The popularity of free apps for smartphones have exploded, but do they truly come without a cost? There are a variety of hidden ways in which so-called free apps can still end up taking a user’s money, including bad programming and extra data charges. While these don’t require you to pay the program makers directly, these indirect costs are still going to come out of a user’s pocket one way or another.
Advertising banners use up your data
One way a free app manages to make money for the creator is by running advertising in the app. If users click on the ads the creator gets money. The creator can also get money based on the number of views of the ad.
So how does the creator know a user on the phone has seen the ad or clicked on it? By getting the app to send data back from the phone to the ad servers. That uses up data. A tiny bit of data, but data nonetheless. It probably won’t kill a data plan, but if someone was close to going over it would not be welcome.
Additionally, each of the advertisements is a small image that is being sent over someone’s data stream. Again it uses up your data. According to Science Daily, one study found that free apps use 79% more data than paid apps!
Many ‘free’ apps are actually ‘freemium’
Many free apps don’t cost anything up front. But like a drug dealer, it is only that first hit that’s free. In order for the program to be actually useful, many programs will force you to pay money to get the really useful features they offer. The very basic function is free. But anything premium will cost money.
In some cases, once a user upgrades all the functionality in an app they could end up spending more than if they’d just purchased an app that did what they needed in the first place.
Free apps for children and games often exploit freemium to really cost phone owners a lot of money. The app Gun Bros has an ‘apathy bear’ upgrade to your game’s weapons that costs almost $600. Well, it’s 4,000 ‘war-bucks,’ but to get that many war-bucks you’ll spend that much in real money. Often by hiding behind obscure exchange rates in game, players and children will be charged lots of money.
Poor programming can slow your phone, eat up your battery
It is sometimes said that you get what you pay for. Sometimes developers who haven’t figured out a business model (whether via advertising, paid upgrades or other means) do not have the resources to invest in the quality of programming behind an app. That means some apps can cost a user’s time due to bad interface design.
Buggy programs that eat up too much of a phone’s memory can slow down other apps or even eat through battery life. One study of free apps on phones found that they use 16% to even as much as 33% more energy on the phone. That can leave a user thinking their phone needs upgraded, which can not only cost them lost time playing with the phone but the cost of them upgrading their phone when they didn’t really need to.
Here are some in-app purchases that’ll break your bank – Games Radar