When “free” isn’t “free”: Apple tweaks app listings with new “get” button
Issues surrounding the state of “free” apps on our phones and tablets are some that have managed to stir up surprising amounts of controversy in recent years. Consumer groups and trade regulators have long been concerned with the degree to which in-app purchases have managed to transform outright-free apps into technically-free-but-beating-you-over-the-head-to-spend-money ones, a subject most recently lampooned by South Park earlier this month. Apple’s been a regular target for such complaints, and we’ve already seen the company take steps to limit unfettered in-app purchases and make it more clear just when someone on your account is spending money. Now its latest action in this ongoing saga appears to move closer towards just throwing in the towel, changing the “free” button used to download apps with no upfront cost into a “get” button.
It’s a subtle change, but one that could have important legal ramifications. Apple’s reportedly making this move in response to pressure from EU authorities, though its effects appear to be global in scope.
Right now, it’s not like the word “free” is disappearing from Apple’s app listings entirely, but given the broad nature of this change, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the company make further adjustments down the road. And while the whole thing might look a little silly at first glance, we can appreciate the distinction Apple is trying to clarify here: with the way we pay for apps these days, the upfront to-download cost can have little impact on whether or not an app is ultimately free to use over the long term.