Mobile

Spot fake Amazon and Yelp reviews on the go with Fakespot for iOS

Now available for iPhone, this handy tool can help you determine if all those gushing -- or glaring -- reviews are the real deal.

User reviews are the internet's gift to consumerism. When you want to know if a product or destination is worth your time and money, you can see what others had to say about it. That kind of crowdsourced opinion-sharing simply wasn't available pre-internet.

Just one problem: Not all user reviews are legitimate. A restaurant owner, for example, might try to "stack the deck" on Yelp, because more stars means more customers. And for a certain segment of products on Amazon, you'll see countless reviews with the qualifier, "I shared this review in exchange for a free or discounted product."

So how do you separate the review wheat from the review chaff? How can you tell if a five-star write-up is legitimate -- or, for that matter, a one-star one? Even with Amazon's recent crackdown on incentivized reviews, it's hard to be certain.

I say that based on my frequent encounters with lesser-known electronics brands, those that make inexpensive mobile chargers, Bluetooth headphones and speakers, phones, drones and so on. Outside of those categories, you probably won't encounter too many fake reviews. According to Amazon rep Angie Newman, "inauthentic reviews make up a tiny percentage of all reviews on Amazon," and the company removes them "as soon as they're identified."

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Fakespot helps you spot the fakes. Originally just an Amazon review analyzer, the service now examines Yelp reviews as well. Of course, using the site on a mobile device required a fair bit of copying and pasting, to the point where you might not have bothered. Thankfully, there's now a Fakespot app for iOS.

Once installed, the app adds Analyze with Fakespot to the iOS Activities list (alongside options like Copy and Add to Reading List). Thus it works in all mobile browsers as well as the Amazon and Yelp mobile apps.

I won't walk through all the steps of how to access the option, because the app provides a very straightforward tutorial. However, there's one thing to keep in mind: Even Fakespot isn't infallible. I've seen very low grades for Amazon product reviews even when the products themselves (based on my hands-on tests) were solid. What's more, Fakespot's grade for the Yelp reviews of my very own business are completely out of whack. This is not just defensiveness; I know firsthand that these reviews are legitimate.

Thus, just as you should take all Amazon and Yelp reviews with a grain of salt, so should you take Fakespot's rating of those reviews. Algorithms can accomplish only so much. That said, this is all about doing your homework before you make a purchase or visit a business, and Fakespot definitely helps you along that path.

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