Application developers have welcomed Apples move to allow them to offer in-application purchases within free iPhone apps. Previously, Apple has only allowed in-app purchases in paid-for apps. Developers were informed of the news in an email yesterday.
The email, titled: In App Purchase now available for free apps read:
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.
The move will enable developers to offer feature-limited versions of their apps for free, with the opportunity for users to buy the full-featured version of the app once they have given it a try. Alternatively, the app could be monetized by sales of goods. It will also enable businesses to launch free apps as a service to their customers that then enable the customer to make a purchase from within the app.
David Lane, Managing Director of application developer Bright AI, says the move will make life easier for developers, but more importantly, enable them to give clients what they have been asking for.
I have lost track of the number of times clients have asked us to develop a free application that users could trade up from to a premium version, he says. Its not been possible before, but this will make it a lot easier. We will no longer need to do two builds of an app, a Lite version and a fully-featured version. The in-app purchasing will make it much easier for users to upgrade from within the app.
Lane says that when in-app purchases for paid-for applications were first announced by Apple, he expected to see a flurry of activity, and was shocked to see how low the take-up was. He expects things to change as a result of yesterdays announcement.
This will open the door for micro-transactions on the iPhone, he says.
Future Platforms CEO Tom Hume has also given a cautious welcome to the move, saying:
Whilst making it easier to charge customers in new and more flexible ways can only be a good thing, I'll be interested to see how the conversion rates to in-app purchasing differ from more traditional freemium models on the iPhone, in which there are two versions of an app, one free, one paid for, with the free one often ad-subsidised. I'd also be interested to understand what can be purchased - is it purely digital content, or is Apple taking steps towards broadening into a general payment mechanism?
And Jonathan Stadlen, Creative Director of app developer Pulse Films, says:
I think the advent of free apps which have the capability to let developers charge for in-app content will revolutionise our ability to deliver more content to consumers while at the same time being able to properly monetise content we believe to have a premium value. Essentially this is a further democratisation of multi-platform content, as users will only feel compelled to pay for content they feel has a personal value to them.