Pay-as-you-go comes to iPhone App Store

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Pay-as-you-go comes to iPhone App Store

Powerful new feature or "bait and switch"?

Apple today extended to developers of free iPhone applications the ability to sell bolt-on goods and services through their software without resorting to Apple's online software shop.

The "in-app purchases" previously available to software that was sold through the e-commerce shop or "App Store" could allow a free application to be upgraded to a fully-paid version with enhanced features and functions. Apple previewed it to developers in March.

In June, influential technology blog TechCrunch labelled it a "bait and switch" strategy.

"But there's a new potentially troublesome front opening up as well: Bait and switch apps," TechCrunch blogged. "Yes, the old practice of luring customers with a shiny price, only to reveal the real cost after (in this case, the download), could find its way to the App Store, thanks to in-app purchases."

TechCrunch illustrated its criticism with the case of Gokiva GPS software [iTunes Store link] that was $US0.99 ($1.08) but provided its most compelling feature, turn-by-turn navigation, for $US9.99 a month.

In a notice sent to developers today, Apple said in-app buying was popular with developers of paid apps and could be used 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," the software company told developers. "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."

iPhone developers, will you build in-app buying into your software? iPhone users, do you think this is a bait-and-switch strategy that would dissuade you from again buying from a developer that used this feature?

Tell us what you think of in-app purchases in our comments below.


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