Besides new iPhone hardware, we expect to hear about other related developments at Apple’s event tomorrow, including the new networked storage offered via iCloud. Beyond that, though, there are signs that Apple could be planning on introducing app rentals, as revealed by code in the latest iTunes update.
iTunes 10.5 beta 9 includes several text strings referencing app rental, and the process through which expired apps are deleted from your iTunes library. That’s pretty damning evidence that such a feature is, at least, in the works. The thing is, this might not be headed to smartphones straight away, as a couple of the text strings specifically address deleting expired rentals “from your computer”. That could just mean the locally-stored copy, but none of these strings specifically calls-out the iPhone. Even if this is just Mac apps for the feature’s launch, the fact that it’s included at all is a big step towards its eventual inclusion in iOS.
The better question might be if we really need app rental in the first place. After all, most apps today are pretty darn cheap. Maybe Apple would only consider renting-out apps past a certain value cut-off; it just feels silly renting a $0.99 app for $0.25 a day. For a $50 navigation app, that’s a different story altogether, especially if you only take long trips infrequently. Would you be interested in try-before-you-buy app rentals making their way to the iPhone, or is this a feature you just can’t see yourself using?