. It’s good!

    Look at this from an artsy perspective. Could it be that this company is just being eccentric? Think Freverse’s SimStapler, or Jared.

  2. imsobored151 Says:

    I looked at his website:
    The website is coming soon, but his contact information says his email is, which proves that He is EthanWA on iTunes, and the person reviewing his apps.

  3. meh Says:

    Nothing artsy: this guy’s apps just grab text and photos from online almanac sites. (Compare with the Ethan Productions page on the App Store.) None of them do anything more. (Freeverse sells real, playable, fun games; SimStapler and Jared are free toys they wrote while bored and give away for free.)

    Ethan Productions is shameless enough to sell “apps” that might as well be Safari bookmarks for 99¢, and it’s a slippery slope from there to stealing almanacs’ data, reviewing your own apps, disparaging competitors’ apps. (Disturbingly, the same guy co-runs a non-profit organization in Washington state.)

    Obviously the App Store would be much better off without this kind of crap, but relying on users just tilts the scales further in favor of scammers and the idiots who pay them.

    EA writes, “Eventually Apple will need to take note of this before browsing the app store becomes too much of a hassle for users.” You must have more patience than I do. I already gave up on browsing the App Store because of all the crapware. It takes hours of wading through Ethan-like crapware to find a single useful app.

  4. Madlena Says:

    *Jaw drops at Blah’s link*

    OMG, this guy is sick!! I came across this website because I wanted to do some more research into this Ethan guy. All his apps are complete garbage. I can’t believe he is paying people to leave five star ratings. How desperate is this guy!

  5. Heads Up Says:

    I just though you might like to know that we’ve tracked this guy down.

  6. Ethan Says:

    Guys, if you don’t like an apps then don’t buy them. Demand for better apps will push mine down. I’ve had to increase the quality of my apps as competition has increased just to keep income flowing in. Simply business folks. If you don’t like something, don’t buy it.

  7. me Says:

    wow, what a waste of time writing that article was, haha. Who gives a crap what this guy offers or for what price. The app store is a market like any other- some stuff is crap some stuff is good, and whoever is selling it can charge what they want. And just like in the rest of the market, if stuff sucks people won’t buy it and it wont’ make money, if they like it, they’ll buy. It’s not like the guy is forcing people to buy his apps or something. Those that bought it and left negative reviews- it’s their own fault they were stupid enough to buy it, but at least they get to warn other people against it… things seem to be working as intended.

    If you want to talk about stealing ideas, maybe you didn’t look very hard at the apps store if this is the one guy you are giong to single out. Pretty much everything is a copy of something else, especially if one app gets popular… maybe you should have made an article about that “zact publishing” guy or whoever it was that made like 50 “days till” apps, haha. I love it when people whine about crap because they aren’t able to take personal responsibility or make anything of their own. I bet this guy is making money while you sit around complaining in articles, lol.

  8. kris c Says:

    This article is foolish. It is completely in his right to make whatever he wants, and if people don’t like it then they shouldn’t buy it. He also is completely free to review his own apps. Every developer does it. The only difference is that the big boys have HUNDREDS of their employees do it for them. Get a clue.

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