Why freemium apps suck for everyone (and how Apple is killing paid apps)

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Only one of the top 200 grossing apps is a paid app
Paid apps are an endangered species: Only one of the 200 top-grossing apps on the App Store is a paid download.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

I work on an iPhone app called Reps & Sets as a hobby project in my spare time. This week, my partner and I came to the conclusion that there is no future for our app as a paid download, so we have reluctantly decided to make it free.

This was an incredibly tough call, because we have invested literally thousands of hours in developing our app over the years. Giving all that hard work away for free is heartbreaking. But we didn’t feel we had much choice.

Kid racks up almost $6,000 on Jurassic World in-app purchases

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Jurassic World
Cloning dinosaurs comes with a price tag. Who knew?
Photo: Lydia

Aside from a few big developers, no-one much likes in-app purchases, which have long been used to ruin mobile gaming on iOS.

However, the parents of 7-year-old Faisall Shugaa probably like them less than most — after their son racked up almost $6,000 in IAP bills, including $2,200 spent in just one hour.

In-app purchases flaw exposes developers to costly hacks

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App Store icon
With 2 million apps, the App Store is almost too big.
Photo: PhotoAtelier/Flickr

Sloppy coding in some popular iOS games allows hackers to give themselves and others thousands of dollars’ worth of in-app purchases for free.

The hole was discovered by developers at DigiDNA, creator of a backup tool called iMazing that allows iPhone and iPad users to access their devices’ hidden file systems. The developers found that the app backup/restore feature in iMazing 1.3 exposes weaknesses in the way games like Angry Birds 2 and Tetris Free handle in-app purchases.

To demonstrate how easy it is to hack in-app purchases using this method, the DigiDNA team tweaked Angry Birds 2 to start the game with 999,999,999 gems — the equivalent of $10,000 of in-game credits.

How Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff keeps the laughs coming

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Exclusive behind-the-scenes sketches show Quahog destroyed by Peter's fowl archnemesis. Photo: TinyCo/Fox

Hit TV show Family Guy followed a trajectory that’s very similar to Apple’s. The show appeared as a breath of fresh air early on, underwent a decline during which it almost vanished, then made a triumphant return.

In that way, Family Guy always seemed a perfect fit for iOS. Earlier this year, that pairing finally happened when developer TinyCo debuted Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff, a mobile game that follows Peter Griffin and the rest of the Fox TV show’s colorful supporting cast as they rebuild the town of Quahog after it’s been destroyed.

Six months down the line — and with the game currently in the middle of a haunting, courtesy of its Halloween update — Cult of Mac spoke with the developers about Seth McFarlane, making games funny, and the perils of in-app purchases.

More music lovers are paying for their tunes with in-app purchases

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August was a good month for streaming music services with in-app purchases.
August was a good month for streaming music services with in-app purchases. Photo: Pandora

New figures released by app analytics firm App Annie show that mobile users are more likely than ever to pay for music services by way of in-app purchases.

Looking at figures from August, streaming music offerings from Spotify, Pandora and Beats Music were among the top earning apps in terms of revenue.

European Commission praises Google, condemns Apple for in-app purchase policies

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The European Commission has issued some words to Google and Apple about both companies’ steps to ensure children don’t rack up huge amounts of money on in-app purchases without their parents’ permission.

In a statement released by the Commission on Friday, Google is praised for a series of changes that will be put in effect by the end of September — while Apple finds itself on the receiving end of some harsh criticism.

Apple being investigated over misleading ‘freemium’ apps

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If you’re an iOS gamer, chances are you’re fed up of games loaded to the gunwales with in-app purchases. The so-called “freemium” trend for games is annoying for two main reasons: One, in many cases it makes games virtually unplayable if you won’t shell out the extra cash for IAPs. Two, it’s misleading because the games aren’t really “free” at all, any more than you could say that it’s free to go to the theater, but you have to pay cash if you want to actually watch a movie.

It’s this second point that antitrust authorities in Italy are taken issue with, under the heading of unfair commercial practices. They’re investigating Apple, Google and Amazon, alongside French game developer Gameloft, for allegedly misleading customers by advertising mobile game apps as free, when they actually require purchases in order to be played beyond a certain point.