If you’ve ever had the misfortune of downloading a poorly developed free app from the app store you will agree with the famous words of Roger Hancock: “Nothing is ever free, though to you it be. Somewhere, somehow, someone paid.” Sure some companion apps produced are great, but you pay for an app someway, somehow.
Some simply like to gain some data about you and your usage, some have more nefarious goals but the vast majority present you with adverts and/or in app purchases. None more so than mobile games. Those pesky little time killers that end of wasting away your day just to get the next level up or the next coin.
One of the biggest winners of this ‘freemium’ model is King.com, creators of the huge smash hit Candy Crush Saga. As of September 2014 it was making $633,000 per day. Leading it to the top of many charts and more than $230 million annually. All from an apparently free game.
We could cover the numerous families that have been hit by huge in app purchase(IAP) bills after allergy being unaware. This issues and opinions are endless, but the matter at heart is a valid belief: that the app describes itself as free but it is not. After large movements to combat this in European court, and also the FTC in the US, several changes have been levied against Apple and Google to both improve the experience and reduce the chance of unwanted charges.
“Games advertised as ‘free’ should not mislead consumers about the true costs involved”. – The European Commission
Google has long outlined its plan to remove the free label from games that require IAP for the full game experience. However they have yet to decide on the rules and guideline for these yet. After being hit a demand to pay $32.5 million in refunds of misguided IAP, Apple has been the first to react. Albeit in a very bizarre knee jerk reaction.
Contrary to belief, Apple have stopped short of removing the free description completely. What they have done is change a button. What used to read FREE, is now labelled GET. Keeping the clear label indicating IAP purchases alongside the new button. They also have made the app store easier to understand, with a dedicated ‘kids’ area. However what still exist is the ‘top free apps’ rankings. And still 11 out of the top 20 ‘free’ app use the same freemium model as Candy Crush Saga.
It’s a bold, if somewhat confusing move, but it will not eradicate a model adopted by so many software companies. Thankfully a model that seems limited to the technology market. That’s not to say it may not seep into other areas. So beware anyone that offers you a free overcoat, as the buttons and zips may be extra.