FIRST READING: How the hated ArriveCAN now ranks as Canada's number one app – National Post

The app also has a bafflingly high number of positive ratings, leading some to suspect subterfuge
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ArriveCAN may be inviting international political ire, causing record-breaking delays at airports and potentially doing irreparable damage to cross-border tourism, but at least it is tearing up the app charts.

As of press time, ArriveCAN was the top-ranked app on the Canadian version of the Apple Store, beating heavyweights such as Uber, Expedia and

It’s the same for Android users. ArriveCAN was similarly topping the charts on Google Play, pulling ahead of TikTok and Disney+.

The reason for the acclaim is simple: ArriveCAN is mandatory.

Both Google and Apple rank apps based on recent downloads, and with ArriveCAN a requirement for all incoming travellers to Canada, the peak of tourism season has catapulted the app into the top spot.

What’s harder to explain is the utterly disproportionate number of ratings that ArriveCAN has received.

On Google Play, ArriveCAN has received 214,000 reviews. Compare that to the McDonalds Canada app; despite having a similar number of downloads as ArriveCAN (five million) it’s only received 92,000 reviews.

And the disparity is even more pronounced on the Apple Store. ArriveCAN has 568,000 ratings on the Canadian Apple Store. That’s higher than Twitter, whose Canadian ratings currently stand at 498,000.

ArriveCAN also has 336,000 ratings on the U.S. Apple Store. Just in North America, that’s nearly a million Apple users who have rated ArriveCAN.

The ArriveCAN rating is a huge mystery to developers, not just haters,” Basil Al-Dajane, app developer and co-founder of Medly Labs, wrote in an email to the National Post. “This is highly unusual for any app of this nature, or any app.”

More surprising still (at least according to haters), is that the ratings aren’t all that bad. On Google Play, the app has 3.8 out of five stars. On Apple, it’s 4.5 out of 5.

Considering that the official Facebook app is currently sitting at 1.9 stars on the Canadian Apple Store, 4.5 is an impressively high ranking for an app that once accidentally ordered 10,000 people into de facto house arrest.

And it’s a whole different story when it comes to written reviews. A rating consists of little more than giving the app a ranking out of five stars, but a written review involves a user actually logging in to compose their thoughts on ArriveCAN.

Twitter user Ezra Kahan pulled all of ArriveCAN’s written reviews from the Apple Store, and found about 10 to 15,000 of them. Unlike the ratings, the written reviews were mostly negative; if the app was judged solely on written reviews it would have a star rating of just 2.13. “This ap ‘sucks,’” reads a typical review.

Between the US and CA app stores we found 10010 reviews.

We found ~55% to be 1 star ⭐ and ~27% ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

64% of reviews posted in 2022

I suspect “ratings” ≠ “reviews”

The data set was fetched from Apple’s API

The most insidious explanation for the disparity between reviews and ratings is that ArriveCAN developers are purchasing fake ratings in order to drown out a tidal wave of legitimate one-star ratings. The practice is quite common, and while Apple is often able to find and delist offenders, they could be hesitant to do so for an app whose developer is a sovereign state.

But there is no evidence that anyone on the ArriveCAN team is trying to manipulate the Apple Store numbers, and given that the app is mandatory anyway they wouldn’t stand to receive any financial gain for doing so (which is usually the motive for trying to tweak the Apple Store algorithm).

The number of ratings may also seem outsized because app developers on the Apple Store are allowed to “reset” their ratings whenever they release a new version. So while ArriveCAN has simply been racking up ratings since its introduction in April 2020, major players such as Twitter and Facebook are constantly resetting the clock on their rating counts, making it appear as if ArriveCAN has more.

Google Play doesn’t allow such resets, which might explain why ArriveCAN’s ratings on that platform aren’t as disproportionate. Total Google Play reviews for ArriveCAN stand at 215,000 while for a major player like Snapchat it’s 31 million.

Another possible explanation is that ArriveCAN users are rating the app out of fear. There are now dozens of stories of travellers being denied entry into Canada or ordered into quarantine simply because they missed a step during their ArriveCAN registration. Thus, when ArriveCAN automatically prompts users to consider leaving an Apple Store rating, a not-insignificant number of travellers may mistakenly believe that it’s as mandatory as every other step in the app.

Or, finally, there’s the distinct possibility that there are legitimately a few hundred thousand people who love ArriveCAN. As one five star review put it, “pretty easy to use I’m hoping they drop the vaccination status eventually it’s my first time coming to the country I’m super excited I can’t wait to visit.”

The National Post’s own Adam Zivo has just been personally sanctioned from travel to Russia. An official statement by Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs listed him as a journalist and “LGBT activist.” Also sanctioned in the letter was Craig Scott, the former MP from the Toronto riding once held by NDP Leader Jack Layton. Needless to say, Zivo hasn’t been a big fan of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine (where he is frequently a correspondent). If you’re wondering what kind of stuff gets you banned from Russia these days, you can read Zivo’s assembled works here.

Conservative leadership frontrunner Pierre Poilievre’s last policy announcement before the end of the race later this month was to outline his plan to force bureaucrats to be more understandable. More specifically, he would introduce a bill that would mandate simpler language in all government communications. “The Plain Language Act will make government writing and thinking simpler and clearer,” he said. Now this may sound like a form of gatekeeping from a politician who literally coined the phrase “fire the gatekeepers,” but it would introduce English Canada to the exciting and heretofore Quebec-dominated world of government language policing.

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