How Apple Can Solve Freemium Creep: Make a Freemium Ghetto

Mitchell Cohen, on his own site:

Eight of the top ten “Free” iPhone apps aren’t free at all. They contain in-app purchases. Apple even spells it out for us—in size 8-pt. Helvetica Neue, in text a shade darker than the white background, underneath big blue buttons that scream FREE.

These warnings, new as of iOS 7.1.1, are a welcome addition to the platform. (It only took an FTC investigation, $32-million in refunds, and a media backlash.) But they don’t address the problem of freemium creep on the App Store.

His two solutions are a step in the right direction, but I ultimately disagree with his opinion on the word "Demo." To me, a demo is a trial, which Apple does not allow in the App Store. This is also a connotation that I think developers wouldn't be fond of, considering these are the full apps, you just have to pay to get the full experience. And even removing ads or including "premium" features aside, many of the freemium or free-to-play games rely on you eventually running out of their in-game currency or time saving techniques, all but forcing you to keep paying up to ensure you're rolling in the fun. Calling apps with recurring charges "demos" feels disingenuous, because if you like a demo and you purchase the "full" experience, you shouldn't be hit with a charge over and over again.

I would propose a third solution, if Mitch would be so kind as to hear it: Apple puts a toggle so you can simply filter out apps that offer in-app purchases. That way, Paid stays Paid, Free stays Free, but you can have the added control of safely browsing the App Store without accidentally downloading an app that has a hidden paywall in its warm, gooey center.

I feel his Photoshop skills are far superior to mine, so for the time being we'll just have to sit back and imagine in our mind's eye just how that sort of implementation could be pulled off. 


Also, this doesn't address the very real problem of developers taking advantage of people with their shitty apps.