Thursday, 28 May 2015

On the Woes of In App Purchases

App Store

One of the things I hate the most about today’s software scene is the “free with in app purchasing” business model. To be more specific, since there are several ways for implementing in app purchasing, I detest the apps that lure you in with their free price only for you to find out there is no proper way to use them without spending money. Generally speaking, I’d much rather open my wallet upfront, spend the money, and use my new app at will.
Since most apps nowadays offer in app purchasing, and since some do so in a meaningful way, I do commit the occasional in app purchase sin. To give you a couple of examples, I did spend extra in order to acquire extra levels in Monument Valley and I did spend a few dollars getting rid of the ads in CARROT Hunger (mostly because I thought the developers deserve some of my cash).
Having done so, I could not avoid noting the peculiar. My son was able to access these in app purchases on “his” iOS device, which runs under his account and benefits from iOS’ Family Sharing with mine; whereas my wife, who runs her own account but also benefits from iOS’ Family Sharing with mine was unable to do so. At first I thought it was a bug with CARROT and turned to their support (who, by the way, proved willing to go out of their way to help me), but when I noticed the problem is not limited to CARROT I cut to the chase and raised a support call with Apple directly.
This led to an interesting evening on the phone with Apple. The various guys I spoke with, as the case escalated up the echelons of Apple Support, were all trying to be helpful (even if some did not know what Monument Valley, a game Apple had boasted aplenty about, was). Eventually, after an hour and a half, I reached a supervisor who told me, simply, that “in app purchases are not supported by Family Sharing”.
I do not know whether he was trying to get rid of me or whether that explanation was genuine. I challenged him: I asked why it works for my son, and he admitted he doesn’t know and that one way or another, Apple has a bug on its hands; I asked what the point of Family Sharing is, since it is clear I am not about to spend more money on Monument Valley but rather login to my account on my wife’s device so that she can play the game. Is that what Apple really wants me to do? Again, he got rid of me politely.

My takes are simple:
  1. As discussed before, Apple’s Family Sharing is half cooked and not particularly well implemented.
  2. In case you did not figure it out already, in app purchases are best avoided.

Image by Cristiano Betta, Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0) licence

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