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App Store Gripe

December 19th, 2010

I’m getting pretty tired of something which is becoming a standard practice on the iOS App Store: reeling you in with “free” apps that aren’t free. It used to be that you could tell the difference because if it was branded “Lite” or even “Free,” that would almost always mean that it was a demo version of some sort. You could count on the label letting you know what you were getting.

However, now that we have in-app purchases (a good thing, in general), we see more and more apps which are released crippled or limited in some fashion, and you have to make in-app purchases to get them to work. This would also not be a problem–if the apps were sufficiently labeled.

What we get instead is developers trying to pass off their apps as free when they are anything but. The app is listed as free and advertised as fully functional–until you get to the 16th paragraph of the app’s description where the developer makes an oblique reference to the app not being fully functional or completely free.

Obviously, the developers want to mislead you into downloading a “free” app, hoping you won’t notice the buried text indicating that it’s not. They want you to be invested enough in terms of time spent and anticipation and desire of the functionality that when you do come across the limitations that require you to pay, you’ll figure, “What the hell” and tap the button to pay.

This irritates the hell out of me. I prefer to be told up-front: if I see a possibility that I would use the app, I will download the demo and try it out, and pay for the full version if I am satisfied–I have done so many times. But if they back-end the payment, hiding behind obscurity, it pisses me off and I will abandon the app on principle alone, not paying for something I might otherwise have bought were it presented straight up.

Now, you have to start developing a new sense as to what constitutes such a play at tricking you and wasting your time. Any app that seems like it should cost money probably does. A “free” app with a long description in the App Store usually has such a long description to hide the statement that it’s not free–let that be a red flag. The admission of guilt is never at the top, nor at the very end–it is usually about 60% to 80% of the way down–I just skip to that part and usually find the offending statement after a few moments. But it still ticks me off, like any attempt to defraud me. It insults me and makes me not want to download not only that app, but any app that developer makes.

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