On walkabout in life and technology

Common Misconceptions About the App Store

Over the past few days, new and old friends have been popping up to mention they purchased TimeToCall and were surprised that I did not know that they had done so.

It turns out that this is but one of several misconceptions about the Apple App Store. So let me clarify some for you:


  • No access to buyer’s information
  • No access to reviews
  • No Trials and Upgrades

We do not get buyers information from the Apple

When you purchase an app from the App Store, Apple handles all the licensing, payment and download for us. All we get to know from Apple is that

  • a unit was sold
  • on what date
  • from which store, and
  • what our share will be when Apple finally pays us

Nothing else. No data on who purchased, or for what device, or how it was paid for, nothing else.

This does not mean that apps themselves cannot collect data from users, many do. Just that Apple does not give us this data. For your information, Section 17 of the Apple App Store rules are quite strict on user data collection:

17. Privacy
17.1 Apps cannot transmit data about a user without obtaining the user's prior permission and providing the user with access to information about how and where the data will be used
17.2 Apps that require users to share personal information, such as email address and date of birth, in order to function will be rejected
17.3 Apps that target minors for data collection will be rejected

So, you, the user, can feel secure that unless the app asks for it, the developer gets no information about you.

From what I can tell, Google does give out this information from its store (see Massive Google Play Privacy Issue). I don’t know about Amazon or others.

We cannot change or respond to reviews

App store developers get to see the same reviews you do, as and when you get to see them. Products like AppViz 2 allow us to download and read them from all stores. But that’s it. Read Only. We cannot moderate, block, edit or do anything about reviews at all.

We cannot even respond to reviews with our own reviews.

So the only way for us to make bad reviews go away is … there is no way to make bad reviews go away. We can hide them by releasing a new version and hope app store browsers do not click on the All Versions button.

Or really, we can fix the issues and make better software. And then get better reviews that appear ahead of the old, bad ones.

Which also means that reviews that point out bugs, or contain feature requests are useless to us developers. First, we work off our support lines, and since these bugs and requests do not get posted to us, we don’t see them. Secondly, we have no way to get in touch with the reviewer to provide them with the wonderful support we offer because the Apple App Store does not give us information on our reviewers either. And thirdly, we don’t monitor reviews because it’s hard to do so, and sometimes soul-wrenching to see bad reviews that we can do nothing about.

We cannot do trials or upgrade pricing

The Apple App Store does not have features to enable trial versions of apps, or cheaper upgrade versions for apps. Since those features aren’t there, we cannot offer them.

Of course, we want them.

For trial versions, the best we can do is offer a limited version of the app and In-App purchases to unlock the rest. But that really does not work for 99c apps (although some developers do actually do this). I could theoretically sell TimeToCall for free but only allow one Time to Call unless you unlock it for 99c, but since most of my users only need one Time to Call, and there is no time-out, that is bad business.

For upgrades, nothing. The bigger, more established developers with large user bases tend to offer their upgraded products as new products, so they can earn some upgrade dollars, and offer these at reduced prices for a few weeks after launch. Which means that all customers actually get the cheaper upgrade price instead of paying the full price. Some developers just forego upgrade revenue, and release their major updates free.

Economically speaking, developers really need upgrade pricing as the initial sale price barely covers the cost of creating and supporting version 1 and they need more income to make version 2 viable.

Current State

So, unless Apple changes the store, we have no buyer information, no access to reviews, no trials, and no upgrades. If you buy TimeToCall, I’ll never know it was you (but feel free to tweet me when you do).

Follow the author as @hiltmon on Twitter or @hiltmon on App.Net.