iOS In-app Purchase: From Development To Monetization

19 APR 2016
10 MIN


It is not a secret that any business gets opened in order to receive income. By investing, you expect to get a certain return. Mobile application development requires significant start-up budget. Thus, it is natural that by releasing it you hope to earn. It depends on the specifics of your app which monetization strategy to choose. There are plenty of ways to make money. It is strongly recommended to study them in details before deciding on a certain approach. For this purpose you can check a corresponded article. 

Current publication is going to be focused on one of the most popular monetization models which is in-app purchase. Not only will we look at the characteristics of revenue generation but consider also development process aspects. The theme will be further concretized taking into account that we are going to see the distinctive features of how to turn on in-app purchases on iOS.

Fast facts

So, what does in-app purchase mean? Probably, the explanation comes directly from the title and indicates that this is a purchase which can be accomplished by a customer who uses your application. The items to buy are additional content and subscriptions. If the in-app purchase is enabled, you will see a corresponded note in the Apple App Store.

iOS in app purchase

The worldwide statistic shows that this kind of monetization strategy gets extremely popular. Compared with previous years, there is a fast dynamics as for in-app purchases increasing. This tendency is expected to be kept, that is, the users will be spending money on digital content readily.

Let's take a closer look at the kind of content you can offer as a part of iOS in-app purchase. There are four basic types to consider. They are consumable, non-consumable, non-renewing subscription, and auto-renewing subscription.

Consumable purchases cannot be transferred to another device, as a rule. They include game currency, hints, extra points, etc.

Non-consumable purchases are easy to restore on any device under the same Apple ID. If you lose it for some reason, you might be able to re-download it. Such purchases include removing ads, bonus levels, accessing pro-edition, etc.

iOS in app purchase

Non-renewing subscriptions imply that you are allowed to use a certain content during the fixed period of time.

Auto-renewing subscription means that at the expiration of the chosen period the subscription will be automatically extended.

In-app purchases are widely spread in the applications of different types such as news, readers, magazines, games, etc.

Note that with in-app purchase technology you can only sell digital goods and services. For physical products, you will have to deploy other instruments like a credit card or payment services.

Monetization strategy examples

To get clear as for the things you can sell using in-app purchase technique, I propose to look at the certain examples. I have picked up the apps from different App Store categories to provide you with a full picture of possible solutions.

Vimo is a cool app to make your video more fun and interesting. You can add various stickers, emoticons, themes, thus feeling as a real movie maker. Some of this content goes for free, however, get ready to pay 0.99$ for each additional sticker or 4.99$ for the whole feature set.

How to enable in app purchases

Yum-Yum is a cooking app with more than 1000 step-by-step receipts. Yum-Yum sets itself up as a unique application which covers nearly each possible receipt from different countries all over the world. Some portion of the receipts is available for free. To unlock the full collection, you will have to pay 9.99$.

how to turn on in app purchases

Routes is a route mapping application. Besides this option, it also indicates the points where you can stop during your trip. So, this app will be very helpful if you do not go straightly to the final destination but planning to have a rest in few more places too. For 0.99$ you can unlock 10 destinations whereas for 2.99$ you can get a 1-year subscription.

iOS in app purchase

Netflix - probably, the most popular app for watching movies, TV shows, cartoons, and other video content. Netflix provides an opportunity to unlock, 2 or 4 screens simultaneously for 9.99$ and 11.99$ respectively.

what does in app purchase mean

Spotify is a famous app for searching and listening music. Free mode enables basic options like playing songs, artists, albums, using shuffle mode, etc. Whereas premium subscriptions open ample opportunities as for listening offline, better sound quality, and free from ad usage. The price of premium plan depends on the number of features included and may go up to 16.99$.

iOS in app purchase 3

Fitocracy is a fitness app providing an opportunity to follow free workouts, track personal results, and join communities of likeminded people. It makes money from providing individual diets and workout programs. The sum of the question is 1$ a day.

How to enable in app purchase

How to enable in-app purchases

The basic scheme as for integrating in-app purchase into your store can be accomplished in three steps:

  1. Retrieving product data
    2. Requesting payment
    3. Delivering products 

To retrieve product information, your app will make a request to the App Store and, afterwards, display store UI. On the second step, the user is supposed to select a product and make payment request which is to be processed by the App Store. At the final step, observer gets called and product delivered. For the purpose of clarity, take a look at the figure below:

How to enable in app purchases

Note that for implementing this scheme you will have to deploy Store Kit framework. This is a specially designed mechanism from Apple which acts as a bridge between your application and App Store, also, it guarantees the security of transactions.

Understanding the logic

To turn on in-app purchase in your application and make it work, the Store Kit framework reaches the Apple App Store and connects with it. It tracks the payments which go from your customers and processes them in a secure way. The chain of events continues with the payments authorization. Afterwards, Store Kit sends a notification to your app informing it about a successful transaction. The app, in it's turn, provides appropriate goods to the customers.

It is very important to understand which type of products you are going to sell. The mechanism of the implementation will be different depending on this parameter.

The basic point lies in the synchronization process. The Store Kit framework will launch it for auto-renewable and non-consumable products. It means that having purchased an item or subscription on iPhone, the user will be able to restore it on iPad. Once the subscription period is over, the Store Kit will take care of auto-renewing it. This mechanism will not work for consumable products, though.

As for non-renewing subscriptions, the scheme will be rather different. You will have to calculate the period of active subscription and determine the time when it should be over by yourself. Usually, this logic is implemented on the server side of the application. Particularly, you will have to identify the subscription and user associated with it.

How to enable in app purchases

Gaming apps specific

The games without in app purchases can be counted on one hand. Usually, they can be downloaded for free from the app stores. To make money, the developers allow users to buy game currency, pass certain levels, open additional options, etc.

Games development has it's characteristics. The fact is that they are often coded with the help of special engines on a language different from Objective C or Swift. Although a native application is an undisputed leader in terms of quality, speed, and user experience, the specific of games is that they are often programmed in C#, C++, or C. In this case, only a small portion of native code is needed to implement particular parts of the application.

You might be wondering why this theme is raised up. Here is the point: there is no any alternative to the Apple service as for iOS in-app purchases implementation, however, games are often developed by means of non-native technologies. So, how to include the ability to make purchases into your app in this case? Well, Unity and Marmalade did took care of it. Being the most popular game engines, they offer ready solutions concerning all the aspects of game development, including in-app purchases. You can read more about the process of implementation here.

Note that game development is a very time-consuming and expensive process. Even the simplest game requires significant investments to be implemented.

iOS in app purchase

Main idea

In-app purchase is a great way to make money and not to lose users on the initial stage. Making your application free or relatively cheap to download, you increase the number of customers who are ready to install it. Opening the opportunity to make purchases inside the app, you hold the customers, as often they use the application on a continuing basis if the money is spent.

The applications of different types successfully deploy this monetization strategy. The most popular types of built-in purchases include paid subscriptions to premium accounts, selling additional content, switching off the advertising, providing content of higher quality, organizing individual programs for the users, etc.

We have looked though the mechanism of how to allow in-app purchases in your app and considered the peculiarities of implementation depending on the product type you sell. We have also took a glance at the gaming apps specific since you will have to involve additional mechanisms to implement in-app purchase in such application.

At Cleveroad, we have been dealing with numerous projects. It is pleasant to admit that our experience extends to nearly all the application types including social networking, entertainment, education, games, and others. Working with different technologies, we do know how to produce a high-quality product of a great user experience.

I hope this article's helped to get clear as for what in-app purchase is. For more information concerning this question or any other aspects of the custom iOS app development process, feel free to contact our specialists. They will provide you with the comprehensive information in the shortest terms.

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