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Thursday, March 12, 2009, 08:00 am PT (11:00 am ET)

Apple rolling out more advanced App Store review system

Apple this week took another major step towards improving the controversial rating system on its fledgling App Store by allowing shoppers to filter reviews of applications by version number.

The changes, when finalized, will let shoppers see combined review averages for all versions of a specific application dating back to its inception or choose to filter reviews by version number.

With the latter, the App Store offers the option of isolating reviews and review averages from the most current version of an application, thereby providing shoppers with a more accurate assessment of the current state of an application unaffected by ratings from previous, and possibly troublesome, versions.

Under the new system, each review is also dated, providing a bit more clarity for shoppers in the market for a specific app. Unfortunately, the new system appears to be more of a work-in-progress than a finalized design.

After a cursory investigation, AppleInsider discovered that isolating reviews by 'current version' isn't functioning as one would expect. For instance, Bolt Creative's Pocket God title has 5700 total reviews, over a thousand of which are for the current version. Yet the App Store says there aren't enough reviews of the current version to provide an average. The case is similar for many of the other top-performing applications.

Meanwhile, a drop-down menu for sorting reviews also appears to be fairly new. It offers shoppers the option of sorting all reviews, or reviews for a specific version, by "Most Helpful," "Most Favorable," "Most Critical," or "Most Recent."

App Store


The changes are the latest by the Cupertino-based iPhone maker geared towards cleaning up the image of its iPhone app rating system, which initially allowed any iTunes Store account holder to lodge a review of any application, regardless of whether they had downloaded it.

This approach caused havoc for some iPhone developers while artificially benefiting others when rogue users — sometimes developers themselves — began to exploit the loosely regulated system to prop certain apps while attempting to taint the reputation of others.

App Store


As a result, Apple two weeks ago began purging many of those early reviews from the digital download store, leaving only those filed by legitimate customers. In general, the result for many iPhone developers was a significant reduction in the review count for their applications but a higher aggregate review rating on average.