Apple Now Charging to Re-Download Apps on the iPhone?


UPDATE: Per comments below, this only seems to be effecting some users and only on 3.0 Beta firmware. We've also added a poll in the forum so we can see what everyone thinks. Beta behavior changes.

Looks like Apple's begun charging full price if you try to download an app you've already bought over the iPhone. This did not used to be the case -- previously you'd be given a dialog stating you'd already bought it and you could go ahead and re-download it for free. Now the dialog says you can still re-download it for free on your computer (via iTunes), but if you want to download it again directly to your iPhone, you've got to buy it again.

What's going on here? Not bandwidth control, since free apps and updates to paid apps are still free. Not device restriction, because you can still re-download for free via iTunes (though it's not as convenient, of course).

We're guessing that with the on-device account management coming to iPhone 3.0 -- where you can log in and out of multiple iTunes accounts right on your iPhone -- Apple is putting this in place to prevent the sharing of purchases between accounts. (Otherwise you could just log into 100 other iPhones with your account and give them all your paid apps right over the air).

We can understand the concern, but we'll miss the functionality. For example, I personally used the re-download ability all the time for app management. E.g I bought a FedEx tracking app that I delete when I'm not expecting anything and re-download when I am. Now I can't do that any time I want any more -- only any time I'm at my computer. I'd much rather keep that and ditch multiple accounts.

What do you think, is multiple on-device accounts worth the loss of free on-device paid app re-downloads?

[Thanks Jordan for the tip, iPhoneDocked for added confirmation]

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Apple Now Charging to Re-Download Apps on the iPhone?


It's def worth it, any restrictions apple tends to put on the iPhone there is always a work around. This is def a smart move on apples part needless to say I also had plans of using the mutiple account login to my advantage. Good job apple impeding my plans.

it should be set up If you have one accont on your device then it runs the coarse of being able to redownload for free. After 2 or more accounts are in place then that "must re-buy" crap should kick in.

Don't their servers know whether you have a given app installed on a device, so they can determine whether to re-download it? It should be the case that Apple's servers know the last device you downloaded the app to, and whether it was deleted. If the last activity was "delete", the server should download the app. If not, the server can tell you the app is installed on device under your account. You can then call that person and tell them to delete the app, so you can download it to your device.

If not, the server can tell you the app is installed on device PHONE NO. under your account.

AWW MAN! i always liked this too. incase i forgot to sync an app and i was on the road when i realized it. grr. oh well. win some, lose some.

Guys can I put in my 2 cents here,
Look up the app "epic pet wars" (this is just an example)
But in epic pet wars they have like 7-9 apps for it, each one is a different price.
I'll tell you why. Let's say you buy the 1.99$ app it will give you like 20 respect points or whatever.
Now I'd you want to get 20 more respect points for 1.99 you can't because you've already bought it.
Now with this change I'll be able to do this
Could apple be changing gears because of these micro pay option free to play apps?

I don't get the message, but I am not on 3.0.
Also, since five computers can still be authorized to use the same iPhone account, you can still have multiple iPhones using the same account for apps.
Re: iPhoneMilk - wouldn't in app purchases allow for this? You could buy respect points, or whatever, directly within the app? This is built in to 3.0.

Also on 3.0, also have not got that message. I hope they don't make this a standard as I really don't like to use iTunes for app management personally.

I just happened to see this message today when redownloading an app I've already purchased (for FREE).

I think it's just a badly phased message, you get the sam message if you try and re-download a free app on the phone.. in face I'm sure the message on 2.0 devices was simular..?

@iPhoneMilk I don't think so, since Apple plans on enabling in-app purchases. Apple has also said free apps would not be able to charge for in-ap....ohhhhh. Good question

I have all 9 pages full on my iPhone, so I am constantly removing and re downloading apps when I need them. I am NOT happy about this apple! :( - please find another way!!!
Apple iPhone users let apple know your opinion!!!

Can't iTunes just read the serial and as long as it's registered to the acount keep the re-downloads free

Most likely this is a case where they have to rewrite a bunch of code to do it the right way so they just tacked on a quick and dirty patch. I bet they come back with an improved method in time for the release of 3.0.

that's what I'm saying I agree with you guys on the new upcoming in app feature
But these micro pay "MMO" games that are free..... I wonder..

i don't really mind it all that much... just don't uninstall apps people.. Why are you uninstalling them in the first place are you running low on Memory?
Just keep them all installed.

@iPhoneMilk To keep the iPhone from being congested. If I put every app I have on my iPhone, there wouldn't be any space.

I don't understand why Apple makes you tether your phone via USB so often. The only time this should be necessary is when you update the OS.

the stupid thing is it's far more likely people would account switch on the desktop as it's less hassle. Maybe apple is trying to lose as many customers as posible to the pre.

In-app purchases, and now this - I'll be using the AppStore far less once 3.0 comes out I suspect.

One word: "beta".
Who knows what Apple is doing. I will indeed miss this functionality should it be removed. However, the software is still beta, so anything is possible.

Hmm, well this is lame. I've also used this a few times when I remove app. Then I'm out and a use comes up for a paid app that I don't have, and I just download it. This is a bummer.

I got charged $19.99 for re-downloading BeeJive two days ago only because I did not read the message (didn't expect it) and just clicked OK. I wish they would send out emails to devs informing them of such policy change ahead of time. This is just ridiculous!!!

Maybe it is now an option to the app developer whether or not the app can be re-downloaded for free if erased. This would account for the inconsistencies people are seeing.
It would be nice if they would just come out and say so.

I hope you will still be able to update for free via the iPhone's App Store. That'd be really dumb if you couldn't. It removes half the purpose of the App Store app.

Why the hell would you want to download it over the air to your iPhone again, if you've already got it on your computer. Just resync it and install the app.
Anyway, aren't all these gripes a little premature since the final product hasn't shipped yet. And true, anyone that's dissatisfied about this should just go and dump their iPhone and get a Palm Pre or Nokia N97 or something. You think those platforms are so great, good for ya. Absolutely no platform is perfect, but I think the Apple mobile platform is about as good as you're gonna get. Take the good with the bad and suck it up.

For example, I personally used the re-download ability all the time for app management. E.g I bought a FedEx tracking app that I delete when I’m not expecting anything and re-download when I am.

How absurd. Why would anyone do this. I doubt this represents the average user.

iTunes and hence its content is authorized via computer only and NOT devices such as the iPhone. If Apple didn't do this, then one could simply use his buddy's password to download an expensive app for free which his buddy had already paid for.
Certainly, verification would be done when the iPhone is reconnected to the computer to sync with iTunes, but one can easily delete the App before that is done (and do the same thing over again).


I bet they come back with an improved method in time for the release of 3.0.

Not unless the bitch level is really high. They may well sneak this in among all the goodies coming with 3.0 in the hopes that everyone will be so thrilled with 3.0 that they will just accept it.
If you use this feature a lot, you should visit the Apple suggestion page and whine.
I've never quite understood why they would let you put two accounts on any given phone. That is just asking for abuse.
Nor do I understand why anyone would want two accounts on their phone unless its to share purchases between friends, which seems borderline dishonest to me.

Personally, I feel this would be ok, if you could either hide apps or have catagories (officially).

most people will likely not use multiple acc's... it should recall if you have and only lock the free redownload if you do.

Isn't that an iPod touch you're downloading the app on?
If you bought the damn app on the iPhone 3G and then re- downloaded it on your machine or another machine, you can do that gazzilion times free-of-charge.. I just tried it on 3 different iPhones..
However, looking at how 3.0 will be free for the 3G while not free for the iTouch, i assume it has something to do with that message you got.. I think they actually did you a favor by allowing a free download via iTunes..

May i also add that once you authorize a computer to a certain account, and then sync your iPhone to it, any app downloaded by another different account won't work.. Just boots back to Home..

Two accounts on the same device is the key to corporate usage. One account is paid by the company, and the other by yourself. Simple as that.


Two accounts on the same device is the key to corporate usage.

Ah, Good point.
Is it typical for Corporate Accounts to be a single account per user, or is it a shared account with multiple phones eligible to download the same app?

This would suck because I NEVER sync my phone with my computer. My original computer broke and if I sync my phone to my new computer I loose all of my music because I don't have back ups. Also, when I do try to sync it takes too hours long.

I guess it would have to be personal accounts. Not everyone in a company will be allowed to download any app, so there must be a way to trace misusage. I believe that in many cases one would have one account connected to your private credit card, and one to your corporate (but still personal) card.

It's a beta. My guess is that they're trying to test another option that developers might have asked for. I'd guess that in the GA version it will depend on what the developer, not Apple wants. That's not to say that Apple may still charge developers for the second download. After all, they've never been a charity.

I will move to the Palm Pre (Verizon) if this is implemented. Apple is walking a fine line with me on the iPhone and I think it is about time for me to jump ship. Apple do not restrict applications on the iPhone even more. I already hate you for what you have done to the app store. (sling player mobile)

@ jared
Apple didn't do anything to sling player mobile if your talking about the inability to stream over 3g. That was ALL At&t's doing....siting the network can't handle the added traffic. And yet they allow Rim and WinMo saying it's too hard(TWShS) to police those devices.

I just got my receipt from Apple for the Re-Download that I 'purchased' - was discussing this with a colleague and we both think that Apple is probably doing some testing, on their production servers.
@ 56 (Rob Renk): I've seen that too, and it happens to my articles on my site too ( These are spammer sites that do nothing but copy articles from other sites hoping to see some love from Google. My advice: Ignore.

For the person who said, "why would you do this, just resync?" that's assuming you love to sync your iPhone all the time. I don't. I only sync it at home, and only when I need to charge it or put music on it. My PIM stuff syncs to the cloud, and I can't 'sync' at work or iTunes gets confused and erases all my apps.
I still bet this message doesn't mean what people think it means or it's in development. This is 'download protection' all over again, download protection is bullshit, and if Apple doesn't know that I will be amazed.

Sounds like something that might happen in a beta. You know, the phase when things don't work right or in their final form? Beta means incomplete, undecided, unfinished and not ready for final commentary. People freaking out about this and harshing on Apple owe it to them to let 3.0 go final before offering hard criticism.

cant you just log onto someone elses phone with ur account download the app tell them to give u half the cost and then just plug ur phone onto itunes and redowload it on ur phone?

If true then this is nothing more than a cash grab. I only hope that if they do this that they will be sharing profits with developers as well.
As we know this is not to cover bandwidth as free apps will still continue to recieve updates for free.

question. I am currently using an itunes account which I don't want to use anymore, as I have a new email address and new credit card. I don't want to use the other one anymore for personal reasons. However, I have downloaded about 70 dollars worth of applications with my old itunes account. Once I sync using my computer with the new account, am i still going to be able to use those apps? Another concern is, updates. I plan on canceling the other account, and so if I have downloaded the application with my old account, sync it, and then my other account is active on my phone, will it let me download? I really don't want to have to waste the applications I already have, not because of the money, but because of the information stored, example...a budget application or numerous other lists, like a shopping list program that has taken me FOREVER to load the items with prices that I like to purchase at the grocery store. To make matters worse, I live in Thailand and nothing ever works properly here. HELP!!!

My laptop where I had iTunes crashed. While setting up everything again on my PC... I lost all my purchased apps... I don't wanna buy them again. I am pissed.

I actually plugged my ipod into my sons computer... This screwed up everything... Now I have the Ipod synced on two different computers and I lost a ton of music I purchased... I know that I can authorize a second computer or up to 5 computers but it is a royal pain!

hey guys, have you tried creating your own iPhone apps, your own iphone icons. It's free at just wanted everyone to know. It's quite awesome. (nope, I'm not a spammer, just wanted to share...)

So I purchased like 30.00 in iTunes from my iPhone. The next day my iPhone was destroyed. A fw days later I purchased another iPhone and now they want to recharge for all the iTunes I have already purchased. So have I lost those iTunes for good?