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How app user reviews work? iOS vs Android vs Windows Phone

Written by Petteri Pyyny (Google+) @ 11 Feb 2015 11:17 User comments (6)

How app user reviews work? iOS vs Android vs Windows Phone As we launched our first mobile app this year, it has been interesting to observe the small, but very important differences there are between the three major mobile app markets: Apple iOS (iTunes App Store), Android (Google Play) and Microsoft's Windows Phone (Windows Phone Store).
All three markets allow users to review the apps they have downloaded and all three stores emphasize the importance of user reviews, to the point where it is almost impossible to rank well in app charts if your app doesn't have good user reviews.

So, we feel that it is important to understand those little differences between the three stores and what is important for you, as a developer, when you plan your app strategies.

Ability to respond to reviews


One of the key differences is the developer's (in-)ability to respond to the reviews the app gathers. Both, negative and positive feedback often require some level of reply from the developer if for nothing else, for common courtesy.

iOS

  • developers can't reply / respond to reviews, at all

Android

  • developers can reply to all reviews and the replies from the developer are visible in the Play Store for everybody (reply is shown underneath the review the reply is for)
Reply to an Android app review
replying to an Android app review

Windows Phone

  • Starting from WP8.1, developers can reply to all reviews (written by users using WP8.1 or newer version of the Windows Phone). Replies are private and sent directly to the reviewer's email address, alongside with a link to update his/her review accordingly, if there's a need to do so (say, user complained about a bug in v1.0 and gave the app 1-star rating. Developer replies that they have now fixed the bug and that the new v1.1 is available -> user is encouraged to update the review accordingly)
Reply to Windows Phone app review
replying to a Windows Phone app review

Localization


Sometimes people react to apps very differently depending on which country they live in, what language they use, etc.

iOS

  • Reviews are local, meaning that the reviews & ratings given by Brazilian users are visible only to Brazilian users. Furthermore, the average rating of the app is local: same app can have average rating of 4.5 / 5 in United States, but only 2.2 / 5 in France (say, maybe badly translated app experience or something similar)

Android

  • Reviews are local, but the average star rating is global. Thus, the actual review texts given in Swedish are visible only to Swedish users, but the star ratings given by Swedish users affect the average rating value (=average rating is the same for all users).
Reviews in Finnish
Italian reviews
Android app reviews; Italy vs Finland

Windows Phone

  • Similar to iOS, reviews AND the average rating is local. Same app can have totally different average rating in different countries and only locally given reviews are visible to specific country's users.
Windows Phone average rating in FinlandWindows Phone average rating in United States
Average rating for the same app, in Finland and in United States

Version-specific rating


When you launch your app, it is likely to be somewhat buggy at first, no matter how much effort you put into your testing process. When real users start using your app, you'll learn how to improve your app's visuals, fix the bugs, etc.

Thus, it is extremely important to know whether the reviews you got in your early days will affect your average rating later.

iOS

  • On iOS, reviews and average rating is version-specific. Thus, when developer updates the app to new version, the previous reviews get (mostly) vanished. Sure, in the app description page, there's a separate average rating visible, called "All versions", but the star rating shown in charts is the average rating of your app's most recent version.

Android & Windows Phone

  • Reviews and ratings never expire -- even the reviews given to your v1.00 will haunt your app for the rest of its life. Sure, the reviews themselves have a label "Review for older version", but the fact remains that the old ratings affect the average rating, which is the most important thing to know here.

Summary


To wrap it up: iOS is bit more forgiving than its rivals, as your old mistakes can get wiped away with a proper new version. Furthermore, with Windows Phone and iOS, bad translations and some other localization issues affect only users of one specific country/language in terms of bad reviews. Google doesn't forgive you any of those issues: all reviews count, forever and for all regions.

iOS' good aspects get somewhat diminished with the fact that on iOS, you, as a developer, cannot communicate back to the reviewers. On Android and WP, you can reply to bad reviews and ask for new chance, which is important especially if you have fixed the issues the user addressed in his/her review.

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6 user comments

111.2.2015 14:18

Another bad part of Android is if you scrap your old code and replace with entirely new code, you lose everything if you don't keep the bundle name.

A previous version of one of my apps was written using Adobe AIR, but then done natively with Android Studio. I ditched support for some of the lower APIs, but got a bunch of negative reviews because those users were somehow able to update to the latest version of the app, despite their API not supporting it.

All I got was a bunch of "it crashed, this sucks" 1-star reviews, which was completely unfair, considering those people using very old Android OS versions, on cheap phones.

211.2.2015 15:39

Originally posted by SProdigy:
Another bad part of Android is if you scrap your old code and replace with entirely new code, you lose everything if you don't keep the bundle name.

A previous version of one of my apps was written using Adobe AIR, but then done natively with Android Studio. I ditched support for some of the lower APIs, but got a bunch of negative reviews because those users were somehow able to update to the latest version of the app, despite their API not supporting it.

All I got was a bunch of "it crashed, this sucks" 1-star reviews, which was completely unfair, considering those people using very old Android OS versions, on cheap phones.
True, basically Android forces you to do initial beta testing pretty darn well before you launch, to be 99% certain that your first, initial version wont get tons of 1-star reviews due some minor, but annoying bugs you happened to miss in beta testing phase.

Furthermore, Android's "all reviews are global" is bit bad if you want to test waters in new countries with some auto-translated stuff, seeing if there's enough interest to pay for proper translations, etc. You end up getting 2-3 star reviews due half-arsed translations and those affect also your "primary countries".

But as a developer, I think it eases things if you know these beforehand, which is why we wanted to create this summary :-)

Petteri Pyyny (pyyny@twitter)
Webmaster
http://AfterDawn.com/

311.2.2015 15:40

It's a great summary. I think you should do one on the approval process. Apple can take weeks, but Android is almost instant. (Sorry I'm not familiar with Windows App Store, at least not yet.)

411.2.2015 16:26

Originally posted by SProdigy:
It's a great summary. I think you should do one on the approval process. Apple can take weeks, but Android is almost instant. (Sorry I'm not familiar with Windows App Store, at least not yet.)
We'll probably create another short guide on approval process, but we need to get our first iOS apps launched first, as we don't have firsthand experience on iOS process at all :-) For WP, the first version takes about 7 days to get an approval, but after that, it takes about 1-2 business days to get an approval for a new version.

Petteri Pyyny (pyyny@twitter)
Webmaster
http://AfterDawn.com/

511.2.2015 17:39

Originally posted by dRD:
Originally posted by SProdigy:
It's a great summary. I think you should do one on the approval process. Apple can take weeks, but Android is almost instant. (Sorry I'm not familiar with Windows App Store, at least not yet.)
We'll probably create another short guide on approval process, but we need to get our first iOS apps launched first, as we don't have firsthand experience on iOS process at all :-) For WP, the first version takes about 7 days to get an approval, but after that, it takes about 1-2 business days to get an approval for a new version.
Cool.

Be prepared, the iOS process is a PITA, especially if you're not a Mac person (and even if you are, it's daunting.) Then the waiting game begins.

Looking forward to seeing what you guys came up with.

616.2.2015 12:08

We created a service to help with this issues: reviewsapp.in its still in heavy development but you can start using it. It will have social sharing to start a conversation about the reviews you need more opinions or explanations. We use it internally and now we will share it. There is a limit on 5 apps u can follow for reviews due to server restrictions but we will improve it soon.

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