Shady Practices in the App Store

BNO News for the iPhone

I’m seeing a new trend in the App Store in iTunes that scares me a little. Charges and (sorta) hidden fees that come along with a paid app. I am limiting this to paid apps because I am under the system of belief that free apps have the right to charge for an added feature set. My first aggravation came along with an application my buddy recommended to me. BNO Breaking News. It was an app that he had found which solved the “I have an idea for an app” conundrum. I don’t why I call it a conundrum, but I’m keeping it. So continuing, he was ecstatic when he found his app for sale. BNO Breaking News is a real simple application that simply sends the user ‘push notifications’ to the user’s iPhone. I was pretty impressed with the idea and that he found an application that perfectly met his needs and expectations. He told me about it and without much hesitation I downloaded it while I was still on the phone with him.

The charges started with the application costing 1.99. Not a bug deal, but I see that number as a paid app that is viewed by the developer as semi-premium. Many of the applications that cost to download “paid applications” are .99. Little differences like a dollar make a big difference. I was not paying a close attention to the fine print in the description, but BNO’s plan was to offer the application at 1.99, with a trial period. To get more than one news update a day a subscription plan is required. For a year’s worth of news pushed to my iPhone it would cost a total of $13.97. In my opinion it’s just not that good of an application to call for a $14 price tag.

The part that really got me fired up enough to write a negative review for the app was that there was a change in the application in an update. Conveniently, BNO added an account button inside the application. There really is no real reason to enter the application otherwise. Just make sure push is enable in settings, and the app just sits there. I consider this bad design, and that’s being kind and rational. I look at this as a hidden charge which I refer to as an app store bait and switch. So, unfortunately there is an application on my phone which is useless. I am not willing to pay $13.97 to use this application, being under the impression that 1.99 was the real price. But with the faceless customer service and developer support that is the iTunes App Store, I think this kind of ethically challenged business practices will continue for sometime.

The combination of one-click, impulse buying together with faceless customer service, makes screwing customers easier developers. It’s just good business.

BNO News Screenshot