How to: Protect Yourself From In-App Purchaser’s Remorse

Apple has tools to save you from unexpected in-app purchases if you take the time to change a few settings on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad.

The sad truth about the Danny Kitchen story is that it didn’t have to happen that way. With just a few extra precautions, the Kitchens could have let Danny play to his heart’s content without fear or repercussions.

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Yes, some app developers use in-app purchases in nefarious ways and bilk unsuspecting parents. But Apple has tools to protect yourself if you take the time to change a few settings on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad.

Require a Password Every Time

The first step to sanity is to require a password every time you make a purchase through the App Store (which includes any in-app purchases). By default, Apple remembers your password for 15 minutes, which comes in handy when you want to download a couple apps quickly. When left in the hands of a curious child, though, this default can be costly.

To require a password for every purchase, open the Settings app on your iOS device, then go to General. Select the section named Restrictions. By default, Restrictions are disabled – to take advantage of this setting, you must Enable them at the top of the screen. You will be prompted to set a passcode (the passcode keeps your Restriction settings from being changed).

Once you’ve set a passcode, scroll down to the Allowed Content section. At the very bottom, change the Require Password setting to Immediately from the default setting of 15 minutes. From now on, every App Store purchase (in-app or new app) will require your Apple password.

Disable In-App Purchases

You can choose to go the thermonuclear route and disable all in-app purchases. In the same Restrictions screen as above, you can slide the On/Off slider next to In-App Purchases to Off. That will completely disable all in-app purchasing.

Why Allow In-App Purchases At All?

Some parents might be asking why Apple doesn’t just do away with ALL in-app purchases. Sensational stories of in-app purchases that make the news focus on developers that create nefarious schemes to bilk people out of money. Many responsible developers, however, use the in-app purchase system to offer a free (or significantly cheaper) version of their software for people to try out. If you like the trial version, you can unlock features (or new levels) through in-app purchases. It also gives game developers a reason to continue developing new content for games – they can create add-ons, levels, expansions, etc. for the game and charge an extra dollar or two to give players access to new content (not unlike DLC content on consoles).


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