Free iPhone Apps Get Upgrade Payment

iPhone developers rejoice!

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) has switched on its e-commerce feature for free iPhone and iPod Touch apps, which means that developers won’t have to make multiple versions for free and paid mini-programs running on the devices.

Prior to the change, Apple allowed payment transactions for content, subscriptions and digital services only in apps priced at $0.99 and up.

This meant developers had to create duplicate versions of the same app, such as a free one to get users interested, and a separate premium version with more features. Now, they can include the option to upgrade to the premium level in the free version.

There are restrictions, however, on how the feature can be used within free apps.

“You may use the In App Purchase API only to enable end users to purchase content, functionality, or services that you make available for use within Your Application (e.g. digital books, additional game levels, access to a turn-by-turn map service),” the company said. “You may not use the In App Purchase API to offer goods or services to be used outside of your application.”

Apple also specified that developers can’t offer users virtual currency or sell virtual items that expire after a period of time.

In theory, the new policy also means the Apple App Store won’t be flooded with similar versions of the same applications. It also could help prevent piracy, according to Apple.

“Using In App Purchase in your app can also help combat some of the problems of software piracy by allowing you to verify In App Purchases,” Apple said in an e-mail to registered developers.

The news should be welcomed by app developers who have had ongoing issues with how Apple authorizes the mini-programs for inclusion in the popular App Store. Some coders say the process lacks consistent criteria for app approval and that Apple is not forthcoming in its reasons for rejecting some apps.

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