Apple Changes App Store Screenshot Rules To Prevent Scam Sales

In a typically terse and to-the-point announcement on its developer news page, Apple announced Wednesday that developers can no longer change screenshots for their apps in the App Store at will.

Instead, they'll only be able to change screenshots when they submit new versions for review. This will put a stop to a common scammer tactic that tricks people into buying fake apps.

A classic example from recent history: There are no Nintendo games on the App Store, unfortunately. Nintendo has never licensed its content to Apple. But people would love to play classic Game Boy games on their iPhones, and they'd pay good money to do so. One malicious developer took advantage of this in February.

The developer submitted an unofficial Pokemon Yellow app using screenshots that passed Apple's (often flawed) review process and then switched them out for images taken from Nintendo's game. Unsuspecting customers then paid $0.99 to download it, only to find that it didn't do anything; it just showed a splash screen and then crashed.

The app reached number two on the paid app charts before Apple figured out what happened and pulled it from the store.

Another example from November imitated the popular PC game Minecraft. It was called Mooncraft, and the developer charged $1.99 for it. If you paid, here's what you got (hint: it wasn't Minecraft):

Cabel Sasser of Panic Software explained the scam on the Panic blog:

  1. Scammer makes an extremely simple iOS app and submits it to Apple.
  2. Once it’s approved, they change the screenshots, description, and name — things you can edit at any time. Piggyback off a popular game!
  3. Buy hundreds of fake ★★★★★ reviews, somehow.
  4. Sit back and relax as you slowly and gently travel towards hell.

Fortunately, that's no longer possible now that Apple has closed the loophole on screenshots. Now, assuming there are no oversights, fake screenshots won't be able to slip past the review process. Unfortunately, this also means that good developers can't update their screenshots as easily. It's yet another example of the few bad actors making life in the App Store more difficult for the honest devs.

Lead image courtesy of lev radin / Shutterstock.com