Why You Shouldn’t Trust App Ratings on Google Play

Ben Stegner 14-05-2014

You need a new camera app; you open Google Play and find 50. Naturally, you install the highest-rated one. Guess what? You just got tricked. Google Play’s rating system is broken beyond repair, and you need to understand the details to make informed decisions about the apps you install.


What’s Wrong With 5 Stars?

A five-star rating scale is questionable in the first place because people tend to rate an app either five stars or one. You’ve probably seen this: most positive experiences are given five stars, while one star is given if any problems are encountered, however minor. Instead of being honest and considering what the app deserves, people associate a five-star with “good” and a one-star with “bad.”

Google Play Review Example

Further, a review can be left in Google Play with stars only and no written feedback. How much can you, the user, really trust a review that was left with only a moment’s consideration?

Often, folks leave a scathing review due to problems they experience that aren’t the developer’s fault. For example, a game may not be supported on their device, or the app might not be what they thought it was. It’s the user’s responsibility to avoid these problems, yet they ignore them and leave a poor review for the app. For example, check out this review of a flashlight app.



This review is completely unjustified. This user’s tablet doesn’t have an LED flash, so the flashlight app only brightens his screen instead of using the LED like it should. This is no fault of the developer; the user should not expect an app to do something that his hardware can’t support. This is just one example of how unwarranted feedback can hurt app developers.

If you think this is outlandish, have a look at this review.


This Wheel of Fortune game was given a mediocre rating not because it is boring or poorly designed, but because the reviewer disliked the absence of a character. This provides zero help to you, the potential user of the app. It doesn’t tell you if the game is worth a purchase or if its multiplayer mode is fun 5 Best Addictive Free Multiplayer Android Games Read More ; instead, it simply complains.


Even worse, a lot of the time reviews are practically illegible. The rating can’t be taken seriously when the review accompanying it is unintelligible. Don’t take my word for it, have a look:


Let’s dig into some more specific issues.

Greedy and Dishonest Developers

Dungeon Keeper – Human Greed At Its Worst



Not content with creating the flagship app for overbearing microtransactions, EA decided to become even more despicable and weed out any user reviews under five stars. After a bit of playing Dungeon Keeper, you’ll see the following screen:


If you click the “5 Stars” option, you’ll be taken to the Google Play page for the game, where you can rate it. But if you click the “1-4 Stars” option, you’ll be taken to a screen where you can leave feedback directly for EA, via email. By filtering out any possible low reviews, they artificially increase the rating of their game.

On the iOS version of the game, and in recent updates of the Android version, the screen has been changed, likely due to outcry against the practice.



Simply put, this is abuse of ratings. If there are problems with the app (and there are many; it meets many of Matt’s criteria for money-sucking freemium games 5 Warning Signs For Avoiding Freemium Games That Want To Suck Your Wallet Dry Many games are free up-front, but bombard players with an endless array of in-game purchases, some of which are impossible to avoid if you want to complete the game. Read More ), they should be honestly reflected in reviews so that others don’t have to waste their time. Instead, EA is free to disregard the feedback of unsatisfied users. Sure, you could click the “5 Stars” option, be taken to the Google Play page for the game, and then give it a low rating, but many people won’t think to do that.

The rise of the Aliens – Cheating Their Way To The Top

Instead of forcing its users to give only positive feedback, The rise of the Aliens employed the services of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk workers. If you’re unfamiliar with this service, Ryan has covered how it works Make Extra Cash During Your Zen Time With Amazon Mechanical Turk Read More . Suffice it to say that it allows anyone with spare time to complete small, menial tasks posted by others for a small amount of money.

The developers of this game decided to create a task for MTurk users to rate their app 5 stars. Nothing else was required; they didn’t even ask users to actually play the game and give an honest opinion. This skyrocketed the app to a 5.0 before it was taken down due to multiple violations of Google Play’s policies, as well as some of Amazon’s rules for MTurk.

Once again, useless reviews don’t accomplish what they’re supposed to do: help others make a decision about the app. Though not necessarily linked to MTurk, nonsense reviews are still a problem in the wild today.

Google Play New Nonsense Review

Google Play’s Recommendations – Know What You’re Rating

If you’ve used Google Play recently, you may have seen something like this:

Google Play Quick Suggestions

What this screen attempts to do is ask you to rate an app that you’ve recently installed, and based on that rating you’ll receive recommendations for other apps. Sounds like a great idea, but there’s been a big misunderstanding.

Many users think that they are being asked to rate the recommendation itself or if they wish to see similar apps. Many times, they give apps that they love a 1-star review because they aren’t looking to replace them – for example, if you have a favorite SMS app, you’re likely not looking for another, so you’ll rate the recommendation poorly. Below, when rating a flashlight app 5 stars, you receive recommendations for others, which is virtually useless.


What’s more, the recommendation card rating doesn’t allow for a detailed review, just a star rating. Once it is rated, it slides away to reveal recommendations. If you want to edit your review, in the case of an accidental tap or to add a description, you have to find the app on the Play Store to rate it.

Lots of hard work from developers is being undone by this feature, and while the premise is innocent, something needs to be done to fix this problem. Interestingly, the input many users are trying to give is actually possible in the pop-up: if you click the three dots in the upper-right hand part of the card, you can choose “Not Interested” and the recommendation will disappear without a review being given.

Google Play Quick Suggestions

“Most Helpful” Reviews – Vanity On Display

By default, Google Play sorts app review by “Most Helpful” instead of by rating or time. It’s unclear how “Most Helpful” actually sorts the reviews, but it seems to put “controversial” reviews first, meaning that highly rated apps will feature one-star ratings as “most helpful.”

This is a problem on the Turkish Play Store, with a great percentage of the top reviews on Where’s My Water 2 being one-stars that carry reviews like “Super! I gave 1 star so that my comment is shown first but I actually liked the game.”

While not as common on the English Play Store, examples can still be found. Here’s a review of Adobe Reader, which has a 4.3 average:



As has been seen, the 5-star system is in need of an overhaul, both to prevent abuse and for apps to be properly represented. A more involved system would likely discourage spam-type reviews and provide more valuable feedback to potential users of the app.

This may seem like a problem that only concerns developers, but it’s important for all users of Google Play. When app reviews and scores are unreliable, it hurts you as a user. You could waste time and even money. Until change is implemented, though, be sure to check out some alternative resources for Android app reviews The 4 Best Resources For Android App Reviews Good app reviews are, surprisingly, not that easy to find. This is most likely because many apps are free, so for many users it’s easier to just try out an app rather than read a... Read More .

Know that a low amount of stars doesn’t necessarily mean the app is bad or not worth your time. It would perhaps also be beneficial to read full reviews on other websites instead of user reviews on the Play Store before jumping into an app.

Have you been a victim of bad reviews? What do you think of Google Play’s current rating system? Do you have any ideas about how the ratings system can be improved? Please let us know in the comments; I want to hear your thoughts on this one!

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. MrL0g1c
    June 23, 2019 at 1:40 pm

    My problem with google play is that the product creators can clearly use some kind of bot farm / amazon mechanical turk farm to write 100's of reviews and not be caught.

  2. XDA-Dev
    April 20, 2019 at 5:42 pm

    This is an excellent piece that sheds a truly realistic light on the flawed five-star rating system used by Google's Play store. As a developer, I am all too familiar with users who leave a scathing one-star review either because (1) the user is so dumb that they can't figure out how to properly use the app; or (2) the user is so dumb that they have installed an app that is 100% incompatible with their device or OS version. In either scenario, the developer suffers a poor rating simply because a dumb user has installed his/her application.

    • MrL0g1c
      June 23, 2019 at 1:42 pm

      They shouldn't be able to install the (incompatible) app on their device via google play or google play should prohibit them from leaving a review if the device isn't compatible.

  3. DJ
    August 12, 2017 at 1:06 am

    As a developer with eleven reference apps on Google Play, some with 800+ reviews and over 100,000 downloads. I'd have to say the ratings system is very unfair and detrimental to the conscientious developer. I started designing these apps for my own learning and enjoyment as there was nothing like them on the app store. I then decided to share them with the world free with no ads. I have found out that even the well designed, free, non spam, app does not escape the attack of the ignorant user. I spend way too much time dealing these with worthless negative reviews. To make things worse, my app ideas have been copied by spam app developers who build their sub-standard copy apps, buy positive app reviews and then out rank my original works for the related search terms!
    I have many original apps currently that I have developed but will not release on account of this. I will just share them with family and friends. Five years ago there were quite a few developers that made apps free will no monetization or spam, but that has all changed. Just had another developer I know throw in the towel last month. I am one of the few left .

    • Zakir
      June 17, 2018 at 5:06 am

      100% agree with you

    • XDA-Dev
      April 20, 2019 at 5:50 pm

      Man, I can relate to 100% of everything you are saying. Good, dedicated app developers suffer negative reviews due to users who are too dumb to even own a smart device in the first place.

  4. Muhammad Aaliyan Zahid
    June 19, 2017 at 5:34 pm

    I think Google should Ask themselves a "PARETO LAW's" Question; "What 20% of comments result in 80% of spam". Analyze the common trends. Have a system that if words "1-star", "good", "beautiful", "like", "useful", "love it", "awesome" and other synonymous postive words are in one review then block that user or either warn him from doing this. But as we cannot stop others but we can stop us. So the BEST THING THEY CAN DO IS TO ANALYZE ALL USER REVIEWS AND EDITOR SHOULD DO A RELIABLE REVIEW BASED ON INTELLIGENT USER REVIEWS. ALL USER COMMENTS SHOULD BE DISPLAYED TO EDITOR AND THE REAL, RELAIABLE, ONE RELIABLE COMMENT SHOULD GET THE EQUATION RIGHT(i.e. What 20% of comments result in 99% of trust and intelligence") that one review from editor solves the problem.

  5. Tevin46
    March 17, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    I completely agree with that. I give negative reviews myself. But that's because I have an anger problem and get angry easy. So it's my fault for those stupid reviews. For compatibility, you have a lot of people that can't afford a 800 or 300 to 400 dollar phone so they have to deal with the crappy phones. That's The case for me, if I could afford a iPhone with 32gb of memory I would be able to use the app better. Sometimes you just got to work with what you got. The play store rating system is terrible.

  6. lovesblueskies
    January 8, 2017 at 12:20 am

    1) If an app has both an Android and iOS version, is the rating on the Google Play Store reflecting only the Android product?

    2) Is there any way to link your review preferences to your Google account, such as Newest Version, Newest Reviews First, and for X Device (if there aren't any, then for all devices)?

  7. Pssst3
    November 19, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    Thr rating are unreliable because they lump all ratings of every version of an app from the day it wsd first distributed. There's no weighting to reflect the current version being released.

    Major app revisions that share no code with eatlier versions are crefitef with the rating from all earlier downloads. This is like lumping every vesion of Windows including ME, Bob and Seven togethet with Windows 10.

    The same is true of thr downloads number. An app that needs to be patched 20x each year will get 20 "downloads" per device every year while one that is well engineered and doesn't require any updates gets one credited download per device.

    Thus an app that has many bugs requiring many updates is indicated as more popular, ie "trusted" than one that is actually good.

    An app that crashes a device may get multiple downloads credited as the user rebuilds his device. An app that was originally a dimple reliable program may become unreliable through feature bloat without its score being adverely changed by large numbers of infavorable ratings.

    In short, Googles Playstore ratings are totally untrustworthy.

    What should replace them are an aggregate rating for the developer, the release dates of the apps first and most recent MAJOR version, the number of updates and the statistics for THAT major version for the most recent 6 months.

    No reputablle competent developer should object to such information, which would be more accurate and useful got developer and user alike.

    nd the foenlosd numbetscand rson.

  8. Ryan Vogel
    September 22, 2016 at 10:07 pm


    While I mostly agree with your reasons to take Google Play reviews with a grain of salt, I think the title of your article is a bit too overarching in it's meaning. I have seen plenty of reviews with pointless, incomprehensible dribble or even a rating with no review at all. I am by no means a professional games reviewer, but I like Google Play for it's accessibility and the ability to write shorter reviews that still provide quality content and make sense in the context of this platform. I definitely agree that it's far too easy to leave an incomplete or unhelpful review and that Google Play should adopt a more meaningful and extensive review process. However, I do think that is the nature of the beast and the type of review content that this platform attracts. At the very least, I hope changes come soon to Google Play reviews and I do appreciate your article pointing out this inadequacy.

  9. mw
    September 21, 2016 at 8:39 am

    Maybe I am dumb, but so far I have no found a single method to read individual reviews of GooglePlay apps at will, e.g. only the ones marked with 1 or 2 stars.
    Only by specifically reading good or bad reviews I can judge on their validity.
    The overall (avg) star rating is definitely useless, as long as the detailed individual results on either end of the rating scale are not directly accessible. Either can be bogus or off topic.

    Using this method at other online stores like Amazon work very well. There I ALWAYS read the negative reviews first, to check on their substance and severity. If nothing serious is mentioned in these negative reviews I continue reading the positive ones, before making my decision to buy or run.
    Google is a "PLAY" store alright, nothing can be taken serious in this environment. Hence I am using other sources for my APK collection.

  10. Chris Brossard
    September 9, 2016 at 12:06 am

    As an app developer, I have developed a thick skin when it comes to app ratings. I don't take them too seriously - a lot of users use the app rating system as a form of therapy, or a crude form of communication with the developer, a five star rating meaning that all is well, and a one star rating meaning that something went wrong. It would be helpful to me if Google provided a review form with some "check boxes" to help users give some meaningful feedback, but Google does what it wants and doesn't pay attention to developers, so we are stuck with this useless rating system.

  11. john chapman
    September 4, 2016 at 12:00 am

    assign a review values based on a formular that take reviewers rating into consideration as well. a 1 rating from a reviewer with an rating of 2 would not be as bad as from a reviewer who is respected based on past reviews.

  12. RandomUser
    April 16, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    I judge ratings as follows:

    - Read the product description. More detailed is better.
    - I only read the negative reviews. Too easy to buy or cheat positive ones. Much rarer to cheat negative ones in a comprehensive way.
    - I judge the negative reviews based on perceived intelligence of the one giving the review. Most are incoherent, or complain about something that's not even advertised as a feature or worse, is specifically documented as not available. Those are the "less smart than a squashed slug". The ratings go up from there.

    I'll try out those apps where the perceived intelligence of the negative reviewer is at "diseased chimp" or less. That is to say, if most of the negative reviews are written by idiots without a clue rather than rational thinking sentients then it's probably worth a shot.

    • Pssst3
      November 19, 2016 at 4:25 pm

      I only consider reviews that go into detail describing issues
      that hurt the apps stated functionality or usability. I don't read reviews of less than 50 characters because they indicate the app isn't important to that reviewer, wouldn't run, or was perfect. The last is impossible, the second depends on user and device.

  13. sadas
    March 5, 2016 at 9:54 pm

    As an Android developer I'm sick and tired of the vast amount of hmm.. how to call them? DUMB FVCKS who vote down apps because:

    1) They didn't bother to read the app description and installed an app thinking it's something else. "This app is not what I thought and it sucks. 1 star!"

    2) They want the premium content for free. "I'll give you 5 stars if you make your commercial version free!"

    3) The app doesn't work on their cheap Walmart shit. "The app freezes. It sucks!"

    4) They don't have a fvcking clue how to use their devices. This is particlarly true for apps tha require root. "What is that root thing? WTF??? 1 star!"

    The free version of my app has 50% of bad ratings. The commercial version has nothing but 4 and 5 stars. The low-info, cheap mob rules.

    God, I wish Google would just get rid of the ratings section. It's a cesspool for stupid users, scammers and dishonest developers.

    I'm considering to just remove the free version of my app.

    • Ben Stegner
      March 5, 2016 at 10:52 pm

      I'm not a developer, but I see the kinds of stuff you mention here all the time and it's ridiculous. These types of reviews aren't helpful at all - it's like when someone gives an item 1 star on Amazon because of a shipping problem. That doesn't help anyone else know if the item is worth getting.

      I wish there was a group of points you had to go through to write a review - app is freezing? The Play Store runs a test to see if you're on a crap phone, and tells you that's why. People just don't get it and are so quick to rate 1 star. It's sad.

      • Andri Kurniawan
        April 13, 2016 at 4:43 am

        Completely agree. I wish these reviewers would grow a brain or something..

        • Zakir
          October 6, 2018 at 5:25 pm

          )) I wish Google would grow a brain or something.. Because their Play Store review policy is completely s**ty, primitive and stupid

    • Argurth
      April 16, 2016 at 1:05 pm

      How my god, I'm in the same situation as you, make nearly 100k ddl and even if I'm 4+ rated it kill me every time someone post 1 star "There is ads and I don't wan't to pay, make it free before {insert date here }".

      I give the best of myself to help my users, replying to all their comments, but most of my bad rating are just because the free version have ads, or user who haven't updated their reviews after I helped them, and it's frustrating me.

      On top of that, all those ads complaints are displayed first, because my app is high-rated ! but those first comments have an higher impact than the rating !

    • Pssst3
      November 19, 2016 at 4:36 pm

      I agree with most of what you wrote.

      But rather than just eliminate the free version, either have s single version that is limited by time, number of lauches or nag screens until registered/paid, or change the name of the paid version.

      The first approach makes it easy for serious prospective customers to mentally screen out ignorant reviews. The second clearly distinguished the commercial product.

  14. Tom
    February 19, 2016 at 8:01 am

    I've yet to receive a one-star rating that is accompanied by a written review with any kind of actionable feedback. 90% have no written component, and all the ones that do are useless, one-word insults. In contrast, the four star reviews specify actual reasons why they didn't rate five star.

    • Ben Stegner
      February 22, 2016 at 4:08 am

      I think a lot of people rate one star to "make a statement" but don't want to actually offer any helpful comments. It's irritating.

    • Chandima
      October 8, 2016 at 12:36 pm

      Yes. A good point. My app normally gets 5 star rating and occasionally 2, 3, 4 stars. In my case 90% the 1 star ratings which has a review, has a GOOD app review. So, they accidentally rated the app 1 star. We have got a chance to reply if there's at least a review even it's not sure whether it could update the rating. However there's no way to recover those accidental 1 star ratings without reviews. That's a huge problem in the rating system and affects good developers enormously. I think a confirmation before submission could solve the problem.

  15. William
    November 18, 2015 at 11:03 am

    I've also seen a lot of reviews that go like "I'm giving it one star, will give more if I like the app once I've used it". This is very comon in Brazil at least.

  16. Anonymous
    August 26, 2015 at 2:52 am

    Whatever algorithm Amazon uses for their App Store when displaying most helpful reviews should become the golden standard because I almost always can find good, in depth reviews for an app there whereas I can't remember reading a single decent review ever in the Play Store. It's like reading the comments inYouTube; complete and udder garbage.

  17. Jayakrishnan
    April 30, 2015 at 6:10 am

    I'm not an android developer, so I don't know about the limitations Google play give them.
    Anyway I've got an idea to solve such problems to an extend (even though I don't know how much practical will it be in real world)..

    I think, giving the developers ability to delete bad reviews would solve this problem to an extend..
    And to avoid removing good reviews, guys at the Google should review and restore the deleted messages if they were eligible to be in play store..

    Also warning the developers for removing good reviews would discourage them from doing it again

    Hope everyone understand what I say.
    And sorry for my bad English.. :-)

    • android dev
      January 21, 2016 at 1:22 pm

      that's a lot of manual work

      • vgergo
        February 13, 2016 at 3:43 pm

        You, and your users can flag bad quality reviews, but I've never seen any effect of this. Flagged reviews don't seem to be ever removed

        • Ben Stegner
          February 13, 2016 at 4:04 pm

          You're right, and it's a shame. Reviews like "amazing!!11!" that are rated 1-star need to be removed, but I guess I understand why they don't do it. It would be a nightmare managing all that stuff.

    • Pssst3
      November 19, 2016 at 4:42 pm

      I'd prefer to see both 1 star and 5 star reviews dropped from the listing. The others are more likely to be useful to everyone.

  18. Neil B.
    March 31, 2015 at 10:20 am

    New problem on Google Play - you now can't leave ANY feedback without opening a Google+ profile.

    So I shan't be leaving any feedback. My apologies to the developers of some of the excellent apps I use. All they want is data about my buying habits. I'm very tempted to go back to using a brick phone and a scientific calculator.

    • Ben S
      April 6, 2015 at 6:47 pm

      I didn't realize they introduced this restriction, Neil. That's a shame, as not everyone wants a Google+ profile. Hopefully it prevents some of these problems as a side effect, though.

  19. Chris Brossard
    March 13, 2015 at 12:00 am

    I have 15 apps on Google Play. I would agree that the app review system needs a major overhaul. Some of the problems:

    App reviews are sometimes used as a form of therapy. Many people have frustrations in their lives, and if something doesn't go right with their app, they tend to take it out on the developer with a one star review.

    Many people have poor grammatical skills, which sometimes results in incomphensible reviews. These problems are amplified when they are entered in a foreign language and are translated into another language with Google Translate.

    Smartphone keyboards are hard to use, and this tends to either discourage people from entering reviews, or makes the reviews incomprehensible.

    Sometimes users will give a one star review when something changes in the app between versions which they don't like.

    I do all of my string translations using Google Translate. Because of this, there are certain to be errors in my string translations, but I don't know about it because no one tells me; I just get a one star review.

    There are also bugs in the Android operating system which the developer gets blamed for.

    What is needed in my opinion is to have a popup window appear when the user tries to enter a one star rating which has a number of radio buttons . These options could be, for example, "feature changed", "app crashed", "translation error", "layout error", etc. This would force Android users to give the developer some kind of feedback as to why they are giving a one star rating. The rating system as it is now is completely useless to the developer.

    • Ben S
      March 13, 2015 at 1:33 am

      Thank you for giving your perspective. I enjoyed getting to see how developers see this issue; actually, when writing this I was originally going to include some ideas for a better rating system, but decided to scrap them since the article wasn't meant for developers.

      I hope Google changes this soon, because it's so lousy now.

    • Malacinjo
      April 2, 2015 at 9:08 am

      I agree with you, but I would also like to see that kind of popup window for each rating, not only for one star. It should be questionnaire shaped and should take up to 1 minute rather than 1 second as it is now. That way there would be less ratings, but it would be more precise so developers would get more quality info of users satisfaction and needs from it. Right now you have bunch of stars meaning almost nothing.

      Also, why not to put ratings on users comments? Comments would be much trustworthy.

      And finally, rating should be calculated as a result of both items: user rating and rating of user comments.

      • Pssst3
        November 19, 2016 at 4:46 pm

        Yes Amazon-style up/down helpful review reviews.

    • Ben S
      April 6, 2015 at 6:48 pm

      I like your suggestions, too. If it took longer, stupid comments could be partially weeded out and others could self-moderate to lower the ratings of abusive users.

    • Pssst3
      November 19, 2016 at 4:44 pm

      +1 like the radio buttons concept

    • Zakir
      October 6, 2018 at 5:28 pm

      BRAVO ! Extremely smart resolution (radio button idea)

  20. John
    March 5, 2015 at 7:16 pm

    1star=bad, 5star=good is still a semblance of product usability/ quality.
    I think most people are cynical about the truth behind it. Our ability to tell BS reviews from real ones is probably the most important of all.
    I have my own little system of reading a few of the bad reviews first then some the top ones then some in between so in reality my initial impression is based on more than stars.
    Why is it not possible to select reviews i want to read by the amount of stars and in a coherent list is some sort of BS Google designed to confound and manipulate the review process by reducing the ability to select reviews properly and that enables bad reviews to be bumped downward and placed into oblivion.
    Have you ever tried to contact Google to suggest something or complain?
    They don't give a shit. They are a great organisation but very insidious as well.
    They are trying to debase the star system which they are forced to have for credibility.
    When compared with Amazon's for example, doesn't seem half as good. Curious, eh?
    Google also had this site star rating BS on search results that was a complete lie.
    So more than just the stars, the ability to navigate the reviews.
    The sheer number of reviews also can help put into perspective the stars and reviews

  21. SD
    March 4, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    Great article.

    What I'd like to know is how people are leaving star ratings with no name whatsoever. Not "A Google User", no name at all! I was under the impression that anonymous ratings went away in 2012 with Google+.

    These star ratings also lack a spam flag.

    • Pssst3
      November 19, 2016 at 4:49 pm

      Based on my recent experience, "a Google user" is someone who has unenrolled from Google+ .

  22. Jim
    March 3, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    Until you are actually a business yourself with things for sale on retail sites you will never have the insight to see how fraudulent and misleading review systems are.

    I hope that the review systems eventually collapse under their own BS. I hope that one day most customers don't rely on anonymous strangers on the internet to influence their purchase decisions.

    Online customer review systems are more about the perception they give to the consumer of "freedom of speech consumer voice". Even if more than half the reviews are fake retail sites will benefit more by having them than not having them customer reviews at all and losing that perception.

    Whether a retailer (such as Google play) makes money from the sale of your product or someone else who fakes their own review the money is the same, it makes little to them, yet.

  23. Tim W
    February 27, 2015 at 8:04 pm

    I biggest gripe with Google Play store reviews in particular is not being able to review applications after your have uninstalled it / refunded a purchase. Which I think is poor design, especially for apps that don't have a 'demo' to test --- How is one supposed to leave constructive feedback/review for other users in those cases?

  24. HM
    October 22, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    Nice article.
    I am an app developer and I get these emails sometimes from offers that will rate and review my app and give it a 5 star rating, and you can get all these offers from websites like Fiverr. It annoys me so much that this is how some developers get their reviews to try and climb to the top of the rankings.

  25. pzolee
    September 21, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    Really great article, I am always facing with this issue as developer. My experience that the users do not read any description at all.

    The solution would be easy: rating the user comments by other users not only the app itself. With this method Google could filter out the unhelpful comment also that's more important it could give some better balance. It should ignore the rating of a user who has very low rating.

    • Ben S
      September 21, 2014 at 7:21 pm

      That's a good idea! You're right; people don't seem to care about descriptions. One quick glance and if it doesn't do what they think it should they get upset.

      A karma system for reviews would be great. Bad reviews aren't harmful, but they need to be constructive, not "OMG this suxkz!"

  26. Jay S
    August 13, 2014 at 8:41 am

    Great article.

    As an Android developer ratings drive me up the wall on the following 2 points:

    i) Lack of comments, but happy to give 1 star. This means my app rating will drop, without having a clue why someone has given me 1 star.

    Solution: Force users to comment on reviews

    ii) Users who give low stars because they want the app to do something its not advertised to do so. I provide all the specs, I provide all the features and then get a 1 start review saying "Works great as expected but I want it to do this as well". I'm happy to get a 1 star review if it deserves it, if it DOESN'T do what it's meant to, but to penalise me based on what they'd like..pfft.

  27. Wonky Tonk
    August 10, 2014 at 9:14 am

    The entire premise of this article is just wrong. People rate apps based on their interaction with the app. A negative interaction with an app is likely to illicit a negative rating, sure, but that's entirely the point of a ratings system. For example I just loaded a solitaire program that took over my phone to show an ad, and when I say took over, I mean it completely locked me out of my phone for the length of time it took to show the ad. That's complete BS, and that app deserved the zero stars I couldn't give it, but rather had to settle on a one star review it definitely did NOT deserve over the zero stars it did. App ratings aren't broken due to capricious down voting they're broken because we can't directly access the negative ratings above the positive ratings. For example Google's Play store lets you sort reviews by highest ratings, but won't let you sort by lowest ratings which is a sort feature far more valuable to users trying to make the determination if the download is safe, and worthy of an install. I get that shady developers don't want that option...F them they need to learn to deal with it, as does Google.

    • Ben S
      August 11, 2014 at 4:55 pm

      I understand completely what you mean, but I don't think the premise of the article is wrong.

      The point is that you can't take the face value of the ratings as trustworthy because they're flawed. What you're saying about your experience with the solitaire app is fine. I would do the same thing; there's hundreds of solitaire apps on Google Play and so there's no need to waste time with an ad-filled one.

      This is different, however, from rating an app poorly due to circumstances out of the dev's control, like the flashlight review issue. It's not the developer's fault your tablet doesn't have LED; the review should reflect if the app works as described or not.

      The bottom line is: Your review is your two cents to potential installers: "Is this app worth your time (and/or money)?" It is not a knee-jerk reaction for when you get upset with something fickle. Reviews should be a place to help others.

  28. Saab
    August 6, 2014 at 8:05 am

    This has been my problem with ratings too.. Props for putting up this article.

    I like reading review (mostly for mobile phones), but from the credible/quality/professional ones. I think a good improvement would be to have a different section for critics reviews versus user reviews. As a sample, does this. Here's a page from a phone I purchased a year ago.:

    • Ben S
      August 7, 2014 at 4:04 pm

      You're right, Engadget does use a good system. That way, if a phone has a poor camera but excels in other areas, for example, you'll know it's a good buy for you if you don't care about taking pictures with your phone.

      A new system needs to be established, perhaps with ratings particular to the type of app. For instance, RPGs could be rated based on how long they are, how much grinding is required, etc. so that players would know what they're getting into.

    • Saab
      August 12, 2014 at 2:34 pm

      I was also thinking in the line of being able to filter out reviews from reputable sources. I would be good if one can filter ratings/reviews that were made by the professionals.

      A good start would probably be adding a third checkbox in the filter for review Options: (which could look like something below)
      ? Latest version only
      ? From this device model only
      ? From Professional App critics/reveiwers only

      Secondly, of course, google would then need to ID/accredit the so-called Professionals.

      For example, I'm looking at Plants vs Zombies 2 in the play store. If I clicked the third filter above, the only review that would show would be from the google play accounts of IGN, GameSpot, EuroGamer etc...
      This, in effect, wil filter high quality review from reputable reviewers.

    • Ben S
      August 12, 2014 at 2:40 pm

      This would be a good idea, since many well-known sources review apps like this.

      One thing you can do for this is add sites like CNET to your circles on Google+. If they reviewed an app you're looking at, you'll see their review at the top. It's a nice little touch to see a professional review.

  29. Anonymous
    June 9, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    This article was so helpful! I have often wondered if all the reviews in the play store are the real deal. This is really good info because when I go searching for new apps or games in the play store, I will rarely even browse through them unless they are 4 stars or above. You should also check out the linked article for the 4 best resources for android app reviews., also very helpful. My favorites are Android Tapp and App Storm. Good articles.

    • Ben S
      June 9, 2014 at 6:05 pm

      Thank you so much for your compliments! I'm glad this has made you more aware of the problems with app ratings. It's tough to sort the crud from the good reviews, but you can do it with a trained eye. Good luck!

  30. Angela W
    May 19, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    Check out AppCovery

  31. Mike
    May 19, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    I read the comments both good and bad. I can ignore those that have device-specific problems. I also eliminate those that have language that sounds like it comes from a salesperson. I give the most credibility to longer well-thought-out reviews. Another thing I look at is the number of installs and, more importantly, the last update. If the developer hasn't done anything on the app for a couple of years, I generally don't install it.

    • Ben S
      May 19, 2014 at 5:23 pm

      Great system! I always double-check the latest update date too - unless it's an app that's not going to get much better (like WatchDog, a task manager app I use) I'm skeptical of apps that are outdated by a year.

  32. Russell J. Wilsonn
    May 18, 2014 at 2:08 am

    I think, from this review -- one of the very poorest I've seen on MUO, the Google Play site rating's, and the apps on Google Play, that both MUO and Google must have massive investments in Apple -- the apps are often terrible, though "cheap"; but the ratings and the prices are NO guide to the quality of apps -- look at some of the health-related apps as a great example of this -- like the Diabetes apps -- even the professionals make notes of this in their professional reviews in journals -- but this observation is not included in this review, as it should be. Why does this occur? The best reason is that Google and MUO want people to use Apple, clearly.

    • Ben S
      May 19, 2014 at 5:32 pm

      I'm sorry you feel this way, Russell, but you are incorrect. I am not a fan of Apple, and this article was in no way meant to bash Google or the Play Store. (Please note that the opposite bias is also not true - though I don't prefer Apple personally, I would never write a piece bashing them or telling users to stay away from Apple.)

      We at MUO are diverse in the platforms we use - I use mainly Android and Windows, but there are other writers whose strengths are different than mine.

      I wrote this article to address an issue I've seen happening for too long. The problem comes down to human choices - the vanity of the 1-star reviews and the greediness of developers like EA, for example.

      As far as you saying Google has investments in Apple, I don't know how to respond to that. While some apps on Google Play are of low quality, there are plenty that are useful and polished. Low-quality shovelware certainly exists on Apple's platforms, too.

      I am aware that ratings are not guides to the quality of the apps. This article was not addressing the quality of Google Play's apps, but rather the rating system. If you noticed, you'll see that multiple times I say that these problems affect Play users because it makes it harder for them to find quality apps.

      As far as the diabetes apps go, are their ratings a problem? Again, I wasn't talking about the app qualities, but problems in the infrastructure of the system. If one hears about one of these medical apps from their doctor and uses it, that's fantastic. However, if these problems (like the Recommendations one) occur with that user and the app, then it makes it tougher for others to find.

      Why do you feel that this article is one of the poorest you've seen on the site? I appreciate your thoughts but I feel as though you misunderstood my intentions or the tone of the article.

    • Ben S
      May 19, 2014 at 5:35 pm

      Looks fairly basic, Angela, but it could be useful. I am a firm believer that word of mouth is one of the best ways to spread apps/shows/games/whatever, so I like the idea of this app. Looks like it doesn't have many users, though.

      Thanks for sharing!

  33. David
    May 16, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Reminds me of a movie "review" I once read. The "reviewer" rated the movie 5 stars, then said, "I can't wait to see this movie!"

    Now, for your example review of the "Smart Suit Hotel", clearly English was not the native language of the reviewer, and I would say they still got their point across reasonably well. I have seen worse nonsense from people who should know better. Thanks!

    • Ben S
      May 17, 2014 at 10:15 pm

      Yes, I had a hard time finding an example for that hotel one. I understand if English is not one's native language, but it's also pretty easy to spot total nonsense, almost like selecting random words from a dictionary.

  34. Dave
    May 16, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    I would prefer if apps ratings were based on metadata of usage and uninstall rates. I can't believe that Google, whose original success was based on the metadata of page links, would resort to human ratings to sort their apps.

    • Ben S
      May 17, 2014 at 10:13 pm

      That's a good idea. I don't think there's anything wrong with having human input, but it would certainly be interesting and valuable to see how many people install the app and never open it again, or install and uninstall within a few days.

      Never thought about that idea, but I like it a lot!

  35. dade0
    May 16, 2014 at 2:39 am

    Agreed, the Play Store ratings are weak at best..but, if there were a way to sort apps by: Downloads, Most ratings, Device downloading, Daily downloads, Oldest/newest, etc..this could go far to supplement those useless ratings. Google, being THE search giant, should be doing better at this. I'm sure these poor systems are that way intentionally and to benefit the devs, who in fact have it much worse than iOS devs.

    • Ben S
      May 17, 2014 at 10:12 pm

      I agree; the options for searching on the Play Store suck. The front page is all "featured developers" and the latest free-to-play junk, not generally cool apps. It's a wonder anyone finds the useful apps.

  36. Snowy Joey
    May 15, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    Don't get me wrong - I'm a fan of MUO, but, _qualitatively_, what's the difference between this and inducing us to "like' MUO articles etc. on Social Media by offering entries into prize draws for giveaways? I never enter your draws, for exactly that reason, so sadly, I'll never win anything. Ho hum.

    • Ben S
      May 17, 2014 at 10:11 pm

      Do you mean the Dungeon Keeper problem? What do you have to gain by rating Dungeon Keeper five stars? When you enter a giveaway at MakeUseOf, you trade a bit of publicity for us for the chance to win a cool prize. I don't think that's unjustified.

      EA wants you to believe that you have to rate highly to keep the game alive, but they just want to keep their rating up. Also, we at MUO take feedback seriously and want to improve on our weak areas. EA wants to toss that feedback out so nobody sees it.

  37. Harvey H
    May 15, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    Ignore star ratings without a review. Ignore 5-star ratings, since the app should work as documented. Personally, I only review 1-star ratings with a very well written critique. Using the above I weed most competing apps. After this I load and evaluate the app(s) whose documentation indicates that my needs should be met. Depending how well my needs are met and the quality of the user interface, I keep the best app.

    • Ben S
      May 17, 2014 at 10:08 pm

      Great method! I've also heard advice that it's best to check 3 star reviews, since the user gave it an average rating and so likely can tell you both the good and bad.

  38. Sherron O
    May 15, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    Is this just a Google Play problem? I think it's everywhere. Or do you think that other places do a better job of weeding out the fake/nonsense reviews?

    • Ben S
      May 17, 2014 at 10:07 pm

      I think other places seem to have less spammy reviews, but truly, the problem comes down to humans. Wherever reviews are present, this will happen, but I've felt for a while that the Google Play rating system is a mess. I was overwhelmed while reading through various reviews when writing this article.

  39. David M
    May 15, 2014 at 10:13 am

    The reviews might be a little bit more truthful or helpful if people weren't pestered to vote. Other stores don't pester you to rate their product; well, Amazon does somewhat. I think voting should be volunteered.

    • Ben S
      May 17, 2014 at 10:06 pm

      I think a balance is necessary. On the one hand, many people wouldn't vote if they weren't asked; perhaps they're new users who don't know how the system works.

      However, apps (especially free-to-play games and the like) that shove asking for ratings in your face every time you play them or slam ads in your notification bar are annoying and overbearing. What's the happy medium?

  40. Nahla D
    May 15, 2014 at 6:34 am

    Loved your article. I for one, an Android user, get vexed on how unhelpful and unreasonable some users rate apps. When I rate, I always try to give a reasonable rating with comments about bugs or suggestions. I don't forget to compliment too, if the app is really that good. If you want to help improve an app, you gotta give good feedback! And those unintelligible comments, they are sooo real! I always stumble across one. What were they thinking?

    I can't blame the others though. They aren't techy enough and wants everything to be spoon feed to them. This article is another reason why Google should have more active moderators in the Play Store. Do they even have them?

    • Ben S
      May 17, 2014 at 10:04 pm

      I'm glad you leave constructive comments! They're much more helpful for potential users of the app than a quick star rating - especially if the app isn't free.

      I don't know about moderators for sure. i would guess that they aren't very active - Google Play is very open and you rarely hear about Google removing apps, unless they're malicious.

  41. Mac W
    May 15, 2014 at 6:20 am

    I have less problems with real users who have become dissatisfied and therefore gives 1 star or those who are happy and give 5. Worse then with all "bought" votes. One can buy votes in the same way as Facebook likes, twitter followers, etc.

    Most evaluations have large measurement errors, people evaluate based on how they feel at that moment, happy people give higher scores than those who are less happy at the time. Then, some people reserve the 1 and 5 to the real exception while others use the full range more freely.

    Generally, I do not think Play Store has bigger problems than all recommendation sites

    • Ben S
      May 17, 2014 at 10:02 pm

      I can agree. This is why I mentioned the polarization of ratings at the start - people usually rate an app emotionally and not logically.

      Truly, the problem comes down to people. Any online store can have these problems, but I do think some of these are particular to Google Play.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

  42. Jove
    May 14, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    Some may disagree with your example of a low rating assigned to an app that failed to meet customer expectations on a tablet lacking an LED flash - or in my case an OSX app that required a specific video card that my machine lacks.

    In both cases, the developer could check the operating environment to verify suitability. Or if unable to, then highlight requirements in the pre-purchase product description.

    Context matters too. Apps intended for consumers typically need more 'belt & suspenders' validation and clear diagnostic messages than those intended for system administrators.

    Is it unfair to penalize lazy or negligent developers? I believe so.

    Conversely, few of us are omniscient. I've upped ratings for developers that rapidly respond to complaints and favor them when considering additional apps.

    • Ben S
      May 17, 2014 at 9:59 pm

      But the expectation that an app could enable his device to do something that it physically cannot do it faulty. He could rate dozens of flashlight apps one star simply because he has no LED flash - this doesn't mean they are bad apps.

      I'm not arguing with you here, but it's also important to remember that Android devices are so varied that it would be impossible to have an app work exactly right for every device out there. I feel for Android developers on this issue - they likely have to spend months after releasing an app to make sure that it works with those who need it to.

      I'm all for upping ratings when a developer responds, but the idea of holding stars for ransom - "fix this and you get five stars" -can get a little ridiculous.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Collin R
      May 18, 2014 at 12:51 am

      Yes a Developer could leave the required specs, and many have already done this in fact. I think in my view, the problem is that the User , does not actually read the description and still rates a one star because he/she does not like it for their purpose.

    • Ben S
      May 19, 2014 at 5:21 pm

      Yes, Collin, I agree. If the developer provides information saying that certain devices are known to have problems, that's about the best he can do until he fixes the issues.