Apple’s In-App Purchase expansion could cause number of paid apps to plummet

“Apple sent an email to iPhone developers today announcing that they would now allow free applications to use the In-App purchasing mechanism,” Seth Weintraub reports for Computerworld.

“Up until now, if you’ve wanted to do In-App purchases, you have to have a paid application. Even at $.99, there are a lot of people out there only looking for free. Most of these people don’t want to pay money until they’ve seen and used the app they are purchasing. They need to be hooked. This new model will let developers hook their customers before buying – and at the same time, customers won’t be able to feel cheated when they’ve played with an app before buying,” Weintraub reports.

“That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The trend above will force more and more application providers to go free with upgrades. In fact, I expect the number of paid apps to plummet,” Weintraub writes.

“This new policy could thwart piracy,” Weintraub writes. “Right now, paid apps are distributed on torrent sites cracked so that they can be used by jaibroken iPhones. However, if the Apps are made such that the first bit is free, even hackers with the application won’t be able to get the good parts without ponying up the money. The in-App purchase mechanism has yet to be hacked.”

Full article here.


  1. Interesting – I hadn’t made the connection between allowing in-app purchases and thwarting the growing piracy threat.

    As much as I had initial misgivings about free apps having paid upgrades, it sounds like there are a lot of upsides to this change. As long as this doesn’t result in a flood of “free” apps which are useless until you pony up some cash, I think this could be a win/win for everyone.

  2. You’ll wind up seeing more subscription type apps which are free to download but have a monthly or annual fee. I won’t be surprised if news agencies like the Wall Street Journal have subscription requirements.

  3. Weintraub is a total dumbass. He expects the number of paid apps to plummet. How fscking stupid can one person possibly be.

    Listen, ignorant ass, the number of paid apps will keep rising, but you’re too stupid to understand that.

  4. “As much as I had initial misgivings about free apps having paid upgrades, it sounds like there are a lot of upsides to this change.”

    One interesting upside to this will, hopefully, be clearing out the “duplicate apps” problem in the App Store.

    I was looking for a Backgammon App the other day. One thing I noticed was that there seemed to be quite a few “Backgammon Lite” and “Backgammon Premium” Apps that were the same App except that the “Premium” didn’t have advertising and the “Lite” version pesters you about buying the “Premium” version.

    Just having the ability to do an in-app upgrade would be nice so you could have one game that is both the demo version and the full version.

    Of course, that’ll also mean that you’ll see a slowing or even a reduction in the number of Apps in the store…

  5. As long as Apple requires developers to state clearly whether their app requires in-app purchase for additional features, this is a really GOOD thing. It will encourage users to try out apps and encourage developers to offer that. Yet, users will ultimately pay for apps they really like–as they should! Good apps require real work. If we want a lot of them, anything that encourages their creation requires revenues; this is going to help the platform as well as benefit users. The Apple iPhone/iPod Touch platform will become even MORE dominant as a result of this move.

  6. “As long as this doesn’t result in a flood of “free” apps which are useless until you pony up some cash, I think this could be a win/win for everyone.”

    This is exactly what is going to happen. iCal me.

  7. This will wind up annoying end-users, because now they don’t know the price of the product up front, and you have limited access to any data you may have entered into the app, so effectively the app can hold your data hostage whenever it wants.

  8. Think of it this way- you will now be able to demo most apps before you pay for them.

    Developers will have to clearly state that each app is a demo, and spell out the terms – what you get with the free app, and what additional features are unlocked upon payment- and of course what the cost is.

    Developers of truly free apps will have to spell that out too.

  9. Reading the app description will be key, as an iPhone developer I know Apple can be really picky about the description of your app, if it doesn’t exactly match what the app does they it gets rejected. So developers will have to be upfront about any extras that you have to pay for.

  10. It’s a fantastic TRY BEFORE YOU BUY feature.

    As it should be with everything. No leap of faith required.

    The apps that get sleezy with expensive subscription plans, etc. will be out competed by the great apps that deliver great features at great prices and convenience.

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