App Store, scam, scam app, crap app

The same crap app, rereleased over again, at $3 a pop. Photo by Ginger Lucero.

Updated 06/05/15: A quick check of the App Store shows that scam developers are still getting through, despite crackdowns by Apple over the years. The apps’ and developers’ names may be different, but the scam is still the same and still thriving.

This classic post was originally published in March 2013. As of June 2015, this practice is still going strong. It took me about 30 seconds to find a ton of low-quality, scam crap apps that, other than a new icon, haven’t been changed in years. Some of them were identical to photo apps originally identified by LoFi and The iPhoneography Blog — the only difference was a new “developer.” It must be worth their while or there would be no incentive to continue this practice for years.

App Store, scam apps, scam, crap app

Low-quality scam apps in the App Store, June 2015

And that was from just one developer….

Most App Store developers are honest and want to create the best apps they feel they can. however, there are still a shady few who simply want to separate you from your money $3 at a time.

Even though some of the app names are different, the methods are still the same. This classic LoFi post will help you recognize these “crap apps.” Know what to look for.

There are some shifty people on the internet. Be careful out there. =M=



Most iOS developers and apps are legitimate, with a genuine desire to create the best possible apps they can to delight iPhone and iPad users.  Unfortunately, there are a few slimy app developers that choose to game the App Store and scam users. These app store scams cost you money and can undermine consumer confidence in the App Store. App scams work so the scammers keep doing them.

iPhoneographer Ginger Lucero, whose outstanding dreamscapes and abstracts have been showcased in our weekly Faved feature for some time, alerted me to this series of App Store Scam apps. It’s one that’s been out there for a while. Apple has done nothing about it. All I can do is raise awareness. Keep reading to learn more.

Glyn Evans on The iPhoneography Blog first reported about this particular scam app ring in the summer of 2012. It’s an excellent read with a huge, shocking graphic that displays the number of photo apps in question. Glyn’s post shows some of the earlier players in this ongoing scam. In a follow-up comment on a crosspost to The iPhoneographers Network, visual artist Susan Maxwell Schmidt also lists many of the apps and developers involved in this scam. (Sorry, but it was an old domain and the link is now dead. =M=)

At the time, Apple was made aware of this and other scams in the App Store. This has been ongoing, which illustrates vulnerabilities in the App Store’s ability to monitor itself and how easy it is for some less scrupulous developers to game the system. There’s no way to directly report scams like this. Apple simply views it as a case of buyer beware. This damages the credibility of the App Store in the long run.

The Scam

This is a shotgun-style crap app scam — shoot a lot of versions of the app out there and hope they get hits. This doesn’t violate Apple’s terms per se and it’s easy, though not very unethical to do.

I have a feeling this is the work of one person or a group operating under one umbrella. An original app is released. Often, it’s a horrible, buggy, low-resolution app and the results rarely match the App Store preview images. The app may have fake five-star shill reviews to give it the appearance of legitimacy. The app is never updated, but is soon renamed and rereleased over and over again by a different developer in the ring. They will use the same App Store description and screen captures. Interestingly, nearly all of the apps in question start with the letter “A” to appear towards the top of lists when sorted alphabetically. The App Store sample images are full of stock photography. The goal is to catch buyers who see it on the New Photo Apps charts. The developer makes a quick buck or three and then starts the process over again.

The six art typography apps shown above are small number of the apps in question from this app scam ring. I have a more complete list below. This is a pretty nasty operation here. Not only are there iPhone apps, but the iPad versions are a separate purchase. What they are doing does not strictly violate the terms of the iOS Developer’s account, but it’s slimy, unethical, and hard to spot until you’ve been ripped off for $3.

I bought a couple of these so you don’t have to. The “arsty typo” apps above are horribly designed overlay apps. The iPhone apps save at the unusably small resolution of 320×480 pixels. The effects don’t look anywhere close to the arty-looking typographic effects in the screen preview.

Here’s a list of the app developers involved in this scam. Their photo apps are listed at the bottom of this post. There’s no way to stay on top of this, but I’ll try to keep it updated as best as I can.

  • Shu Ping LING
  • Jiehua Deng
  • Wang Jian
  • Ying Ni Nie
  • Cai Xia Bao
  • Dan Lei Su
  • Ai Qing Zhang

An easy way to avoid getting scammed is to not buy any apps from these developers, for a start. Each one has a dozen or more similar photo apps for sale — presumably as bad as the Art Typography apps above. The same crap apps will undoubtedly resurface under “new” developer names.

What To Do To Avoid Getting Scammed

Read real iOS app reviews from trusted sources like Life In LoFi, Combo Apps (Publisher Tina Rice tests everything, it seems), iPhone Photography School and other reliable websites and blogs. Be sure you read an actual review from someone who’s had hands-on with the app and not just the copy and paste App Store description many iPhone websites do. If an app isn’t reviewed by a reliable source, it does not necessarily mean it’s a scam app, but unless we’re calling out a scam app in a post like this, most bloggers won’t mention the crap apps to avoid drawing any attention to them.

Learn how to spot an App Store shill review. Click here for LoFi’s classic post on spotting fake App Store reviews. Many photo apps look great in the App Store, but there are red flags if you know what to look for.

Check Life In LoFi’s Photo App Page before you buy. It’s up in the navbar under “Photo Apps”. I can’t review all the photo apps I get. I’ve created and maintain a definitive list of nearly all of the photo apps I’ve tested, which includes the app’s maximum resolution and any major bugs the app may have. Nearly all of the legitimate photo apps are listed here. (Sorry that it hasn’t been updated in a while. I need to get on that…. =M=)

Ask other iPhoneographers on Facebook, Twitter, MobiTog and other #mobilephoto hangouts.

Ask the bloggers. Email us. I purchase and download many more apps than I cover on the blog. There’s a good chance I have the photo app you’re interested in — good or bad. Other bloggers are also very willing to help and answer questions about apps.


Be vigilant. Know what you’re buying. App scams probably won’t go away, but if the app scammers can’t make money in the App Store, they’re less likely to keep doing them.


Big thanks to Ginger Lucero for the heads up that these guys are still out there.

All of these iPhone and iPad apps share many commonalities, including App Store Descriptions, functionality, pricing and others. In many cases, the only difference between some of these apps is the name and the app’s icon. They are all extremely poor-quality apps. Purchase these at your own risk.

Shu Ping LING

Art Typography FX
Advanced Focus FX HD
Advanced Focus FX
Awesome Zombie Booth HD
Awesome Zombie Booth
Artistic Sketch Effect HD
Artistic Sketch Effect
Auto Portrait Booth HD
Auto Portrait Booth
Amazing X-Ray Funny Booth HD
Amazing X-Ray Funny Booth
Artistic Photo FX HD
Artistic Photo FX
Artistic Glossy Booth HD
Artistic Glossy Booth
Advanced Camera Filter HD
Advanced Camera Filter
Art Hair Booths HD
Art Hair Booths

Jiehua Deng

Advanced Photo FX HD
Artify FX HD
Artify FX
Art Typography Effect
Art Typography Effect HD
Auto Monet Photo FX HD
Auto Monet Photo FX
Art Focus Blur Effect HD
Art Focus Blur Effect
Art Davinci FX HD
Art Davinci FX
Art Camera Filter HD
Art Camera Filter
Abstract Smoke Photo FX HD
Abstract Smoke Photo FX
Artistic Sketch FX HD
Artistic Sketch FX
Art Color Filter HD
Art Color Filter
Art Masterpiece FX HD
Art Masterpiece FX
Auto Glossy Effect HD
Auto Glossy Effect
Art Ink Booth HD
Art Ink Booth

Wang Jian

Art Graffiti Booth HD
Amazing Stage Light FX HD
Amazing Stage Light FX
Art Sketch Effect HD
Art Sketch Effect
Art Light Painting FX HD
Art Light Painting FX
Art Platinum Camera HD
Art Platinum Camera
Art Typography Photo FX HD
Art Typography Photo FX
Auto Blur FX HD
Auto Blur FX
Artistic Projector Booth HD
Artistic Projector Booth
Abstract Smoke Effect HD
Abstract Smoke Effect
Artistic Portrait Booth HD
Artistic Portrait Booth
Auto Glitter FX HD
Auto Glitter FX

Shu Mei Ling

Auto Paint Me HD
Amazing Cover Booth HD
Amazing Cover Booth
Advanced Camera FX HD
Advanced Camera FX
Art Vintage FX HD
Art Vintage Photo FX
Art Sketch FX
Art Sketch FX HD
Art Letter FX
Art Letter FX HD
Auto Portrait FX HD
Auto Portrait FX
Art Garden FX HD
Art Garden FX
Art Van Gogh FX HD
Art Van Gogh FX
Art Typography FX
Advanced Focus FX HD
Advanced Focus FX
Awesome Zombie Booth HD
Awesome Zombie Booth
Artistic Sketch Effect HD
Artistic Sketch Effect
Auto Portrait Booth HD
Auto Portrait Booth
Amazing X-Ray Funny Booth HD
Amazing X-Ray Funny Booth
Artistic Photo FX HD
Artistic Photo FX
Artistic Glossy Booth HD
Artistic Glossy Booth
Advanced Camera Filter HD
Advanced Camera Filter
Art Hair Booths HD
Art Hair Booths

Ying Ni Nie

Art Retro Effect HD
Art Retro Effect
Art Camera FX HD
Art Camera FX
Amazing Flower FX HD
Amazing Flower FX
Alluring Night Sky FX HD
Alluring Night Sky FX
Art Fire FX HD
Art Fire FX
Art Fashion Hair Booth
Art Glassy Booth HD
Art Glassy Booth
Artistic Focus Effect HD
Artistic Focus Effect
Artistic Typography Photo FX HD
Artistic Typography Photo FX
Art Star Light FX HD
Art Star Light FX
Art Painterly Effect HD
Art Painterly Effect
Antique Photo Filter HD
Antique Photo Filter
Art Smoky FX HD
Art Smoky FX
Antique Photo Filter


Abstract Light FX
Abstract Light FX HD
Art Focus & Blur FX HD
Art Focus & Blur FX
Auto Davinci FX HD
Auto Davinci FX
Abstract Smoke FX HD
Abstract Smoke FX
Art Portrait Booth HD
Art Portrait Booth
Auto Glossy Booth HD
Auto Glossy Booth
Artistic Camera FX HD
Artistic Camera FX
Abstract Glitter FX
Abstract Glitter FX HD – art glitter booth
Art Painting FX HD
Art Painting FX
Art Vision Effect
Art Vision Effect HD
Art Retro Photo Effect HD
Art Retro Photo Effect
Art Fire Booth HD
Art Fire Booth
Art Typography Booth
Attractive Stage Light FX
Attractive Stage Light
Advanced Photo Effect HD
Advanced Photo Effect

Cai Xia Bao

Art Typography Photo Effect
Art Typography Photo Effect HD
Auto Painting FX HD
Auto Painting FX
Attractive Sky FX HD
Attractive Sky FX
Art Sketch Photo FX – New, 01.07.13
Art Sketch Photo FX HD – New, 01.07.13

Dan Lei Su

Art Hair Booth HD
Amazing Cover Cam HD
Auto Zombie Booth HD
A Magical Electric FX HD
Art Glitter Filter HD
Amazing Cloud FX HD
Awesome Firework Effect HD
A Magical Photo Projector HD
Action Shatter FX HD
Abstract Fire Synthesis HD
Insta FX HD
Amazing Stage Lighting Effect HD
Auto Dotty Cam HD
Art Focus FX HD
Artistic Wing Booth HD
Abstracted Blossom Camera HD
Auto Artify HD
Awesome Bling Effect HD
Abstracted Sketch FX HD
Artistic Old Photo FX HD
Auto Portrait HD
Art Eyes HD
Art Color Camera HD
Artistic Typography FX HD
Artistic Typography FX

Ai Qing Zhang (Added 01.07.13)

Art Blur & Focus FX HD
Art Blur&Focus FX
Art Photo FX
Art Photo FX HD
Art Smoke Effect
Art Smoke Effect HD
Art Vintage Photo FX – retro photo effect
Art Vintage Photo FX HD
Auto Glassy FX HD
Auto Sketch Effect
Auto Sketch Effect HD


UPDATE 01.07.13: Added new “developers” and apps to this list.

UPDATE 01.23.13: Added link to comment on The iPhoneographers Network