App Store bot farms are mobile's 'dirty little secret', earning perpetrators upwards of $50,000 a day claims iOS developer
Indeed, this appears to be no new phenomenon.
According to one developer who emailed PG.biz after the initial coverage went live, some in the business have been utilising the services which download apps en masse to push them up the App Store's rankings for some time, with those behind the biggest players earning more than $50,000 a day.
Spot the bots
"Our company mistakenly used one of these bot farms about a year ago after seeing a 'guaranteed top 25' ad on another site," the developer revealed, making reference to an entirely different company to TopDealApps.
"This company charged us $8,000 and would only take a bank wire as payment - which should have been a big red flag in the first place. It has since apparently raised its prices to about $12,000."
Like previous accounts, the source claims the app in question made the top 25 as promised, but analytics from Flurry indicated over 50,000 of 'users' who downloaded the title "never even opened the app".
This raised alarm bells, though the firm in question denied bots were to blame.
"This company claimed that it bought lots of banner ad space, and also said it used incentivised networks like for coupons and such. I am 99 percent sure this is all just a cover up for its bot network," adds the developer.
"The company swore its service was legit, but we cancelled another promo we had scheduled and luckily got a refund for that one."
The developer goes on to claim that, having talked with others in the industry, the "inside word is that this bot farming stuff has been going on for a long time".
"It's the 'dirty little secret' of the App Store," concludes the developer. "Many of the top app companies
have been using them for a long time."
The company the developer cites is - according to the source's estimates - making upwards of $50,000 a day providing bot services, and has reportedly attempted to legitimatise the practice by launching a genuine 'free app a day' style platform as cover.
It's suggested Apple's claim it will ban developers caught engaging in any form of 'App Store manipulation' may already be forcing the firm's behind the bot farms to change their approach.
The company in question is looking to drop any claims of a guaranteed top 25 spot and may instead be planning to charge an additional fee if the app in question manages such a feat.
The one company that has come out of the woodwork TopDealApps denies using bots to instigate downloads, instead claiming it has 200,000 legitimate App Store users across the US who voluntarily pick up the apps in question in return for money.
The site also claims said users share their iTunes account details so TopDealApps can check the right downloads have been made.
You read PG.biz's take on the pros and cons of App Store bot farms here.