A Word About Free iOS Apps

Did you know that once you purchase an app, you can always download that app again for free? This is handy for apps that have been accidentally deleted or you want to download a purchased app onto a second computer or device.

As you might have noticed, an app can change price. Prices often go up and down. For example, in April I bought the student response app eClicker Host for $24.99. In May, the price was reduced to $9.99, and the app continues to be priced at less than half what I paid. Developers have the freedom to change prices at any time.

To tell the truth, you can live happily without ever paying for an app because a large portion of apps are free. In fact, 30% of the apps in the App Store are free of charge. App developers price their apps at $0 for many reasons:

  • the app makes money from advertising
  • the entire app is an advertisement
  • the app is a "lite" version of a paid app
  • the app does not make money for the developer

Another reason an app may be offered for free is that the developer wants to build buzz for the app. Often apps are offered for free for a day or two before returning to the original price. For example, SonicPics is currently priced at $2.99. I happened to have downloaded the app in April when the app was offered for free for one day.

Remember that app downloads, whether they are free or paid, are associated with a single iTunes account. If an app is for classroom use, be sure to download it using the classroom or school iTunes account so that it can be installed on the devices that use that account.

When you download a free app for use on a classroom set of handhelds, I suggest documenting it. If the school is audited by Apple, you then have proof the app was purchased for free.

There are a number of sources that provide timely information on app price reductions:

  • AppShopper.com and the AppShopper app provide many search options. I like the Popular Price Changes in Education page. You can limit that page to just iPhone or iPad apps. Education isn't the only app category with great apps for students, so you it might be worth checking out Popular Price Changes in All Categories. AppShopper is nice enough to provide web feeds for these price reduction lists.
  • Twitter users frequently share apps they have found on sale. Even if you don't have a Twitter account, you can search Twitter for #edapp free to see if there are any current deals.
  • iTunes lists Top Free Apps in Education (and top free apps for all other categories). Apps that are on sale often climb to the top of the Top Free Apps lists as users grab them before the price reverts back to paid.
  • FreeAppAlert tracks paid iPhone apps that just became free. You can get their alerts via email if you'd like. Similarly there's Free App a Day, but it focuses mainly on games.

If you have any kind of inkling that you might use a free app, I suggest "purchasing" it while it's on sale. You can immediately delete the app if you don't want the app taking up space on your device or in your iTunes library. Like paid apps, you can always download an app you "purchased" for free again from the App Store. This works even after the app has increased in price. In other words, you can download a free app, delete it, and re-download it for free anytime in the future, even if the app is no longer offered for free.

To re-download an app, you will have to click its price in the App Store. This will make it seem like you are going to have to pay for it. However, after entering your password, the App Store will display a message that you have already purchased the app and kindly informs you that you can re-download free of charge.

Obviously, paying attention to price reductions can save lots of money, especially when it comes to class sets of iOS devices.