I’ve written before about how the App Store could be improved and, as of yet, nothing I offered in that piece has been implemented.
While no one expects major redesigns or reworkings of the App Store in a dot release of iOS, a minor amendment in iOS 7.1.1 has again highlighted an area where the App Store is disappointing: In-app purchases.
As you may have noticed, in the App Store on devices running iOS 7.1.1, apps that utilize in-app purchases are now highlighted in the Top Charts screen as seen in the image above. The App Store previously made reference to the presence of in-app purchases in the individual app’s page, but the note in the Top Charts page is a new development (possibly following recent legal action regarding IAPs and a subsequent refund policy).
Regardless of Apple’s reasoning, the new “In-App Purchases” label resurfaces the issue of misuse or overuse of IAPs in the iOS App Store. At the time of writing, half of the top ten Free applications here in the UK contain in-app purchases. What’s more worrying, perhaps, is that 33 of the 35 Top Grossing applications (the ones that make the most money) contain in-app purchases. These numbers show a general trend towards freemium, and now “paymium”, business models for generating revenue and it clearly works.
My question is: what happened to just paying for an app and having access to all the features for a set price?
A couple of obvious answers are the lack of free trials and upgrade pricing on iOS. In the app economy, users are fearful of paying a few dollars up front in case the app is a disappointment. Many argue that free trials would eliminate the need for free apps with functionality locked behind IAPs or separate, Lite versions of apps.
Users have also come to expect app updates for life from developers and seemingly fail to see the the time and money invested by the app developers and their need to make a living. In-app purchases provide a way to earn money after the initial download, giving apps some longevity. However, simple upgrade pricing for new versions of apps, although open to abuse too, could alleviate the need for in-app purchases in many cases.
I’m not calling for a complete removal of in-app purchases — they are, in fact, useful in some cases. Instead, some measures that provide app creators with other ways to sustain an app’s development so that IAPs are not the de facto money generating tactic employed. The presence of the “In-App Purchases” label simply draws attention to this problem again and shows that it needs to change.
Whatever the solution, the updated App Store in iOS 7.1.1 brings the issue to the attention of all iOS users yet again. I hope Apple has some plans for the App Store in iOS 8 to be revealed at WWDC in June.
What do you think? Are in-app purchases too prevalent in the App Store or are you a fan of the freemium model? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter: @TiP_AdamO.