Subscription-based applications have become incredibly popular on iOS over recent years, and TechCrunch is out today with a look at how “sneaking subscriptions” are plaguing some App Store offerings. The report explores the various tactics employed by some developers to seemingly trick users into agreeing to App Store subscription pricing.
In its research, TechCrunch found that the most-often offending applications are certain utilities, which offer functionality that can generally be found for free, yet rank as some of the top-grossing apps on the App Store.
One such app is simply called “Scanner App,” which SensorTower data suggests earns some $14.3 million per year from App Store subscription revenue:
Tap around in the app and you’ll be constantly prompted to subscribe to a subscription ranging from $3.99 a week to $4.99 per month, or start a free trial. But the subscription following the free trial kicks in after only 3 days — something that’s detailed in the fine print, but often missed. Consumers clearly don’t understand what they’re agreeing to, based on their complaints. And many of the negative reviews indicate customers feel they got duped into paying.
Perhaps the most egregious offender was Weather Alarms, an app that was removed from the App Store this weekend by Apple, after TechCrunch tipped the company off on its practices. The app utilized what is known as a “dark pattern” to trick users into agreeing to a free trial, which then converts to a subscription of up to $20 per month.
Here it is in action:
This dark pattern is the best (stolen from full screen ads). The (x) close button animates in after a few seconds so that people don’t see they have a way to get off the page. Watch the upper left of the subscription page: pic.twitter.com/DaRJPvdu5Q
— David Barnard (@drbarnard) April 17, 2018
As TechCrunch notes, many of these issues stem from consumers not reading the fine print, but many legitimate developers say these type of tactics are degrading the quality of the App Store as a whole.
David Barnard, developer of Weather Atlas and Launch Center Pro, for instance, says it’s “incredibly frustrating” to see Apple doing so little to prevent these scams:
“It’s incredibly frustrating how little has been done to thwart these scams,” he told TechCrunch. “It erodes trust in the App Store, which ultimately hurts Apple and conscientious developers who use subscriptions.”
What do you think of these sort of App Store subscription tactics? Let us know down in the comments.
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