Can we trust App Reviews?

I used to spend many a day obsessing about reviews for our product. Someone gave a bad review with one single word. What did they mean? How can I make things better? Not so much anymore. I still deeply care about legitimate customers. But, I am not sure anymore that publicly posted reviews actually reflect customers.

Personal Story Reviews

I have received notes from people talking about how the apps were used, and how they helped them. Those I treasure. The most recent was from a woman who is caretaker for an older woman who had a stroke. She used Kids Phonics to help her.

This woman is 85 and she was the kindergarten teacher for my children.  She and I have been friends for twenty five years.  Four years ago she suffered a massive stroke.  It was your program on my tablet the got her brain to be able to speak a handful of words and it is building.  She sang you are my sunshine with me last week.  Thank you for the product that started her speech and yesterday was their 58th anniversary and she was able to say I love you bill.

Feature Request Reviews

I have received feedback from people asking about changing something to make the app better. I treasure those too. They show that the person actually tried the app with their kids and took the effort to ask about improvements. For e.g. Kindergarten Word Play Lite had this review –

 The phonics and spelling are the best “games” I like that the letter sounds are repeated as many times as they are touched. Wish that after the words are matched correctly they were said again.

I continuously work on the user requested features.

Malicious Reviews

But the generic star-rating, none or one word reviews, generic kudos or generic fail words – I generally ignore. Someone left a review on Second Grade Word Play –

Auto-translated from Slovenian –


Original review –


I am as baffled as you might be looking at this as to what the person was thinking writing a review in Slovenian for a second-grade level english language learning app. At most, they should be using the kindergarten level app.

Next day, I get yet another email from someone asking if I would like to pay for good reviews. This one was a fancy brochure covering anything you could think of. Here is a page from it –pricelist

If people are unscrupulous enough to hoodwink customers by charging or paying for reviews, it is likely they also post bad ratings in the first place to get developers to pay up. Its the seedy side of reviews. The most I can do is ignore them. I have come to realize, that unless there is a real person or personal story behind those reviews, the ratings are meaningless – to me and to my customers.

Because we don’t do any of these tricks, our apps are perhaps not as highly rated as those that do. If that means that not as many people will discover our apps quickly, then so be it. I am in no rush for people to discover our apps. I hope that parents and teachers whose kids benefit from our apps, will eventually find them. As they do, I would love to hear from real customers who want to share, ask or even complain.

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