Buying an app from the App Store is designed to be as easy as possible. A large button with a price tag sits as close to the app’s icon and name as possible, while additional details linger below. You’re not supposed to think or worry too much about each purchase — the transaction is impulse-driven when the price is low — and the implication is that the app will work when you get it, and keep working for a long time thereafter.
But what happens when an app — marketed as compatible with current iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches — is never updated for the latest version of iOS, and either stops working after an iOS upgrade, or never works at all on new devices? That’s the situation buyers of Square Enix’s $18 The World Ends with You: Solo Remix (and $20 iPad version) have found themselves in since iOS 8 was released. The game’s description claims that it “requires iOS 4.3 or later” and is compatible with devices that shipped with iOS 8, but it wasn’t actually iOS 8-compatible. Yesterday, Square Enix publicly flip-flopped on whether it would leave the game unplayable or fix it. Before changing its tune, the company told customers that they’d need to continue to keep using iOS 7 in order to play the game — an unrealistic alternative, though one that’s faced by users of numerous iOS apps that aren’t being updated by their developers.
By considering abandonment of the 69% of iOS users who are currently on iOS 8, Square Enix wasn’t just making a business choice; it was also spotlighting the risk App Store customers take every time they purchase an app. And it also revealed how long-unsolved App Store listing ambiguities are subjecting users, developers, and Apple itself to unnecessary problems.
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