By Todd Bernhard on Thu, 03/13/2014
I have a love-hate relationship with In-App Purchases (IAPs.) As a developer, Apple has been encouraging me to adopt IAPs. In theory, IAPs seem like a way to make a living off apps while giving users a free taste. As a user, I don't like them. I think when you download an app, you should own it and all the promised features. So in the PRO versions of my apps, there are no IAPs. And in the past, my free apps had advertisements with the only "upsell" being a link to the PRO version for unlimited features without ads. But Apple representatives told me personally at the Worldwide Developers Conference and at their Tech Talk Tours that I really should be using IAPs. When Apple talks, I listen. So some of my apps now have such purchase options. But on the IAP selling page, I rebel against the machine and tell users that the best deal is to buy the PRO version!
All of this is to say that I think everyone would be better off without IAPs. One day, I loaned my iPad to a family friend's seven-year-old and within 15 minutes, he had racked up $85 worth of IAP charges! I had never given him my password, but apparently I had recently downloaded a new app which allowed him to make those purchases without entering my password, and without his realizing that they cost money. Shame on me for not disabling IAPs altogether, but shame on Apple and those sneaky developers. No iOS game is worth $85, and both parties are relying on parents not paying attention. The result is, I've turned off In-App Purchases on my devices, so now it's harder for legitimate app developers to get my IAP money.
With iOS 7.1, Apple informs users of a 15-minute grace period, which is still enough to do some serious damage, but it should placate the FCC who had gone after Apple when children spent as much as $8,000 in no time at all. With the TouchID fingerprint reader, such inadvertant purchases should be history, but TouchID is not on every Apple device yet. In the meantime, be careful and think twice before downloading that next "free" app. iTunes will tell you if the app has In-App Purchases, and you're usually able to see how expensive some of those purchases are. Your best bet is to spend some time studying Apple's Restrictions settings, here. The old adage is true; there's no such think as a free lunch!