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Apple allows in-app purchases from free apps

updated 06:30 pm EDT, Thu October 15, 2009

Developers have called for policy change

Apple has changed its SDK policy to allow in-app purchases for free iPhone apps, according to Daring Fireball blogger John Gruber. The service previously was restricted to apps requiring payment for the initial download, although the limitations have been criticized by a variety of developers.

Many developers would prefer to release a single version of an app, while allowing users to add content or upgrade from within the app interface. The initial SDK terms effectively required developers to make a separate version of the app available for free. To access the additional content, customers had to purchase and download a second version from the App Store.

Apple's reasoning for preventing in-app purchases has not been clear, although the changes will be welcomed by many developers.

by MacNN Staff



  1. bogmonster

    Joined: Dec 1969



    So long as it's perfectly clear that there's a distinction between free updates vs paid add'l content. I can easily imagine links from initially free apps for updates or content for cost that isn't explicit enough for the bulk of users.

  1. WiseWeasel

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Top Lists

    This is really going to mess up the 'top downloads' lists, with most downloads shifting from the paid to the free section, with in-app purchases after the fact. I wonder if the 'top grossing' section will take in-app purchases for free apps into account in its rankings. This is really going to eliminate the publicity benefit of releasing an app truly for free, as AAA and paid titles overtake the 'free' section with free demos with in-app upgrades to the full version. I bet we'll see a decrease in releases, and certainly a decrease in visibility, for actual free apps in general from this change.

  1. WiseWeasel

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Just wanted to add, I really hope Apple is forcing developers who release free apps with paid in-app upgrades to disclose the terms (pricing) of the in-app purchases prominently in the description for the free app listing.

  1. bauhaus

    Joined: Dec 1969


    The grift

    This is going to lead to a lot of unscrupulous developers conning customers into buying things without realizing it. Free should stay very distinct from paid. Apple's doing this because they'll take in more money since the profit share on in app purchases, whether it's a con or not.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    The fear you people bring out is completely unwarranted. The app is free. People are cheap. They aren't going to download a free app, then try to use it, go "Oh, I have to pay $10 for this feature? Oh well, guess I'll do it, since I've already went to the effort of downloading this free app".

    As for developers 'conning' users, it is hard to con a user into purchasing content without realizing it, since you must purchase the content through the AppStore, and, as such, need to confirm the purchase by entering your password to the store (like when you get an app).

    And how is any of this a 'big deal' compared to what you could do yesterday, which was exactly the same damn thing except the App might have cost 99 cents, not free?

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