Apple Adds In-App Purchase Notice To Free Apps With Paid Upgrades, Could Curb Accidental Spending

Apple has made a tweak to the way it shows that free apps that have in-app purchases, the Guardian noted today. The new notice appears under the price bar and the app icon in app listings on iTunes on the desktop, though it doesn’t yet appear in the mobile App Store or on the web-based iTunes application pages. The change comes after a number of high-profile complaints re: accidental spending on the App Store.

$2,500 in in-app purchases in 15 minutes: that’s how much a single five-year old boy managed to spend via in-app purchases in a recent incident in the U.K. Sarah argued in a post following that incident that Apple needed to implement a “Kid Mode” to prevent this kind of thing from happening. The new label is hardly that, but it is a tool that should increase awareness about exactly what parents are getting when they download what looks like an otherwise free, kid-focused application for iPhone or iPad.

The fact is that a huge chunk of App Store revenue is now being driven by in-app purchases; you have to scroll past a lot of apps to find one that charges for the actual app itself in the Top Grossing section of the App Store, and out of the top 100, less than 20 percent are paid apps. Freemium is big business on the App Store, with in-app purchases accounting for around 39 percent of app spending as of last January according to IHS. A lot of these titles are particularly oriented towards a younger demographic, too, which makes them susceptible to the kind of incident described above.

For developers, increased restrictions and additional friction between customers and in-app purchases is obviously not a desirable outcome, and that means Apple likewise probably isn’t crazy about the idea. Adding a more obvious notice about the presence of in-app purchases in titles is a good middle ground between enforcing some kind of restrictions that potentially inhibit revenue-generating capabilities, and raising awareness about when there’s potential for accidental spending. It’s a small thing, but a helpful one, and hopefully the feature will make its way out to mobile and web app listings, too.

Apple got in touch to let us know that the notices also went live in the iPad and iPhone App Stores over the weekend, too.