Apple Ditches “Rate on Delete” for Apps in iPhone OS 4. Why is this significant?

A few days back, I downloaded the iPhone OS 4.0 beta using Zhou Tong’s Apple Developer Account. It runs pretty fast and looks impressive — packed with great multi-tasking, folders, Bluetooth keyboard and complex passcode features. However, there is one prominent downside with the pre-release OS, which is expected to be available for download via iTunes in summer. It’s way too buggy and a couple of apps I have such as Tap Tap Revenge 3 and Bejeweled 2 won’t work well. I understand that it’s a developer preview and most apps aren’t made compatible with the iPhone OS 4.0 yet.

Another change Apple implemented that caught my attention is the “Rate on Delete” feature. I sensed something amiss when I tried uninstalling apps from my iPod Touch and there wasn’t any prompt asking me to rate the app was shown, unlike its current version and predecessors. Apparently, the folks over at the California-based tech juggernaut have ditched the controversial prompt in its next version of the iPhone OS.

First implemented in iPhone 2.2, shortly after Apple opened the App Store, the initial reason was to ask users to assign one to five star rating for the application and gain feedback from them. Alternatively, users could also decline to rate the application. The move was presumably meant to increase rating participation in the App Store.

Although this change may seem rather piffling, but it is actually significant to the following three groups –- Apple, app developers and consumers. The removal of the prompt is a good decision made by Apple as it will eliminate some of the worrying issues faced in the App Store.

One of the main reasons why Apple drops the “rate on delete” feature is due to the fact that many disgruntled app developers were unhappy over their apps’ low ratings. Apple’s initial idea was to offer an option to allow users to rate apps directly from the iPhone. However, it turned out to be unsuccessful and the effect was skewed toward the negative, as noted by developers.

Whenever an unsatisfied iPhone user removes an app from the device, it’s of human nature that he or she would most probably give a low rating. I do not see any reason why a discontented user would give a 5-star rating if he dislikes a specific app. Unless he personally finds it redundant but it’s a cool app after all.

If you take a look at the ratings of most apps on the App Store, you would realize that a significant slice of pie of the ratings are 1-star. I believe those come from users who deleted their apps and gave a “pathetically low and biased” rating.

One quintessential example would be Tap Tap Revenge 3. Among the 35,000+ ratings (current version), 12,800 are 5-star, 10,800 are 1-star, and the rest (11,600) falls under the 2-4 star category. This obviously shows that there is indeed a huge flop in the app ratings on the App Store. It’s conventional that ratings of a good and bad product or service tend to follow a decreasing or increasing trend respectively (from 5-1 star). However, in the case of the App Store, the bulk of ratings of popular apps comes from 5-star and 1-star. And it’s pretty awkward to see the number of 2-4 star ratings so far behind the two.

Apple could actually integrate an app rating feature directly into the user’s iPhone. Perhaps users could be prompt to rate the moment they close the app. They can choose to give a rating, decline or even postpone the message to a later date. If such feature were put in place, I believe it would create a positive app participation in the App Store, and of course gives developers a sense of satisfaction. Users currently can rate apps via iTunes, and this only applies on the apps which you have purchased.

I don’t rate apps I downloaded from the App Store. Not even once. Frankly speaking, I didn’t know that I could actually rate apps until recently. The folks over at Apple should have made rating apps easier and place it in a more prominent place – either on the iPhone itself (as mentioned in the previous paragraph) or in the App Store.

Removing the “rate on delete” prompt on the iPhone OS 4.0 will allow Apple to generate more revenue from the App Store. Again, it’s of human nature to purchase based on popularity and we usually take ratings into huge consideration, especially when money is involved. With ratings skewed toward the negative end, it will discourage users from buying it.

This is what I often do. The first thing I will look at is whether a particular app sounds attractive, followed by the ratings. If I stumbled across an app I like but the ratings are pretty low, I will just click on the “Back” button and find other similar apps.

The removal of the “rate on delete” prompt will reduce the number of 1-star ratings (except those apps that are practically a waste of money), thus giving consumers a better impression. This will translate to a higher purchase rate and of course more revenue generated by Apple and app developers.

I hope that Apple’s deletion of the prompt in its new iPhone OS will give rise to an unbiased and “abnormal” trend in ratings of apps on the App Store.