It’s not hard to talk about the latest and greatest features of Instacast 2.0 when the developer has dutifully written his own epic walkthrough of his app’s new features. Instead of having to decipher release notes and a summary of bullet point features, Martin Hering of Vemedio has already published an in-depth write-up of everything “version two” has to offer, which includes a couple pro-tips here and there for those who aren’t skimming paragraphs and looking for bolded words. The mini-manual will be a handy reference for getting adjusted to Instacast’s tap-and-hold friendly UI and advanced features.
With the features already explained in great detail, I don’t feel the need to recap everything Instacast 2.0 has to offer or explain how it works, but I do want to share some of my experiences with the app post-upgrade. There are lots of little changes that have been made and thus lots of little habits that had to be relearned. While some of the changes take some getting used to, others have been improved upon so well that I could not think of going back to an older Instacast. Upgraded player controls, playlists, and bookmarks add a new pro-layer of control without dampening the player’s aesthetic or user experience. Additional sharing features strive to strengthen online discussion around podcasts thanks to commenting and an HTML5 audio player.
There’s been a lot of discussion in the past few days over Apple, its In-App Purchase (IAP) policy, and Dropbox after it rejected a few apps that employed Dropbox functionality because they offered links to the Dropbox website for signing up and logging in. At issue was that the option to buy a higher level of storage was also visible, and this contravened one of the App Store Review Guidelines. Some viewed this as Apple trying to kill (or at the very least, target) Dropbox — but as Federico explained, this was just Apple enforcing one of their existing policies.
After thinking about it for a while, I’ve come to the position that perhaps that policy isn’t the right one. So I decided to play the devil’s advocate, and try to argue the case for Apple adjusting their policy. Specifically my argument focuses on Apple’s policy going something like:
Apps may use external mechanisms for purchases or subscriptions to be used in an app, but only when those purchase mechanisms are undertaken in a web view within the app.
That could probably be further clarified in more simplistic language, but you get the general idea of what I’m proposing. The current policy prohibits any link to purchases or subscriptions that are undertaken through external mechanisms (ie. not IAP); I suggest that this should be allowed. So let’s quickly go through the benefits of the current policy and arguments for relaxing the policy. (more…)
TUAW reports a number of iOS developers have been unable for over a week now to get their in-app purchase content approved by Apple, as the company requires in the iTunes Connect developer portal to test IAP with a test user account, but this account has been offline with no explanation from Apple.
As a matter of policy, Apple requires developers to test in-app purchases (IAP) with a test user account before the application in question can be approved. Unfortunately, this test account has been offline for a week now with no word as to why. If you are a developer, you can see the relevant thread on Apple’s own developer forums here.
Whilst the impossibility to test in-app purchases and thus get the additional content approved may simply be a technical error on Apple’s side, it looks rather curious considering the recent debate surrounding Lodsys and its patent infringement claims against independent iOS developers. As TUAW notes, this can be a simple coincidence that has nothing to do with Lodsys, but The Guardian reported yesterday Apple was “actively investigating” the claims that hit iOS devs, so there’s a chance Apple might have suspended IAP approvals before a decision is made.
If you’re a developer and have encountered a similar error, let us know in the comments. More information is available on the Dev Forums.
Update: the iTunes Connect Developer Guide was updated on 5/11 including some changes to in-app purchases, but we can’t confirm whether these changes are related to the inability of testing in-app purchases with a test user account. The ITC Developer Guide can be found here.
Improvements to In-App Purchase creation and edit flow. The Manage Your In-App Purchases module is no longer available on the homepage of in iTunes Connect. In-App Purchases can now be managed from the app summary page for a specific app within the Manage Your Applications module.
Update #2: TUAW reports the issue seems to be resolved.
As reported last night, the Wall Street Journal has updated its official iPad application to include the possibility for readers to buy single issues for a specific day. These single-issues downloads are available as $1.99 in-app purchases, whilst “regular” WSJ monthly and weekly subscriptions are still being sold through a website — which is embedded into the WSJ app for login and purchasing option. At this point, it seems that the WSJ is slowly complying to Apple’s in-app purchase and subscription policies but it’s not quite there yet. Recently, Apple started enforcing a rule that requires developers to implement in-app purchases as an option by default in iOS apps that come with extra, purchasable content.
Single issues (up to a week) can be viewed in the “start screen”. Here, you can choose to buy one or subscribe to the WSJ. iPad subscribers also get free unlimited access to WSJ.com, iPhone and Blackberry apps. Single issues don’t carry any kind of additional benefit as they’re simply tied to an iTunes account.
The WSJ app for iPad is free, and it’s available here. (more…)
Following yesterday’s concerns in regards of Apple’s new subscription and in-app purchase policy for third-party publishers and developers, a MacRumors reader emailed Steve Jobs asking for clarification on the matter.
Yesterday, the developers of online reading service Readability announced that they would stick with the web platform as Apple rejected their iOS application that has a subscription feature, but it’s more of a “Software as a Service” (SaaS) rather than a “publishing” app. Readability aggregates articles saved from the web and displays them in an elegant and uncluttered view. Similarly, the TinyGrab developers (a screenshot taking tool) said they would soon cease App Store support because of the in-app purchase policy implemented by Apple. (more…)
The Washington Post ran a story last night about 8-year-old Madison who, playing the Smurfs game for iPad, made a lot of in-app purchases. In fact. the family’s credit card got charged $1,400 for Smurfs accessories, power-ups and so forth. Unsurprisingly, parents are upset:
Parents need to know that the promotion of games and the delivery mechanism for them are deceptively cheap,” said Jim Styer, president of Common Sense Media, a public advocacy group for online content for children. “But basically people are trying to make money off these apps, which is a huge problem, and only going to get bigger because mobile apps are the new platform for kids.
The “people are trying to make money off apps” line is so obvious we’re not even trying to comment on that. The story gets better:
Apple said it tries to prevent episodes like Madison’s by requesting a password when making in-app purchases. And parents can change settings on Apple’s gadgets to restrict downloading and transactions, Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller said.
But parents say changing those settings isn’t easy or obvious.
Surprise: if you give your kid a cellphone, he will likely send random text messages and make phone calls. If you give a gadget to a kid, he will likely break it / change its settings. Bigger surprise: if you give your kid your iTunes account password (which Madison’s parents did) and an iPhone, the kid will download apps and in-app purchases. Shocker.
If we follow the “Apple should make it easier” argument, then every cellphone maker should put a “Kids mode” button on their latest smartphone and every car maker should create keys kids can’t touch.
The problem is, Apple gives you the tools to prevent these accidental purchases: they’re called Restrictions and they live in the Settings. Not to mention the fact that giving passwords to a kid is often considered a bad practice. Parents: next time you hand an iPad or iPhone to your kids just to “keep them happy and quiet”, think about the consequences. Because you can’t blame Apple or any other tech company if your kids break stuff.
News broke last night that Apple rejected Sony’s latest ebook reading app for the iPhone because it used a technology that allowed users to purchase books out of Apple’s in-app purchase system, through Sony’s own store embedded into the app. Sony claimed Apple told them “from now on, all in-app purchases would have to go through Apple”, and now Apple has fired back to clarify Sony’s statements.
As reported by The Loop:
We have not changed our developer terms or guidelines,” Apple spokesperson, Trudy Muller, told The Loop. “We are now requiring that if an app offers customers the ability to purchase books outside of the app, that the same option is also available to customers from within the app with in-app purchase.
Basically, nothing has really changed in the guidelines — except the fact that in-app purchase through Apple’s system has to be built into the app. If an app comes with its own store to purchase books, the same option should be offered as native in-app purchase for all iOS users. Apple takes a 30% revenue cut out of every in-app purchase. It seems like at this point Amazon will have to update its Kindle app as well to offer iOS in-app purchases. I will be interesting to see how Sony, Amazon and others will update their applications to support the new in-app purchase guideline, and users’ reaction to multiple offerings inside an ebook reading app. While Apple’s 30% cut sounds like a deal-breaker to publishers, in-app purchases linked to iTunes are seen as a useful option from customers, which will be able to get receipts and detailed information about their book purchases directly into their iTunes account page.
Looks like the Mac App Store is going to be quite different from the iOS model we’ve gotten used to in these past two years. Yesterday we broke the news that developers won’t be able to generate promo codes for Mac apps sold though the new Store (even if they’ve gone international for all users), today 9to5mac reports that in-app purchases and Game Center won’t find their way to Jobs’ latest reinvention of the Mac software environment, either.
Mark Gurman notes:
Apple has informed App Store developers that two major iOS app store features will not make their way ‘back to the mac.’
Note: In app purchases are not available for Mac OS X apps.
Note: Game Center is not available for Mac OS X apps.
As we wrote yesterday, Apple is clearly aiming at a simple purchase experience similar to the iOS App Store, but with less features than the mobile counterpart. Perhaps they don’t want Mac users to feel overwhelmed with new functionalities such as in-app purchases? Maybe they didn’t have time to implement them by the 2011 opening?
Still, we think Game Center on the desktop would be great. And terrible for our productivity.
In-app purchases are something we often don’t think about when playing a game or adding more features to the latest application. “This gravity gun is only an extra ninety-nine cents, and I love this game. So why not?” As customers spend on the latest upgrades, updates, and ad-free in-app purchases, Flurry reports that this model works considerably well. TUAW writes:
Previously to 2010, the games tracked were generating only a few bucks per user per year, but in January the total jumped to around $9, and it’s now in the double digits. Flurry says that money doesn’t include ad revenue — it’s strictly profit from in-app purchases, either unlocking features or selling virtual goods.
Flurry is reporting that as of June, they’re generating $14.66 per user per year. The idea is to get someone interested in your product, then give them the opportunity to add the features they need for an enjoyable experience. More often than not, in-app purchases turn a pretty good profit.