A photo of a woman sitting in front of what appear to be dozens of iPhone 5Cs has gone viral in China. While few details about the photo’s origins are available, media have speculated she works at a Chinese App Store ranking manipulation farm. Her job is to download, install, and uninstall specific apps over and over again to boost their App Store rankings.
The table she’s working at seems to be specially designed for this purpose, and there’s another one across from her in the background.
Accompanying the photo on some sites is a screenshot displaying the supposed prices for this service. To get into the top 10 free apps costs RMB 70,000 (US$11,200), and keeping it there will run you another RMB 405,000 (US$65,000) per week. The third column is the monthly fare, and negotiations take place over popular messaging service QQ.
The original photo was tweeted on Weibo with the caption, “Hard-working App Store ranking manipulation employee.”
Apple tries to prevent PC-based iPhone emulation programs (bots) made for this purpose and bans apps that use them, so manual labor is the best way to ensure the closest simulation of actual users.
A search for “app store ranking manipulation” (刷榜 app store) on Taobao, China’s most popular C2C ecommerce site, reveals dozens upon dozens of vendors selling similar services. Their prices are listed as one yuan, but it’s more likely that the real negotiations take place through direct chat.
For the record, we want to reiterate that this is just a viral photo. We do not know when, where, or by whom it was taken, and cannot confirm this is actually a ranking manipulation farm.