Too many app downloads from China. What is going on?

Recently I had quite a few downloads from China. As I later found out, those downloads were fake. I decided to write this post to share my experience with you. And if someone have already had the same experience maybe they’ll share their knowledge with me about what is going on and how to deal with it.

How it all started

First of all let me show you what my app downloads normally look like. This is my stats for the month of April 2017. As you can see, I normally have around 10 downloads per day.

Lets see what happened the next month

In May 2017 it was the same until the end of month when the number of downloads rose from 10 downloads per day to 50-60 downloads per day. I learned that the extra downloads were from China. OK – I thought – Chinese people have discovered my apps at last. And there are a lot of Chinese people out there so nothing surprising. By the way, the app that was downloaded the most at that time was 3Do.

Third month

The number of daily downloads was about the same for the next month. But in the very end of June I experienced a surge of downloads. One day it was 568 downloads total. The next day it was 6,54K. The day after – 7,50K. Now it was my other app – Stream Journal – that was downloaded the most. And all these downloads were once again from China.   

This time I decided to check my stats in Google Analytics, since I have implemented Google Analytics in Stream Journal but haven’t done it in 3Do yet. What I found out is that with all those downloads there was not a single app launch from China.

The possible explanation

I tried to find the explanation to this fake downloads mystery on the internet. But all I could find was other people complaining about having similar experiences with app downloads from China and other asian countries. It all reminded me of a video I once saw on Youtube about Chinese like farms. A like farm or click farm looks something like this.

You just pay for your fake Facebook likes and they give you your likes. But as the video explained they can’t just like only the stuff they were paid for, because in that case they would be easily found out. So they also like some other random stuff.

So, my hypothesis is that exactly the same thing has happened with my app downloads. It may be that one of those click farms found out my apps and used them to make their statistics look unsuspicious to Apple.

Here is the said video, by the way:

What I did about it

At first I put a price of $1 on my Stream Journal app just for one day to see what happens. What happened is that nobody bought my app that day. I made it free the next day. And there was about 100 downloads. Eventually I decided to make all my free apps unavailable in China. Sorry, Chinese people, I just don’t want your click farms to mess up my stats.

Now I enjoy the usual 10 app downloads per day. 


4 thoughts on “Too many app downloads from China. What is going on?”

  1. Thank you! I just saw a 1,500% surge in my own App downloads last week… all from China.

    I too experienced the elation followed by the realization that my app had not just been discovered.

  2. Thanks for the post. I am having the same problem for the past 4 days on my iOS app, Scala Architectural and Engineering Scale – too many downloads from China. I too may have to block it in China.

  3. Thank you for your post. I witnessed and suspected the same as you this month (August 2017). I also saw a blip of this type of activity in March 2017.
    For about three weeks in August 2017 in iTunesConnect App Analytics, I saw 200 “Impressions”, 5 “Product Page Views”, and “500” App Units” for my free app. Almost all “App Units” are Chinese. So few people viewing the app page (1%) compared to downloads? The app saw no usage.
    I’ve incorporated a price and will block Chinese downloads as well. I feel bad for anyone in the country who wants to enjoy the app, but clearly someone is trying to game the Apple system.
    Now I look differently at Apple’s boasts of how many millions of app downloads there are. The number is inflated.

  4. I didn’t block the downloads and they finally just stopped last week. I wrote my own post about this in August and need to update it now.

    Total “abnormal” Chinese downloads – 65,000 across 24 apps. The interesting thing to me was it was also for a couple of our apps that are in client developer accounts, so I knew it wasn’t specific to just our account. While I sort of agree it may have been click farm type activity, it was also a lot of apps. Average download per app was 2600, and I have a hard time seeing one click farm with that many devices. But then I’ve never seen the inside of one other than the images like what you posted.

    Very odd and I’d love to hear something from Apple about it since they have better insights.

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