Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Mac App Store Apps Using In-App Purchases to Hide Free Apps That Need Subscriptions

Jeff Johnson:

Top Mac App Store dev abuses Free with In-App Purchase for bait-and-switch apps demanding upfront payment, not free in any respect.

This developer has 9 apps in the Mac App Store, all of which seem to have the same “business model”: free to download, with In-App Purchase, but the first time you open the app, it demands an upfront one-time purchase, otherwise it doesn’t work at all.

No trial, no subscription.

Stephen Warwick, iMore:

In response to this report, Fokusek Enterprise’s CEO contacted iMore with comment on the story. Tiberiu Prioteasa claims that the IAP monetization the developer uses “is used by most of the big companies such as NordVPN, Microsoft and many apps that provide Health, Lifestyle and Fitness apps from the Apple App Store,” noting that Apple has approved the use of this monetization process everytime it has been submitted to Apple. However, while lots of companies offer in-app purchases on the Mac App Store, and use auto-renewal after a free trial, Fokusek’s Docs Pro for Google Drive apps greets users with the following screen as soon as you open it: […]

This is the kind of thing Apple sought to prevent when it launched In-App Purchases as a feature for paid apps only. Opening them up to free apps has created different purchasing mechanisms in the App Store and has pushed the industry toward subscription pricing, but it has also enabled scummy behaviour like this.

Not that it matters much, but Prioteasa is not entirely wrong by pointing out how similar this model is to that of big-name companies. All of them offer a trial — unlike these crappy apps — but they are a bit of a bait-and-switch. You might see Microsoft PowerPoint as one of the top free apps on the Mac App Store, but to save or edit a presentation, you need to activate a trial that will roll over into a minimum monthly payment.1 Not really a free app, is it?


  1. Microsoft also pitches the subscription as being “as low as” the single-user price, but preselects the more expensive family subscription. Gross. ↩︎