How much does an app cost?

 

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How much does an app cost?

A smartphone with a large selection of app icons

What's coming up

In this activity, we will explain the costs of apps. Most apps are free, so using apps doesn't have to cost any money at all.

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An example of an app that is available free and as a paid version - in this case, Spider Solitaire

Free apps and paid apps

Many apps are free to download onto your phone or tablet, but some will cost money. Paid apps usually cost between $1 and $10, although some specialised apps cost more.

In most cases, however, you can find a free app able to do the same things as a paid app.

Free vs paid versions

Often, there is a free and a paid version of an app. Both apps may be the same, except that the free version contains ads that help pay the creators of the app.

In other instances, the paid app version might be better and provide more features than the free app.

Reading the information page for each app version will help you decide which one to choose.

A typical advertisement that pops up when you are using a free app
An example of an app in the official app store indicating that there will be in-app purchases

What are in-app purchases?

Some free apps come with in-app purchases that, for example, let you pay for extra content, upgrade to an ad-free version or unlock new levels in a game. Often, you may not be aware of what you’re spending, and a free app can quickly become very expensive.

Being aware of in-app purchases

The online app stores indicate when an app has in-app purchases. If you install the app and decide to make an in-app purchase, you will need to enter a password.

Additional purchases, however, can be made for up to 30 minutes without having to re-enter the password – enough time for you to make several purchases without realising it.

An app user who has just discovered she has been paying for features in an app without realising it
Password protection is one way of controlling in-app purchases for your peace of mind and your wallet

Managing in-app purchases

You can avoid unexpected costs from in-app purchases by changing some settings on your device.

  • Require a password for every in-app purchase, not just the first purchase.
  • Disable in-app purchases.
  • Use online app store gift cards instead of your credit or debit card to help limit spending.

Stop in-app purchases on an iPhone

You can switch off in-app purchases entirely on your iPhone. Look for General in the Settings app and then Restrictions. There you find a switch for In-App purchases. You will need to set a four digit passcode. You should write down the passcode somewhere safe in case you do ever want to make an in-app purchase.

A four-digit restriction code is a way of preventing unexpected expenditure on in-app purchases on your iPhone or iPad
For Android users, a PIN is required every time an in-app purchase is requested

Stop in-app purchases on an Android phone

Android phones don’t have a special setting to stop in-app purchases. But they do require you to enter your password or PIN every time you make one.

You can change that setting inside the Play Store. Look for Require authentication for purchases. One setting lets you make purchases without a PIN/password. With another, you’ll only enter the PIN/password every half hour.

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eSafety Tip: watch out for download costs

An app might be free, but downloading it will cost you some of your monthly mobile data allowance – unless you’re on Wi-Fi. That’s especially important to consider if you have a small mobile data allowance.

To save your mobile data, try to install apps when you’re at home and connected to Wi-Fi. For more on Wi-Fi and mobile data, see the course on Wi-Fi and mobile networks

Stop apps from using mobile data on your iPhone

To stop all apps from using mobile data, go to the Mobile data section of your Settings app and switch it off there. Then no apps – including things like Facebook and your browser – will use your data allowance. If you scroll down in Settings, you can switch mobile data off individually for the apps that use it.

Switching off 'Mobile data' in your phone's Settings menu will stop apps from using up all of your expensive mobile data allowance without you realising it
A typical Android smartphone

Stop apps from using mobile data on your Android phone (part 1)

To stop all apps from using mobile data, go to the Network & internet settings in your phone. Switch off Mobile data in the Data usage section. Then, even apps like Facebook and your browser won’t use your data allowance.

Stop apps from using mobile data on your Android phone (part 2)

Under Apps & notifications in the settings, you can switch off Background data for individual apps. With that off, the app won’t download data when it’s not showing on your screen.

The Background Data switch in the Settings of an Android smartphone
Checking what time the art gallery opens using an app on a smartphone

Congratulations!

Well done. You’ve reached the end of the How much does an app cost? activity. You've learned that you can choose between free and paid apps and that you can purchase additional features inside some apps.

Next up, we'll get into how to choose the best app for you in the activity Choosing apps.