A concerning change was quietly pushed to the iOS App Store recently. Users this week noticed that Apple is no longer listing all in-app purchases and their prices for apps and games that offer them.
To clarify, developers have the ability to highlight featured in-app purchases in their app listing page. These appear as a horizontally scrollable list with a large “In-App Purchases” heading between the “What’s New” and “Preview” sections. An example of this is the game Galaxy on Fire 3.
Missing In-App Purchase Information
But these featured in-app purchases were optional, and regardless of whether the developer chose to use them Apple included a complete list of all in-app purchases and their prices as an expanding item in the “Information” section at the bottom of the app listing. We unfortunately don’t have a screenshot of this at the moment because it’s now gone and we never thought Apple would be crazy enough to remove it.
Update: This change also affects the Mac App Store.
For example, take a look at the game Marvel Battle Lines. Apple thankfully still tells you that the game has in-app purchases (via the arguably too small text next to the Get/Buy button), but the developer of this app didn’t elect to include any featured in-app purchases and the complete in-app purchase list in the Information section is nowhere to be found.
The problem with this new policy is that the nature and prices of in-app purchases vary wildly depending on the developer and type of app or game. Users could previously check out the description and prices of the in-app purchases to determine if they were reasonable before downloading or buying an app. Now, it seems, users must download and launch the app to see the same information.
This results in not only an inconvenience for the user, but it also inflates download statistics for app developers and potentially exposes user information as well. Users who are more technically savvy and aware of the risks might simply avoid apps that don’t list their in-app purchases on the store page, but millions of others will be effectively tricked into downloading, launching, and potentially providing information to app developers before they even know if the in-app purchase model for a particular app is acceptable.
In-app purchase information was already slightly hidden, but still available for those who wanted to see it. Apple’s decision to remove it and rely instead on the developers to optionally provide such data is completely anti-consumer and frankly baffling. We can only hope that user feedback forces the company to restore this feature quickly.
The full in-app purchase list has been restored to the iOS 12 App Store. Some initial explanations claim its removal was due to a bug, although its return is welcomed regardless.