Alleged Apple App Store con artist AmpMe says he will cut prices, investigate his “consultants”

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AmpMe is not a brand new app which has appeared just to scam unsuspecting users with their money. See the photo at the top of this post? It was from 2015 when we first broached the idea: an app that can sync a room full of smartphones into a single gigantic speaker with no cost in sight. Corn as app store scam hunter Kosta Eleftheriou points out, the application seems seriously fishy six years later – if you downloaded it yesterday, it would immediately try to sell you an automatic recurring subscription for $ 9.99 per week. That’s $ 520 a year, an incredible amount if you pull it off as a party trick and then forget to cancel.

AppFigures estimates the app has grossed $ 13 million since 2018.

As we discussed last April, it’s ridiculously easy to find scams on the Apple App Store – just follow the money and watch the reviews. If you see an app that charges ridiculous subscription fees, but still has heaps of five-star ratings, something may be wrong. And if these reviews look absolutely bogus and the app barely works, you’ve probably spotted a scam.

What is less easy to find: a company accused of fraud ready to defend itself. Most are completely silent, but when we reached out to AmpMe for comment, we received a response from their support email address. 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 dime. Considering its reception and popularity, AmpMe is a popular app and works as advertised.

To claim that our users typically pay $ 520 per year is not true. For example, in 2021, the average user who signed up and took advantage of our free trial paid an average of $ 17. If you only take paid users, the average annual revenue from subscriptions is around $ 75. Internally, this has reinforced our belief that AmpMe’s pricing is transparent with clear and easy opt-out procedures.

Regarding the opinions, we hear the feedback loud and clear. Over the years, like most startups, we’ve hired outside consultants to help us with marketing and app store optimization. More monitoring is needed and that is what we are currently working on.

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

The AmpMe team

We can’t confirm AmpMe’s numbers, but we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. There are at least three other interesting points to remember from this answer:

  1. AmpMe doesn’t deny that he hired someone to pump his brand in the App Store. He also does not make a commitment not to do so in the future. It is simply pointing the blame elsewhere. Perhaps he is angry that his consultants rigged these opinions. Maybe it’s just annoying that they got caught.
  2. AmpMe is lowering its price as a result of this scrutiny. In fact, the company update has already been approved and is live on the store. It’s $ 4.99 a week now, or $ 260 a year.
  3. AmpMe is not abandoning its subscription tactics, which the company considers “transparent with clear and easy opt-out procedures.”

I downloaded a copy of AmpMe, and have to admit it’s not as glaring as I expected after hearing the news. Although it absolutely hits you with a subscription request the moment you open the app, tempting you into a free three-day subscription, and the little “X” to bypass this screen is hard to spot, the app at least clearly says how much it’s going to load in big white letters right away.

And if you hit the “X” and ignore the subscription, the app seems functional – if only for watching music videos from YouTube while chatting with hikes or friends, as a sync feature. multiple phones as speakers is locked behind the AmpMe paywall.

So the fact that Apple isn’t removing this one from the App Store (and instead seems to help AmpMe clean up the more obvious fake reviews, according to TechCrunch) doesn’t really surprise me. He’s not one of the worst offenders, and the state of the tech industry is that scores of companies are profiting from 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, one that sells privacy as its brand and claims to put customers first, could do a lot more to show it. He could be driving here instead of following. It could stop taking advantage of people’s oblivion, provide automatic refunds when people have been scammed, stop auto-renewing default subscriptions, and kill the star rating system that allows fake reviews to thrive. Last October, he took one of those suggestions and brought back a way to report scams on the App Store. We have more.

I wonder how much more there is to this whole idea of ​​“outside consultants” that AmpMe mentioned. This isn’t the first company Eleftheriou has discovered where a seemingly legitimate app that has been around for years spawns a new set of fake reviews and a new screen announcing an outrageous subscription price that you have to pay or reject first. once you launch. (A lot of these screens even look much the same.) I wouldn’t be surprised if there are companies that buy exactly this service over older apps, in return for reduced revenue. (It also doesn’t appear to be the first time that AmpMe’s CEO has taken advantage of an older app.)

If you have been approached by such a company, or if you work for such a company, I would love to chat with you. I’m at [email protected]


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