These days in the app-purchasing world, “free” doesn’t always really mean free. When apps were a fledgling, new territory for both customers and developers, there was a clear distinction between free-to-play apps/games/demos and paid versions of apps. But once the whole in-app purchasing mechanism was brought to the table, developers found news ways to make their “free” apps extremely profitable.
Both Apple and Google have come under scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for the use of in-app purchases in their respective app stores. Apple settled a lawsuit earlier this year stemming from children racking up large iTunes bills by going crazy with in-app purchases on games.
Apple ended up forking over $32.5 million in refunds to customers to settle the matter.
Apple is now taking a somewhat bizarre additional step in alerting customers that truly “free” apps (especially games) are becoming a more rare occurrence. The company is no longer listing apps with a “FREE” label; instead, Apple has changed the wording to instead show “GET”. Apps that have in-app purchases available will be labeled “GET” with smaller subtext that says “In-App Purchases”.
Eleven of the top 20 “free” apps in the iTunes App Store use the “freemium” business model of hooking the customers in with an initially free app, then reeling them in with in-app purchases. Interestingly, the 39 “Top Grossing” games on the iTunes App Store are all “free” with in-app purchases. It’s not until you get to number 40, Minecraft – Pocket Edition at $6.99, that you actually get to a “paid” app.
Using “GET” honestly looks a bit kooky to us, but it probably not the worst idea we’ve seen come from tech companies these days.
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