Apple allows users to tip content creators

Image Pepe Scream  Google Play

Image Pepe Scream Google Play

The answer, apparently, is search ads.

Apple's App Store has a problem. Reportedly, Apple told several Chinese social networking apps, including WeChat, to disable their tip functions or risk being kicked off the App Store. "It's downright mind boggling that this horrendous "Mobile protection:Clean & Security VPN" app made it all the way into the top 10 without getting flagged", he added.

Discovered and documented in a Medium blog post by app developer Johnny Lin, an iOS application called "Mobile Protection:Clean & Security VPN" is backed up by seemingly fake App Store reviews and attempts to sign users up to a $99.99 weekly subscription during the setup of a so-called free trial.

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Lin and Apple watcher John Gruber are asking how Apple let this app past its review process and are demanding Apple reconsider its App Store advertising system.

Lin said that in spite of the poor grammar and punctuation associated with the VPN app's title and description, the app was bringing in $80,000 a month in revenue, according to Sensor Tower, an app analytics platform.

The pricey subscription offers a "Full Virus, Malware scanner", which Lin notes is technically impossible since all third-party iOS apps are confined to their own app sandbox and hence can't interrogate other installed apps. Unfortunately, Apple has no filter to sift through search ads as of now.

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This new way of generating revenue will help app developers to institute digital tip jars. There's no filtering or approval process for them, so sketchy app developers can pay to have their apps listed high in search results. They have been around for years (not just a few weeks) and have built up a loyal customer base thanks to their fast connections, secure encryption, and a wide range of overseas servers for users to choose from. To reach 200 paying subscribers, the app only needs to trick 0.4% of users, Lin reasons.

The next hiccup is an in-app offer for a free antivirus trial that brings up Touch ID for verification that also initiates a seven-day auto-renewing subscription for $99.99 a week.

"It was really eye opening and shocking to see the wrong types of behavior being rewarded like that", says Lin. Search Ads is also one way these deceivers draw off money. They're taking advantage of the fact that there's no filtering or approval process for ads, and that ads look nearly indistinguishable from real results, and some ads take up the entire search result's first page.

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