Do You Ever Leave Positive iTunes Reviews For iPhone Apps?

We know our readers are far too savvy to ever fall victim to the "greater internet ****wad theory", but a couple posts today made us stop and think about App Store reviews, how the system works (or doesn't), and whether we ever take the time to leave positive reviews for developers of our favorite apps, or just tear off in a fury when we think we've been badly done by?

Last things first, is iTunes stacked against developers? Maniacal Rage (via Daring Fireball) has highlighted an issue also raised today on Twitter by Craig Hockenberry, and submitted to Apple via Radar, namely that the iTunes review system, which may work well for music and other media, breaks down when it comes to the back-and-forth requirement of the app ecosystem.

Says Garrett Murray:

But my favorite part of this whole experience is that there’s no way for me to respond to reviews as the app creator. So I can’t go in and say, “Hey, by the way, version 1.3 fixes all this and we’re just waiting on Apple’s ridiculously slow and convoluted approval process!” I just sit by and watch.

Murray's deeper contention is that, through a one-way review system on iTunes, and a fart-app-driven, race-to-the-bottom rewarded ecosystem, Apple is fostering exactly the kind of that developers don't want to have as customers. Yep, the dreaded appsholes.

Perhaps developers, many of whom treat their creations as dearly as children, aren't thick skinned enough to handle the greater pressure -- and greater odds of negative pressure -- that came with the 20 million iPhone OS (including iPod touch) ecosystem. Maybe users like us forget there are real, living, breathing people on the other end of our "send" buttons. Maybe anger and bad experience are greater motivators than appreciation and great experience. We don't know.

But here's what we're interested in finding out: do you leave positive reviews for the apps you love? Of your top 5 favorite all time iPhone (or iPod touch) apps, how many have you left rave reviews for? And to help grow and support the developers behind those great apps, would you consider doing so now if you haven't already?

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 29 comments. Add yours.

Frank says:

If I really like the app of course I'll give it 4 or 5 stars and explaining why. I try to be objective as possible when writing a review.

iBamse says:

I always leave rave reviews for top notch apps. I more often spend time on reviewing things I like than things I don't like. Bad apps usually only get a star rating, and good apps get a few written lines to go with it.

Hassan says:

As an app developer, I've learned to grow thick skin.
Also, I always leave a positive review for apps that I like, as I know how much app developers appreciate it. At the end of the day, we're just normal people trying to make a living and feed our families like everyone else...

Steve says:

I've reviewed every app I've ever downloaded, and all (so far) have been 3-5 stars. It's not that complicated avoiding bad apps. I have yet to download any that deserved 1-2 stars because they're easy enough to spot.
ALL reviews (good or bad) should have explanations. If not, they should be deleted by Apple. They mean absolutely nothing to others who may be considering purchasing.

Jeffdc5 says:

I only feel the need to leave bad reviews for junk apps good apps are rewarded by me actually buying it like tweetie and my all time favorite pocket tunes

Al says:

Apple fosters a system of negative reviews by prompting a review on apps you delete only! Even then, you are arbitrarily rating with stars rather than a written explanation. I've only rated a few apps because when I really like an app, I then would have to dig back through the all store for it and then rate it. Apple only makes it easy to rate the ones you are deleting.

Brenden says:

I totally agree with Al.
Apple encourages you to rate apps you are deleting, so of course there will be more negative ratings than positive ratings.
They need to find a better way of encouraging users to rate apps they don't delete. I find that it's not that easy to go rate an app I love, but exceptionally easy to rate an app I want to delete.
If there was an option in my settings to "Ask for Rating After 5 uses", I'd leave it on, as long as it was a one time prompt. This way, I'd reward the devs for the apps I actually use with a quick rating. I think this would balance out the whole rating system.

jtorrebl says:

I don't even know where to rate an app I didn't delete.

Tunnelrunner says:

@Steve,
I agree that it IS frustrating to see reviews with no explanation to back up the rating. "This app sucks, don't buy!!!!" is just as worthless as "Awesum!!!"

psm says:

I think I post good reviews more than bad ones. I don't review every app I own, usually only when I'm really impressed and an app is new and needs word of mouth.

scottb says:

I post reviews for great and crappy apps.
Those in the middle, I assume I'm not the right audience or that it's simply "OK"
Great work deserves a kudos, crap deserves the 1-star.

Mr. Hi-Definition says:

I definitely leave positive feeback when I actually find an app in the app store that I really enjoy.

Ana says:

I never have. I haven't come across an app that I just have to let people know how great it is......at least not from the itunes store. All the apps that blow my dress up are jb apps

Steven says:

Yes, I leave both positive, and if warranted, negative reviews.
The system seems very easy to game, however. There are apps, a one of them very popular, where the developer is obviously leaving himself rave reviews.
The app I mention really stinks, yet it's rated 5 stars by everyone, and remarkably "20 out of 20" find those reviews helpful.
It's a bit much to believe.
Let's not feel sorry for developers when they can game the system.

sting7k says:

One of the biggest problems with the reviews are that people never go back and change them after an update comes out. Apple helped some by finally adding date and version stamps to each review so buyers can see when someone is talking about problems that were fixed 4 versions ago. Another is that people have one crash, see one banner ad, have one strange thing happen, and then they leave a totally worthless 1 star review. Apple should remove reviews like this, they remove comments from their forums all the time. Those reviews are helping no one; ie look at all the people complaining about the banner ad in the new Wall Street Journal app (which by the way you would be paying for online for most of the content in the app).
In any case; I tend to leave reviews for the apps I love, apps I hate, or apps that I could see myself using with a few changes. I always leave a positive review with comments if I really like it. I won't hesitate to dish out on a crappy app though, but I normally avoid them. Most of the time I will find an app that if they just changed or added a few things would make it great and I leave a review with the suggestions. It always makes me happy when I come back later and see the developer has commented that "we have added such and such" based on reviews. I tend to go back and update my reviews as well.
I think a big plus would be more interaction with developers and shoppers. I know they can't read every comment or email but maybe Apple could provide more categories in the review so the developer could see what areas people think need improvement. Something like star ratings on; UI, easy of use, reliability, etc.

Michael says:

Asking for a review when someone is DELETING an app without the option to leave a message introduces HUGELY BIASED REVIEWS and negatively skews ratings big time! Its like asking someone who just puked up their dinner to rate their food at restaurant.

Stephen says:

You know what - this post has made me want to review some apps. Maybe we need prompts?

SecretsHQ says:

I Tweeted about leaving positive reviews on iTunes while giving constructive feedback directly to the developer.
I'd like to see developers be able to question reviews by those who have clearly not read the application description and make negative comments about what they incorrectly expect it to do or be.
Also if I write a great review on iTunes in Australia the developer is unlikely to discover this unless they manually go through each of the 50+ different iTunes stores. Likewise my apps have no reviews in the US but plenty in Australia.
We need to build a culture of purposeful reviewing and for customers to know that if they contact a developer with a complaint they are likely to get a response.

Drake says:

I leave them for really good apps (Tweetie especially) and for the apps that I get that are actually great just have bad reviews.

maniacfive says:

I make a point of reviewing all the apps i download and love to pieces, I like to think it gives the developers a little perk to something they've obviously spent time on. And sometimes its the only way to even the score against the 1 star "crap, dont understand the point/crashes all the time because i havent followed instructions" reviews that in my eyes are often given unfairly.
What annoys me is when the app store refuses to recognise that i own an app so wont let me write a review. Case in point, Galaxy on Fire, been trying to review this for days, I've clocked up 6 hours playtime, and i'm loving every second. yet the app store is insisting that I must own an app to review it....
/sigh

Chris says:

I'm just the kind of person that can't leave bad reviews. lol When I delete apps, I either rate it 5 stars (if it's decent, but I can't really make a use out of it) or I don't rate at all.
And I don't ever leave negative reviews for free apps. If I didn't pay for it, I didn't miss out on anything. I've only left a few bad reviews for apps I bought that don't work or are misleading or whatever. I have to be completely ripped off before I leave a rating less than the average.
Also, I tend to stay away from apps with less than 2 and 1/2 - 3 stars.

SpiceRak2 says:

With all the communication going on between the end users and Apple's servers, I'm surprised that there aren't simple stats regarding app usage that could be posted. Similar to a Nielsen rating or something... I just mean I'd buy an app if I knew that users were using it everyday or more rather than go by a review from someone who has used the app once and is judging it based on that.

frog says:

I give positive reviews for all the good apps I use. I give terrible reviews for the bad ones. I actually forget/don't bother reviewing the middle of the road ones though - and these probably need the most feedback wheb I think about it.

Felicia says:

I make a point of leaving short, positive reviews about apps that get it right: apps that are stable, useful, and take good advantage of the iPhone's interface.
I rarely buy apps with ratings of less than 3 stars (unless I just want to experiment with a prototype)
I've only left one very negative review: a developer released a new version of a premium priced (as a new product) rather than offering the features to users as an update.
Perhaps in response to the user firestorm, the developer did the right thing in the end. I'd actually like to retract my negative review (it isn't accurate now), but it's not possible.

thekevinmonster says:

I can't say I've left a bad review, but I've left a few good ones. I tend to just use software I like a lot and ignore the software that I don't; I don't have a big emotional investment in it the way I do with music.

Marc Tassin says:

I'm glad you addressed this topic. I've been frustrated by the review system for some time and I REALLY wish they'd fix it. (In fact I wrote an entire blog post about their "Rate It If You Hate It" review system (http://blog.iliumsoft.com/2009/03/20/rate-it-if-you-hate-it/).)
Besides the fact that it hurts developers, it undermines the value of the rating system as a whole. After awhile folks are just going to ignore the ratings completely.
Also, I too feel the pain of not being able to respond to users. For instance, it kills me when I see a bad review complaining about the lack of a feature the App actually DOES have.

Mike Overbo says:

I tend to be a 4-5 star app reviewer unless I've been duped. If there are significant limitations with no mention of them, I've dropped the one star review before.
I give out way more positive reviews than I do negative, by far.

Joe says:

I go into my account and delete bad apps if I find that an update has fixed the issue. Also I usually research on YouTube so I can see what I'm going to buy. I don't normally have to give a bad review but I'll delete it if I think the app is better.

Jim Brown says:

You get the hang of it. Developers pay, provide promo codes, the guys download the apps and write fake reviews, although they claim that every app is tested and such. Sure, and we plan to convert MacStories into a Flash website.Mobile Application Developer