Technology

Alleged Apple App Store scammer AmpMe lowers prices and says it’ll investigate its ‘consultants’

AmpMe No A brand new app that just came out to trick unsuspecting users out of their money. See the picture at the top of this post? This is from 2015, when we first covered the idea: an app that could sync a room full of smartphones into one giant speaker with no charge in sight. But As Kosta Eleftheriou points out, the App Store scam hunterApp appears More than six years later – if you downloaded it yesterday, it will immediately try to sell you an automatic recurring subscription for $9.99 per week. That’s $520 a year, which is incredible if you pull it off as a party trick and then forget to cancel.

AppFigures . estimates The app has made $13 million since 2018.

As we discussed last April, it’s very easy to find scams in the Apple App Store – just go for the money and look at the reviews. If you see an app that charges ridiculous subscription fees, yet still has five-star ratings, something might be off. And if these reviews seem completely fake, and the app is barely working, you likely have discovered a scam.

What’s less easy to find: A company accused of fraud willing to defend itself. Most of them are completely silent, but when we reached out to AmpMe for comment, we got a response from the support email address. And here it is in full:

hi sean,

The free version of our app is the most popular version and the vast majority of our users have never paid a cent. Given its reception and popularity, AmpMe is a valuable app and works as advertised.

The claim that our users usually pay $520 per year does not reflect the reality. For example, in 2021, the average user who signed up for and benefited from the free trial paid an average of $17. If you only take the paying users, the average annual subscription revenue is around $75. Internally, this reinforced our belief that AmpMe pricing is transparent with clear and easy opt-out procedures.

In terms of reviews, we hear the comments loud and clear. Over the years, like most startups, we’ve hired outside consultants to help us with marketing and app store optimization. More oversight is needed and that’s what we’re working on right now.

We always adhere to Apple’s subscription guidelines and work constantly to ensure they meet their high standards. We also respect and value community feedback. Therefore, a new version of the app at a lower price has already been submitted to the App Store for review.

Team AmpMe

We can’t confirm AmpMe’s numbers, but we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. There are at least three other interesting notes in this response:

  1. AmpMe does not deny that it has hired someone to inject its brand into the App Store. Nor does it undertake not to do so in the future. It is simply assigning blame elsewhere. Perhaps he is angry that his advisors have falsified these reviews. Maybe just upset that they were caught.
  2. AmpMe is lowering its price as a result of this scrutiny. In fact, the company update has already been approved and is in the store. It’s $4.99 a week now, or $260 a year.
  3. AmpMe isn’t giving up on its subscription tactics, which the company believes are “transparent with clear and easy opt-out procedures.”

I downloaded a copy of AmpMe, and I have to admit it’s not quite as stark as I expected after hearing the news. While it totally bumps you into a subscription request as soon as you open the app, tempts you into a three-day free subscription, and it’s hard to spot the little “X” to bypass this screen, the app at least shows how it will ship in large white letters instantly.

And if you hit the “X” and skip the subscription, the app looks functional – if only as a way to watch YouTube music videos while chatting with randos or friends, as multi-phone sync functionality as speakers locked behind an AmpMe firewall.

So the fact that Apple doesn’t pull this from the App Store (and instead appears to help AmpMe clean up the most obvious fake reviews, according to Take Crunch) It doesn’t really surprise me. It’s not one of the worst offenders, and the state of the tech industry is that many, many companies are taking advantage of the “oops, I forgot to cancel my subscription” phenomenon, including Apple itself.

But as I suggested in September, the world’s most valuable and profitable company, the one that sells privacy as its brand and claims to put customers first, can do a lot to show it. It can lead here instead of continuing. It can stop profit from forgetting people, automatically offer refunds when people are scammed, stop auto-renewing subscriptions by default, and eliminate the star rating system that allows for review fraud. Last October, it took one of those suggestions and brought back a way to report App Store scams. We have more.

I’m wondering how much more about the whole idea of ​​”outside consultants” AmpMe mentioned. This isn’t the first company Eleftheriou has revealed where a seemingly legitimate app that’s been around for years has surfaced a new batch of fake reviews, and a new screen advertising an exorbitant subscription price that you have to pay or decline the first time you launch. (Even many of these screens look pretty much the same.) I wouldn’t be surprised if there are companies that are walking around buying this specific service of legacy apps, in exchange for cutting revenue. (Looks like it might not be the first time the CEO of AmpMe has taken advantage of an outdated app, either.)

If you are contacted by such a company, or you work for such a company, I would love to talk to you. I’m at sean@theverge.com.

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