What gives apps better ratings? Turns out, most likely not updates

We all have wondered – why do our apps have to update so frequently? They are working just fine as is and we would never even think of making minor improvements. For the matter of fact, usually we do not even notice any difference. Now there is scientific information to support such opinion. Scientists from UCL say that even for developers these updates do not bring much benefit.

Updates rarely impact ratings, but when they do free apps benefit more. Image credit: Pixelkult via Pixabay, Public Domain

Updates rarely impact ratings, but when they do free apps benefit more. Image credit: Pixelkult via Pixabay, Public Domain

Scientists conducted a research and found that most app updates really do not make any noticeable difference. Efforts of the developers are not that important either – updates do not increase rating of the app. Situation is different concerning paid and free apps – while paid ones get more substantial updates, free ones benefit from them more. Anyway, scientists think that the idea behind frequent updates is to overtake closest competitors by quantity.

Scientists included 26,339 app updates released on Google Play over a period of 12 months for 14,592 apps in the study. They used their own causal impact analysis technique to find the connection between updates and ratings. Results showed that only in 40 % of the cases of new paid apps releases subsequent ratings were impacted (as opposed to 31% of updates to free apps). However, free apps did see a more positive effect. Researchers found that the most impactful updates offered some new functionality, had well written description texts, but bug fixes were making a positive effect too.

Scientists already shared their results with app developers and got response from 56 companies. They said that information is relevant and some will even consider changing their strategy. However, before remaking the strategy, these companies should take a good look at where they are in the market. Dr Federica Sarro, one of the authors of the research, said: “For the most popular apps, we surmise that users expect they won’t have bugs, but for the up and coming apps, a few flaws are less surprising so users like to see bugs getting fixed”.

App market is decreasing lately. It means that developers will have to adopt new strategies for survival and get more creative. Useful analysis tools are going to be one of the key elements, and those who will struggle to implement them are most likely to disappear from the market.