I've noticed that several apps on the iOS App Store offer two purchasing options:

  1. Free app, then an in-app purchase of $x to the full version
  2. The full version of the app for an immediate purchase of $x

(Infuse is one such example)

Given that both purchasing methods get you exactly the same thing (that is, a working full version of the app) why would a developer go to the additional effort to make available both #1 and #2, rather than just have #1 in the App Store?

Please note

I'm looking for fact-based and not opinion-based answers. For example, a fact-based answer is that if you use Family Sharing then IAPs are not supported.

  • 1
    Why are you asking this? Are you making an App to submit or just wondering? – FET Jun 26 '16 at 19:00
  • Apologies, I'm going to buy an app. I just cannot see what the difference between the two purchasing options are - but since they've been offered, there must be something different between them. – Richard Jun 26 '16 at 19:59
  • Please can you mention the app involved – otherwise answers are going to be opinion based. Also, have you asked the developer of the app directly? They are best placed to answer your question. – Graham Miln Jun 27 '16 at 19:18
  • If I mention the app then it makes the question way too specific. I'm just trying to understand what restrictions comes from doing an IAP to get a "full" version vs just buying the full version at the point of download. The fact that if you buy via IAP then others on family sharing cannot take advantage of the purchase is one good example. – Richard Jun 27 '16 at 20:30
  • +1 this is practical, answerable and might be useful to many other buyers of apps. – bmike Jul 16 '16 at 3:28

I followed up with a couple of developers of such apps that provide these two purchasing options.

It turns out that the sole reason that a second standalone purchasing option is offered (rather than just sticking with a single app with an IAP) is for those people who use Family Sharing.

As I alluded to in my question, IAPs don't work across Family Sharing so purchases that way wouldn't be reflected across all the devices you share.

If Apple didn't have this restriction, then a single free app with IAP would work for everybody - however because they do, then it doesn't.


In App-Purchases

This option is particularly useful for long-term use: the App itself is free, this makes it easy to spread to as many users as possible. But then, in the majority of this type of Apps, there are ads implemented which make a huge profit to the developer based on how many users watch them, and as said in then point before, the App is free and this allow users to get it very easily.

Thus, people tend to make IAPs because they usually allow them to get useful stuff in the App (like in a Game) which will grant them many advantages respect the normal free users of the App.

Paid Apps

In this case, I think the App Store has points in advantage as people tend to spend money more than in other platforms. Thus, paid apps, tend to appear more premium, and as they cost money they are extremely well designed and cured in any tiny details in order to make that little price be worth.


In App-Purchases are great to earn when you're probably a beginner and need money but need customers, this way you can spread your Apps and get rewarded!

Paid Apps instead are a great way to serve great products to customers in return of money. People usually love such Apps 'cause they are "Pay once and Play" and thus they have no boring ads.

  • Thanks. However this doesn't really address why spending $X (via an in-app purchase) is any better or worse than spending the same $X at the point of download. – Richard Jun 27 '16 at 17:34
  • Alright, I understand what you mean, updates the answer to cover that as well! @Richard – FET Jun 27 '16 at 18:02

Paid version of an app lets a business or organization pay for many copies one time. That way dozens or hundreds or thousands of employees don't need to handle expense reports or associate credit cards. This is especially important in school settings where pupils might never be expected to have payment for a school owned device.

Also paid apps work better for MDM and VPP programs to manage all the licenses programatically.


I am always willing to pay a little more up front to avoid advertising. I absolutely hate having ads shoveled at me. Formerly free apps that start feeding me ads long after purchase (looking at you, Weather Channel app) really annoy me. It's up to you. For me, a little money out of pocket to support an ad-free experience from the outset is worth it.

  • Thanks. However this doesn't really address why spending $X (via an in-app purchase) is any better or worse than spending the same $X at the point of download. – Richard Jun 27 '16 at 17:34

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .