In-app purchases are a bloody menace

There’s a good piece by Stuart Dredge in The Guardian about in-app purchases in children’s apps:

 IAP in children’s apps isn’t bad, but scammy, over-aggressive and/or naive use of IAP in children’s apps is most definitely bad. Developers shouldn’t do it, and app store owners should be cracking down on it in their approval processes.

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Many kids’ apps are just shells for expensive in-app purchases, the apps borderline useless without shelling out for Smurfberries or some such shite. It’s very hard to explain to a five-year-old that the app is coming off because the developers are bastards.

I wrote about this for MacFormat last year:

Children are gullible. My four-year-old daughter is beginning to get wise to my lies, but in the last few months I’ve successfully persuaded her that the African chant at the beginning of The Lion King is about throwing cats into bins, that if you unscrew your belly button your bum falls off, and that when she goes to bed our black labrador puts on a trenchcoat and goes out solving crimes.

The problem with kids is that the very things that make them so sweet — their complete trust in grown-ups, their utter lack of cynicism and their lack of impulse control — make them very easy to exploit. And that’s exactly what many app developers are trying to do.

…I don’t have a problem with freemium games that need your wallet to work properly — well, I do, but adults can waste their cash however they like — but I do have a problem when the apps specifically target children. When Apple classifies such apps as suitable for kids, as it did when it gave Smurfs Village a rating of 4+, Apple is effectively giving them its stamp of approval. Apple’s customers, and their children, deserve better.