Free Apps for your iPhone, or more likely your kid’s, can cost you a lot…$100? $500?

Ever wonder how people make money when you download a free app for your smart phone or tablet? So did I, until I read this article about Apple’s app store on, and downloaded the free Tap Pet Hotel on my iPhone. It’s a cute game app: you build a pet hotel and attract pets by building more rooms and giving treats.

It was free—I built a reception area and a washing room and was on my way to acquiring a panda—all I had to do was build a “jungle room” to house it. Then I got this notice:

“Purchasing a jungle room costs 75 coins. You only have 47 coins. Would you like to get more coins?”

I clicked “yes” and got the price list. I had these choices:

Vial of coins: 75 coins for $0.99

Pouch of coins: 165 coins for $1.99

Can of coins: 450 for $4.99

Bottle of coins: 938 for 9.99(25% extra for free)

Satchel of coins:  5250 for $49.99 (40% extra for free)

Trunk of coins:  11,250 for $99.99 (50% extra for free)

You can also buy treats for similar prices.

Apple aims games at kids, calls them “free,” then seduces them into spending big money to continue to play. There’s a warning on the download screen that purchases are available in the app, but I bet most kids won’t even read the warning, let alone heed it. That’s why this free app is Apple’s #2 grossing game app.

Apple should be ashamed.


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