During the last few months, WhatsApp's Google Play Store ratings have been tanking—all the way down to an average of 3.4 stars from the instant messenger's usual average of 4.1. Within the last week, though, WhatsApp has received thousands of seemingly fake 5-star reviews that have bumped up the company's overall average to a 4.4.
WhatsApp recently underwent a series of updates that may very well account for the recent dip in ratings. The Facebook-owned company replaced their text-based "About Me" status with a Snapchat-esque "Stories" feature. Then, WhatsApp quickly changed this position after a heated wave of user complaints, and added those quirky little status updates back in.
There have also been some serious security flaws and privacy concerns within the chat-based app. A vulnerability within the app was found that would allow Facebook and others to intercept and read encrypted messages.
According to a Telegraph post by Constantin, between February 22 and March 21, about the same time that the new "stories" update was put in place, the average ratings of WhatsApp all started to come crashing down.
But then, thousands of 5-star reviews started pouring in almost miraculously. Combing through the reviews on AppAnnie, a San Francisco-based company that produces business intelligence tools and market reports for apps, you'll notice that most of the reviews seem almost like spam. Also, as Constantin duly notes, when did WhatsApp become a game, as most of these new reviews mention?
There are thousands of these posts talking about how great WhatsApp's "games" are. Keep looking all the way back to review number 250 and you'll still find 5-star game reviews. What gives? A "somebody," whoever that is, is suspected of buying all these reviews for WhatsApp.
The word "game" is used in almost all of these current reviews, but also words such as "love" and "fun" are mentioned. Although clearly, if there's a review of how great a WhatsApp game is, then it's probably fake.
Last year, Google made an announcement along the lines of "we will crack down on those who try to fool users into believing that their app has a higher rating." Though, based on WhatsApp's fake ratings, it seems that spam apps are still thriving and wheedling into Play Store reviews.