After adding warnings about in-app purchases (IAPs) to its App Store in March, Apple on Friday added a new App Store section with a more detailed explanation of the controversial practice.
In-app purchases are a way for developers to offer users additional content in their apps after the initial purchase or download has been completed. Paid apps have used the capability to unlock new features while free apps have seen great success in using in-app purchases to give users a free “demo” while charging for full functionality. Both paid and free apps can also us an IAP to remove advertising from within an app.
The practice has recently become more controversial as some developers began to implement an unreasonable amount of IAPs into their apps, making them virtually unusable without repeatedly paying for each new feature or level. Many users view this behavior as an attempt on the part of unscrupulous developers to “nickel and dime” their customers.
More alarming is a similar trend by some developers to target exorbitantly priced items, such as Pokémon-themed characters, to children. The discovery by some parents that their young children were able to accumulate thousands of dollars in charges from inadvertent in-app purchases in children’s games led a 2011 lawsuit against Apple, which the company settled in February 2013.
Apple’s new “Learn More About In-App Purchases” page explains the process to users and, perhaps most importantly, shows parents how to disable IAPs on children’s iDevices using the Parental Controls feature in iOS. At this time, it appears that the new IAP section only appears on the iOS App Store and not via the App Store section of iTunes on Macs and PCs.
For an example of an egregious use of IAPs, check out this humorous video from IGN: