The Dark Side of Unlimited Free App Updates

| March 25, 2012 | 4 Comments

Apps that can't handle an update can get left behind ...

One of the amazing things about apps is that they are constantly being updated and improved. These updates, for iOS and other platforms, are available to anyone who has previously downloaded the app, free of charge. But like most things, free isn’t really free. The developers of these apps have to take the time to keep things up to date, particularly when the operating system of the device changes.

So what happens if the developer doesn’t want to continue to support a poorly performing app? Sometimes it has minor technical problems but still works. Other times the app is simply too unusable to run and either Apple or the developer simply removes it from the market. But what does that mean for the user? If the app is installed on your device, it may still work depending on the reason it was dropped from iTunes. And if it isn’t installed? The user is out of luck … for all intents and purposes, the app doesn’t exist anymore.

Since the launch of the new iPad and update to iOS 5.1 operating system, I’ve been removing reviews for apps from my database that are no longer available on iTunes. For a few days I was losing reviews faster than I could write new ones. We often hear about how wonderful an app can be, with its unlimited free updates and all, but there is a dark side. That digital purchase doesn’t feel tangible for a reason … it’s not. And the terms we buy our digital media under do not give users the same control they would have with say, a print book, for instance.

Is this a huge deal for most app shoppers? Not really. Chances are that apps removed from the iOS market are not wildly popular in the first place. My only 1/2 star review disappeared recently. No one complained. But this experience does impact consumer psychology, in a world where users are already a little skeptical about the digital revolution. So the next time you update an app, free of charge, consider leaving a quick review or rating if you like the changes/improvements. You may just make someone’s day!

What has your experience with app updates been like? Have you had an app you downloaded (and liked) get removed from iTunes? Other thought?

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Category: 100+ Reviews ... What I've Learned So Far, All About Apps, iPads in Education, Libraries and the Digital Shift

About the Author ()

Carisa Kluver is the the editor of, an iPad children's book review site. She has a BA in Anthropology from UC Berkeley and an MSW from the University of Washington. Before starting this project, she was a school counselor, health educator and researcher in child & maternal health.