Apple Podcasts app ratings flip after the company starts prompting users

Apple’s decision to allow ratings for its own apps is producing… mixed results. As developer Kosta Eleftheriou and The Verge have noticed, the official Podcasts app has flipped from an abysmal 1.8-star rating to over 4.8 in the space of just a few weeks thanks to a surge of reviews. As you might have guessed, though, this wasn’t the results of a (non-existent) feature update during that period. Rather, the blame appears to rest on app prompts and more than a little confusion.

The iPhone maker told The Verge that iOS 15.1 started prompting users for ratings and reviews “just like most third-party apps.” However, many people thought they were rating the show they were listening to, not the app — and that led to a flood of scores and reviews for podcasts.

This issue hasn’t affected many other first-party apps, such as Apple Maps (2.8 stars as of this writing). Even iTunes Store ratings, while high (4.8 stars), include reviews that largely focus on the app rather than the content.

The prompts do bring functional consistency to Apple’s apps — it’s easy to trash them if you like. At the same time, though, the mixups are inflating Podcasts’ value and rendering the scores useless for many people deciding on podcast clients. The shift also underscores the problem with trusting ratings and reviews regardless of platform. It’s still relatively easy for misguided users, activists and fraudsters to skew that feedback.

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