Getting Caught Up With In-App Purchases

Published On June 18, 2014 | App & Software, Gaming

We’ve all been there—addicted to playing the latest app craze only to get stuck on a level and resorting to spending real money to feed the insatiable need to keep playing. And that’s the whole point of these free apps, to sucker us into giving away our hard-earned cash with the tempting lure of clearing candy on a board or crashing birds into precariously stacked construction hazards upon mocking green pig heads (who totally deserve it).

Most of these “free” apps hook users by offering a few levels for free and then charging to advance. Another ploy is to give users the option of unlocking special characters, extra lives, more zoo space for the cost of 25 purple diamonds or 60 farm coins, whatever the app calls it, these “diamonds” or “coins” cost real money. And because a lot of these games make you buy the game’s currency to shop within the app, a disconnect between the amount of money really being spent develops, causing people to spend more real money.

When it comes down to it, in-app purchases can make that addicting free-app cost you a year’s salary. Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself, and your wallet, from in-app purchases.

The problem with in-app purchases began to make news when a couple of lawsuits against Google and Apple were filed. These lawsuits revolved around the window Google and Apple allowed purchases to be made with only one password entry. This left some parents faced with huge charges as their children were able to make multiple purchases 15 to 30 minutes after a password was entered. Apple has actually given refunds for these unauthorized in-app purchases many parents were surprised with. Since then, both Apple and Google have taken steps to protect consumers from unwanted in-app purchases.

Apple has updated its iOS to require a password to be entered twice before confirming an in-app purchase. This only works if you’ve updated your iOS to 4.3 or a more current iOS. You can also disable in-app purchases by changing your iPhone’s settings. This is especially useful for parents of “in-app purchasing” prone kids. All you need to do to disable the in-app purchase function is to go to your phone’s settings, choose “general,” “restrictions,” and “enable restrictions.” Next, you will need to create a password, then go to “allowed content” and turn off in-app purchases.

Changing your phone to airplane mode before handing it over for your kid to play with can also help prevent the little guy, or gal, from making unwanted purchases.

Google’s solution to this epidemic is providing the option in its Play Store for users to choose to require a password be entered every time purchases are made. Whether or not you have kids, turning on in-app purchase restrictions can make you think twice about if you really need to add to your farm or get a limited time only white tiger cub for your zoo. Instead of spending your real money on virtual farms and candy crushing, make it count for something you won’t regret (like real candy).

Being mindful of the in-app purchase trap can help you avoid overspending and keep that free app from blowing the bank.

– By Tim Alan

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