New Apple Podcasts Rating Prompt Artificially Boosts App Store Score
With the launch of iOS 15.1, Apple introduced a new prompt for the Podcasts app that asks customers to rate it, and as it turns out, confusion over what's being rated has led to an artificially inflated App Store rating for the Podcasts app.
Prior to the October 25 launch of iOS 15.1, the Podcasts app had 1.8 stars and plenty of negative reviews from customers unhappy with the design of the app. Now that Apple is asking customers to rate the app, App Store ratings for the Podcast app have shot up to 4.7 stars, a stark difference.
Apple made no major changes to the Podcasts app so customers are not suddenly happier with its design and performance - instead, many people are leaving ratings for the podcasts themselves. As noted by Kosta Eleftheriou and highlighted today by The Verge, many of the reviews are for the podcasts that are available through the Podcasts app, and not for the app's functionality.
How did “Apple Podcasts” suddenly go from 1.8 to 4.6 stars? Is Apple manipulating their own app ratings now? https://t.co/bSAr8sFKqQ pic.twitter.com/5kJKYd54VP — Kosta Eleftheriou (@keleftheriou) November 17, 2021
The top review in the App Store right now starts out with "Best Podcast Ever!", with the reviewer lauding the podcast they had been listening to at the time the review prompt popped up.
The rest of the reviews are a mix of one star comments about the design of the Podcasts app and positive reviews for podcast content.
With the review prompt, the Podcasts app is receiving thousands of reviews per day, and many of them are positive. Apple confirmed to The Verge that it is using a new prompt, the same one available to all developers. "With iOS 15.1 released last month, Apple Podcasts began prompting listeners to leave a rating and review just like most third-party apps -- using the standard Rating & Review prompt available to all developers," a spokesperson said.
As The Verge points out, Apple is breaking no rules using this prompt that is standard issue in third-party apps, but it's misleading for customers looking for an ideal podcast experience. The Podcasts app is the number one app that comes up when you search for "podcasts" even though unaltered ratings suggest that other podcast apps offer a better user interface.
Looking at the reviews of third-party podcast apps, the majority of the ratings are for the apps themselves, and customers do not seem to be accidentally offering reviews for podcast content as is happening with the Podcasts app. It is not clear if Apple plans to remove its confusing in-app rating prompt for the Podcasts app, but reviews for the Podcasts app certainly should not be trusted.
Customers have been increasingly unhappy with the Podcasts app since iOS 14.5, which is when Apple introduced a design change that brought with it multiple bugs ranging from problems with syncing to an issue causing huge numbers of podcast episodes to be re-downloaded at one time. There were a huge number of complaints, in fact, which led Apple to make some changes in iOS 14.6, but the app has continued to accumulate negative feedback.