Consumable IAPs Shouldn’t Exist

There are a few types of In App Purchases: Consumable, Non-consumable, and various subscription types. The recent (and ongoing) frustration is over games that use the Consumable type. Some games, like Angry Birds Space, use it for “ammunition”, while others like countless “something zoo something” games use it for in game currency that is otherwise hard to achieve. From the In App Purchase documentation:

  • Consumable products must be purchased each time the user needs that item. For example, one-time services are commonly implemented as consumable products.
  • You may not offer items that represent intermediary currency because it is important that users know the specific good or service they are buying.

All those semi-scammy zoo apps get around that “intermediary currency” rule because they don’t sell “200 Coins” they sell “Barrel of Coins” and “Chest of Coins”.

But why do we need this type? I won’t argue that it doesn’t make money (albeit perhaps mostly at the expense of children’s parents) but what’s wrong with the other models? Would you really tolerate if you had to buy your ammo in Halo 4 200 missiles at a time? Of course not. But I bet you’d be willing to pay once for new net maps or a bigger missile launcher that you could use any number of times. This is how the “mighty eagle” worked in the “classic” Angry Birds games: a one time purchase for something you could use over and over again, but otherwise didn’t NEED to complete the game.

To get off the topic of games, let’s look at Photoshop Express (no, not Photoshop Touch). It’s a free app that offers an IAP for more filters/effects like median blurring-err I mean “noise reduction”. This “freemium” app is very near the top of the top grossing without doing anything “evil” or scummy. Many have argued that is the tactic Instagram should’ve/could’ve used to generate its own income.

IAP are the closest Apple is ever going to give us to upgrade pricing, other than the “Coda 2” method. But we, as developers, need to use them properly. iDecorate 3.2, currently awaiting approval, offers new content as non-consumable IAP. You pay once, and you can use the new stamps as many times as you like on any of your devices. I’m not taking away anything from current users. I’m not not gouging with consumables. I’m not marooning non-upgraders with a static version forever (the worst part about the “Coda 2” method).

I hope we can all agree that for apps without server side components, all we need are non-consumable IAPs. The market is proving otherwise, but maybe we can persuade Apple to do the right thing.


  • I purchased both Coda and Coda 2 from the App Store
  • I have purchased the add ons for Photoshop Mobile
  • Mighty Eagles are actually easy enough to earn in Angry Birds Space so they’re merely “less evil” than the zoo apps.