Photo supposedly showing how app ranks and downloads are being manipulated on iOS is going viral in China

If you browse enough apps, sooner or later you'll stumble upon a listing that seems off. The app in question has a super high rating and a ton of ravishing reviews. Based on that, you end up downloading it... only to find it either severely lacking or average at best. Why? Because somebody's job somewhere out there was to manipulate said app's rating and inflate its download count to make it look more appealing. A new photo that is going viral in China is allegedly showing us just that somebody – an employee at an app ranking manipulation "farm".

As is clearly visible from the photo, which is captioned "hardworking App Store ranking manipulation employee" and whose authenticity is unverifiable, said employee is working in front of a giant trove of iPhone 5c units, apparently in the middle of her app-ranking-influencing-voodoo. Another bank of iPhone 5c's is also seen, suggesting that this is no small operation. A different image, supposedly showing us a price breakdown for the service, is also seen included by some Chinese news outlets. From what we can see, a push into the top 10 free apps list will run developers down ¥70,000 ($~12,000) and over five times that to keep it there.

$12,000 might seem like an insane asking price, and we'll admit that few indie developers will be able to afford the service, but keep in mind that the fee is also indicative of the potential earnings that an app that lands in the coveted rank list can reap. Indeed, given the size of the iOS community and the undeniable appeal of free apps, devs can make some real cash through ads so long as enough eyeballs go through them. Consider this: At the height of the Flappy Bird craze, the developer was reportedly making over $50,000 from ads alone per day. Not a bad payout, right?

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