Apps whose business model is based on subscriptions and in-app-purchases are becoming increasingly popular, and even Apple supports this practice on the App Store. However, some developers have been abusing this system to trick users into paying upfront for macOS apps that are allegedly free.

As reported by developer Jeff Johnson on Twitter, there are multiple apps among the most downloaded apps in the Mac App Store that are just “bait” to get money from customers, even though they are offered as free apps.

One of the apps reported by Johnson is GCalendar for Google Calendar, which is currently the 40th most downloaded free app from the Mac App Store in the United States. Anyone can download it for free on the App Store, but the app has no functionality unless you pay for a license offered through an in-app-purchase.

There’s not even a trial period or limited functionality to let the user explore the app before paying for a license. Still, the app is rated four stars on the App Store – although it has multiple negative reviews written by real users. The same developer has eight other macOS apps available on the Mac App Store with the same approach.

This developer has 9 apps in the Mac App Store, all of which seem to have the same “business model”: free to download, with In-App Purchase, but the first time you open the app, it demands an upfront one-time purchase, otherwise it doesn’t work at all. No trial, no subscription.

As Johnson explained, these developers take advantage of the App Store allowing anyone to download and rate free apps. This way, they can easily place the app among the most downloaded apps on the App Store with good ratings.

9to5Mac’s Take

While Apple persists in its speech against sideloading by claiming that the App Store protects users, the company doesn’t seem to care about scam apps.

The company proudly says that it has a rigorous review process to decide which apps can enter the App Store (something it uses it to justify the commissions developers pay Apple), but still the App Store (especially the Mac one) is full of misleading apps.

As I once wrote, the Mac App Store really needs major changes to become a serious platform for developers and users. Unfortunately, there are no signs that these changes will happen anytime soon.

Update

Fokusek Enterprise, the company behind GCalendar and other apps mentioned in the article, reached out to 9to5Mac with the following statement:

Our company never had in mind to abuse or cheat any of the Apple Appstore users. The monetization used by us was the same as big companies like NordVPN is using or apps that are active in the health, lifestyle, or fitness field. To show good faith to all Apple users, our developers had added a free trial option for all of our apps. Apple had approved the updates and they will be available shortly.

The company states that App Store guidelines do not require apps with in-app-purchases to offer a free trial period and that the accusations that the company pays for positive reviews in the App Store is false. 9to5Mac confirms that the Fokusek Enterprise apps have been updated to include a free trial period.

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About the Author

Filipe Espósito

Filipe Espósito is a Brazilian tech Journalist who started covering Apple news on iHelp BR with some exclusive scoops — including the reveal of the new Apple Watch Series 5 models in titanium and ceramic. He joined 9to5Mac to share even more tech news around the world.