How much does a free app cost?
I apologise in advance for writing two iPhone app rants in a row – but I’m not having a good week with apps. Following the Talking Carl update fiasco, we downloaded some of the free talking animals apps. As you know, Little Man is quite taken with giraffes, so I was delighted to spot the free Talking Gina the Giraffe app, by Outfit7.
At first glance, this little app is very cute and extremely appealing. Gina the Giraffe is interactive. She’s accompanied by a happiness meter. As you interact with her, her happiness increases. Gina even tells you what she wants to make her happy. A little dream cloud appears onscreen displaying images of what she’d like – a carrot, a strawberry, a drink.
We had fun with her for the first few minutes. She was asking for food a lot, so we fed her. We used up our strawberries and icecream, and we were left with a supply of carrots. After feeding her the first few carrots, she continued to ask for food, but suddenly the picture of the carrot disappeared from the food grouping, and she was no longer interested in them. Instead she was only asking for strawberries and ice-cream. We tried to feed her another carrot, but she ducked to avoid it. Little Man thought it was funny when she ducked, but I could imagine an older child might actually be upset that he or she could no longer feed the giraffe.
So I checked to see how we could get more yummy treats for her. You have three options. You can wait 24 hours to get one free treat for Gina. Or you can play a pat-a-cake game with Gina, and if you win, you get more treats for her. Or, you can buy them!
So how much does a virtual strawberry cost? Well, it’s €0.79 for a pack of 10 strawberries, or for a pack of 10 lemonades. Then it’s €1.59 for a pack of 10 ice cream cones. Or you can pay €2.99 for a super pack of 30 strawberries, 15 lemonades, and 15 ice cream cones. When you first open up the in-app purchase screen, you might be fooled into thinking that you can get a certain number of treats for free – not exactly so. If you click through, you find out that these treats are free only if you first download another app. Micro-payments at their finest. This free app could very quickly end up costing an unsuspecting parent quite a lot of money, because Gina is much more interested in the costly treats than in the lowly free carrots.
I’m sure people will argue that the simple solution is just to keep your iTunes password a secret so that your child can’t make any purchases without your permission. However, that only works if your last iTunes session has already ended. Say however, you are running a number of updates on the apps on your iPhone or iPad, which means you’ve already entered your iTunes details. Then if your child clicks to buy more yummy treats for Gina, he or she isn’t prompted for a password – instead the purchase just goes straight through. This isn’t an issue for us right now, because Little Man never plays any games on the iPad or iPhone without one of us sitting there playing with him. But it’s not that far down the line when he will be playing games on his own, and we need a solution to prevent him from accidentally making in-app purchases and costing us a fortune.
So I did a little research, and I have a solution. Turns out you can enable restrictions on in-app purchases on your iPhone or iPad. To do this, you complete these steps:
1. Open Settings
2. Click General
3. Click Restrictions
4. Click the Enable Restrictions button
5. Enter a 4 digit passcode when prompted
6. Re-enter your 4 digit passcode to confirm
7. Scroll down to In-app purchases in the Allowed Content section
8. Slide the In-app purchases slider to Off
Now if anyone attempts to make an in-app purchase, a pop-up appears telling them that “You do not have in app purchases enabled.”