Are freedom of speech and Apple iTunes App Store ratings related?

“Here at appFigures, we are constantly exchanging theories about what drives individuals to download an app, post a rating, or write a review. One recent idea intrigued us all: Are ratings from some countries inherently more positive (or critical) than other countries?” appFigures reports.

“We decided to use app ratings to construct a sentiment index that captures each country’s overall rating disposition in relation to its peers,” appFigures reports. “Most striking is the degree of clustering in the data. Western Europe and the Nordic countries stand out as tough critics when it comes to ratings. Advancing across Europe to the west, though, leads to increasingly favorable ratings. Central Europe is more neutral while countries in eastern Europe are upbeat. Outside of Europe, South East and Central Asia are uniformly positive with countries in Central America and the Andean region of South America sharing the same degree of ratings optimism.”

“Generally speaking, countries that are less tolerant of public opinion (higher World Press Freedom Index) produce app ratings that are more favorable than countries with a robust Fourth Estate. Although there is still a good deal of sentiment variation left unexplained, a relationship between country rating sentiment and freedom of the press is clearly present,” appFigures reports. “There could be a variety of reasons for this relationship: Self-censorship or a firm government grip on public dissent could result in less critical ratings, even if the target is a harmless mobile app.

Sentiment of App Ratings by Country

More information and methodology in the full article here.


  1. “Advancing across Europe to the west…”

    If as in the article the trajectory is Western – Central – Eastern Europe, the advancement is eastwards, not westwards.

    Granted, in theory one could do it westwards (twice), once around the globe to go from western to central, and one more around the globe from central to eastern europe. But that’d be a hell of a distance to travel…

  2. Wow, they spent a lot of time compiling data, but may have ignored many reasons for the differences in results.

    For example, many apps are clients to services which vary greatly from country to country. Specifically, some of those apps will have full content in the US (high ratings) and significantly less content in Canada, Europe, Japan and Australia.

    These countries share more of the same interest in the same content, but licensing issue break the content apart (usually with the US getting all content first).

    Meanwhile while Latin American countries are also secondary markets, the interest in the same content isn’t as high as their interest in regional content. The same thing goes for Asia outside of Japan.

    Additionally, it looks like a battle between affluent and developing nations. Again, separating the US out because most apps in the US are targeted for the US market, you have other affluent nations not being as satisfied with apps as compared to developing nations.

    It’s too bad they didn’t break down the data by app.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.