In App Purchases Come to Free Applications

Yesterday Apple sent out an email to developers informing them that free applications are now allowed to take advantage of in app purchases.

In App Purchase is being rapidly adopted by developers in their paid apps. Now you can use In App Purchase in your free apps to sell content, subscriptions, and digital services.

You can also simplify your development by creating a single version of your app that uses In App Purchase to unlock additional functionality, eliminating the need to create Lite versions of your app. Using In App Purchase in your app can also help combat some of the problems of software piracy by allowing you to verify In App Purchases.

This is a pretty huge change and I can see all of the “lite” applications that have cluttered the App Store disappear in favor of free demo applications with in app purchases that enable full functionality.

The one worry I have with this is the question of how it will affect users (or families) with one iTunes account and many devices. My girlfriend and I share an iTunes account, between the two of us we have two iPhone 3GSs, a second generation iPod touch, and a first generation iPhone. The worry is caused mostly by the confusion as to whether or not I will be able to download the same content (or enabled functionality) on a different device without having to pay the fee over again.

Right now, if I purchase a set of songs for Tap Tap Revenge 3 on my iPhone 3GS the only way to download that same content on my girlfriend’s device (without having to pay again) is for us to share a Tapulous account as well, this isn’t exactly how one would expect it to work. On the other hand, I’ve purchased a few add-on packs in Ramp Champ and have been able to download them for free on other devices.

I guess the answer as to whether or not you’ll have to pay per device will be decided based upon what authorization mechanism the app developer uses for their in app purchases.

Daring Fireball Linked List: Apple Now Allowing In-App Purchases for Free iPhone Apps (Link Requires iPhone Developer Account).

Update 10/16/09: Boxcar and Rolando 2: Quest for the Golden Orchid are already taking advantage of the new in app purchases policy.

Boxcar is now free and includes push notifications for your first service (Facebook, Twitter, or email) with each additional push services costing $1.99 (Twitter trends is just $0.99).

Rolando 2: Quest for the Golden Orchid includes the first chapter for free with subsequent chapters costing $0.99 or $1.99. You can also purchase all of the chapters through in app purchases for $4.99.

This is a strong indication that (at least the serious) app developers are going to use this as a way of giving away free demos with the ability to upgrade to the full version. Although, there is still no solution to transitioning current fully paid app owners to the new free-plus-in-app-purchase versions, which would simplify development and help to de-clutter the App Store.

Update 10/17/09: To end the confusion over whether or not you’ll have to pay to re-download in app purchases, I’d love to see in app purchases be dealt with like app updates — syncing back to iTunes just as app updates would.

I’ve also realized that there is a possibility that a developer would pull some of their content out of the application, if you needed to reinstall the application, the in app purchase content could be gone forever.

Update 10/22/09: Freeverse has concluded that the App Store’s “Top Grossing” list does include in app purchase sales. Flick Fishing is behind Top Gun on the regular sales list, but their positions are flipped in the top grossing list.

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