Buyer Beware: A problem with the app store and just touching 'Buy'

There's an app called Mirror that is actually #1 in Lifestyle. It does nothing, essentially, except display a black screen (with fake lightbulbs around it), and users are expected to use it as a mirror. Now, the developer might be in the right, as Apple approved it (while lambasting Adobe Flash for the lack of quality apps it produces).

Since Apple doesn't display the full description, in iTunes, unless you click "More", they say, below the 'fold' that "You will get the same effect you have when the device is off, with a nice frame." But I've noticed that they keep changing the screenshots to somewhat overstate what it can do, and then change them back when the heat is on.

Mirror app

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Users just buy whatever is #1 because they trust that others must have liked it, without reading the description. People touch Buy and then are immediately disappointed. 8,000 1 star reviews. The few positive reviews (including exactly two 5 star reviews for the current version) basically rag on the purchasers who bought without reading the reviews. I get the whole "A fool and his money are soon parted" but I think the way Apple has things setup contribute.

What can you do? Well, I just bought the #2 app, More Toast, which at least does something, and my kids might like it. If enough people buy it and bump the mirror out of #1, perhaps people will read the description instead of just hitting buy.

Full disclosure: I'm a developer and I do indeed have an app in the Top 50 in Lifestyle, but I'm NOT asking you to buy my app. I don't know the More Toast folks and just feel Mirror is a disservice to users. And users, do your part and take a second to investigate an app before you buy.

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Todd Bernhard's picture

Todd Bernhard is a bestselling (6+ million downloads) award-winning (AARP, About.com, BestAppEver.com, Digital Hollywood, and Verizon) developer and founder of NoTie.NET, an app developer specializing in Talking Ringtone apps including AutoRingtone. And his profile photo is of the last known sighting of Mr. Bernhard wearing a tie, circa 2007!

An iPhone is almost always attached to his hip or in his pocket, but over the years, Mr. Bernhard has owned an Apple Newton, a Motorola Marco, an HP 95LX, a Compaq iPaq, a Palm Treo, and a Nokia e62. In addition to writing for iPhone Life, Mr. Bernhard has written for its sister publications, PocketPC Magazine and The HP Palmtop Paper.