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This is how App Store rankings are manipulated

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Image allegedly shows racks of iPhones used to download and rate apps

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In past years Apple has said it's cracking down on the manipulation of App Store rankings through bot programs, but a recent image from Chinese social media site Weibo suggests the trade is alive and well using actual iPhones. The photo is captioned "hardworking App Store ranking manipulation employee," and shows a young woman sat in front of a bank of around 50 iPhone 5Cs, all hooked up with a nest of cables. There's an identical bank of iPhones on her right and what looks like two more smartphone-laden desks facing away from her on the other side of the room.

On some sites, the photo is being paired with an alleged price list for the services (above), with Tech in Asia reporting that it will cost customers RMB 70,000 ($11,200) to get into the top ten free apps (that's the option at the top), while keeping it there will cost RMB 405,000 ($65,000) each week. The third column reportedly shows the monthly price for these services, while the fourth gives potential customers a contact number on QQ — a popular messaging app run by Chinese internet giant Tencent.

the hard truth is that most apps fail

All of this effort and expense might look like a lot of trouble just to get an app into the App Store's top ten, but for a desperate developer it's a logical step. Apple is right to boast about how much money is made from the App Store, but the hard truth is that most apps fail. Apple does its best to shine a spotlight on worthy apps, but it's not like it can put every bit of software in the App Store's featured section. For a developer whose pride and joy is languishing in obscurity, budgeting for a quick boost up the download charts must be tempting.

Of course, there's no way to verify these images, but as Tech in Asia notes, a quick search on Chinese e-commerce sites brings up plenty of vendors offering exactly these services. If this isn't what a App Store ranking farm looks like then we don't know what is.