Apple's 12 Days of Gifts prove giving can be hard

Apple is onto Day 4 of their 12 Days of Gifts, and while the sentiment was and is wonderful, there have been some hiccups along the way, both technical and expectational. Gifting at scale - and we're talking hundreds of millions of people here - is something very difficult to implement. So what's gone wrong and how could it be fixed?

Earlier this week, Apple gave away TV episodes. The link, however, took people to the paid TV show season listing, not the free individual episode. That led to confusion and complaints and, eventually, to the gift being changed for an app. However, there remained some confusion as to whether or not the episode and app had been free prior to Apple's promotion, leading to the perception that they may not have been the "gifts" everyone was expecting.

That's Apple's biggest challenge here - expectations. Today's free gift is a kids app. Unfortunately, people who aren't happy about that - or simply don't understand it - are now leaving bad reviews on the app's App Store page, which is detrimental to the developer.

On the surface, it might seem like the best solution would be to use something akin to Genius to target individualized recommendations to people based on their specific entertainment and app tastes. Yet Apple has to broker agreements with every studio, label, or developer whose song, show, or app they gift, and that's simply not possible on an individual basis.

Even working out a handful of deals and trying to do best matches could prove tricky, as no doubt a percentage of people would end up preferring - or simply thinking they'd prefer - one of the other gifts, which would result in similar confusion and complaints.

Being able to link directly to free episodes rather than paid seasons would eliminate one potential pain point. Perhaps putting some big, bold context-setting copy on the gift page, above the claim button, could eliminate another. "Day 4 - Kids game!" could set expectations before an app is downloaded.

Either way, if you're not happy with a gift, let Apple know (opens in new tab), or ask about it here on iMore or on Twitter. Whatever you do, don't take it out on the artist or the developer.

In other words, stay classy!

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Apple should provide an easy way to give feedback. Dont blame users if they get something they dont like and there is no easy way to provide feedback. Sent from the iMore App
  • Doesn't get any easier than this: Leaving a negative comment on an app's store page because you're unhappy that Apple included it in a promotional giveaway is utterly ridiculous.
  • "How dare Apple offer something free to me that I don't like!" The people complaining are those who feel entitled. I looked, saw it was a kids app I had no use for, and moved on. Maybe something better will come along in the future, but other than 30 seconds of anyone's time, there's absolutely no loss.
  • Same here. Sent from the iMore App
  • Exactly. This is the first year Apple is doing this in the US. I have no expectations as to what they are going to offer. Kind of like when a real person is thoughtful enough to think of you. (Corporations are people too ;)) somewhere, there's a saying "take what you like and leave the rest" 12 days of free... sheesh.
    Btw. Thank you Apple
  • [high five] Sent from the iMore App
  • These are probably the same people who complain on twitter that mommy got me a black iPhone instead of a white one. Also, one review said that the yellow creature has nipples and that's inappropriate for kids to see. Imagine the shock the first time they see Daddy with pout a shirt on, or worse, themselves in a mirror with GASP!!! nipples!!!
  • +1
  • People aren't going to go through the trouble of navigating to that page and leaving feedback. Make it an easier process. The app should have a popup asking people if they liked the gift or not.
  • Exactly. And that's the reason why nothing is improved as fast as "people" want. They love to complain but don't give a poo about being part of the solution. Sent from the iMore App
  • Especially since the developers (especially small ones) probably get little or nothing from Apple, participating in the gift program primarily for increased exposure. Undeserved bad reviews are a *double* kick in the teeth for these folks. Sent from the iMore App
  • People want their voices to be heard and be seen, especially on the internet. For an app, writing a review is the best was to do this. And its appropriate too, I don't see the aforementioned 'feedback' link on their app page. Don't take it out on the developer? Well the 'developer' is responsible for the content in which it provides. A developer is just as responsible for the content as they are the app performance and ease of use. You wouldn't be too happy if you downloaded a eBook reader with the expectation of an extensive library only to find 3 books in its catalogue, would you? Doesn't get any easier than this, if the mass doesn't appreciate 'kids games' and have higher expectations.. let them voice their opinion.. And let them use the appropriate forum, in this case, an app review.
  • Missed the part where people are actually giving the FEATURED apps a bad review, sheesh thats not right.
  • Stupid or lazy yeah blame the user.
  • I totally agree. I was expecting some in the top 100 paid apps or books, or Apple-developed apps like those in iWork. My personal preferences are Camera+, Noir Photo, Pro HDR, Reeder 2, NBA 2K14. Or Apple may give iTunes Gift Cards for us to download our preferred app/book/song per day. But I know that's not how it works.
  • Every other year has been rubbish, so at least in the UK we knew what was coming.
  • I don't know why people are leaving reviews/comments on the gifted app... If they want to comment/review an app wouldn't it make more sense to do it on the 12 Days of Gift's app? Personally, my expectation going in was that there will probably several "gifts" that would not apply to me, but that was not an issue.
  • "wouldn't it make more sense to do it on the 12 Days of Gift's app?" YES.
  • Ah yes whining childishly about something you just got for free is definitely the spirit of the holidays. Glad we all nailed that one.
  • Agreed! Thank you for saying that. No wonder why children have a sense of entitlement these days. I'm grateful for the free gifts that I like and I don't comment on the stuff that I don't like. It's free!
  • I agree with you rhinostilts. They are free items for crying out loud. Apple didn't have to do this, but they did and all you people do is bitch when its not what you want. You all do know no one is forcing you to download it? And if you expected something more....I feel sorry for your parents, you must have been a hard kid to please at Christmas.
    BTW, all you complainers - when is the last time you did something free for someone? Did you expect that person to be grateful or unpleased?
  • If there's one thing more annoying than people complaining about free stuff is the righteous army that comes in complaining about the people complaining.
  • Everyone is just a bunch of whiny bitches. I love the holidays - brings out the best in everyone
  • ...and the people complaining about the people complaining about the people complaining...
  • Same with the naval gazing about what Apple can/should do differently.
  • Haha, right on!
  • Seriously? I'm surprised that there aren't complaints that Apple isn't giving $1 million to everyone on day 5 !
  • It is a sad situation. I like your very simple title change as being a big help with setting expectations. Sometimes the simplest steps aren't taken just because they don't solve the whole problem . If it is simple and it it!
  • You don't need the app to get these deals. They're free on the itunes Store for everyone.
  • It's a gift people. Why are you complaining about a GIFT! It didn't cost you anything and you want to complain. What kind of society are we, that we want to complain about something a company is offering you for free as a gift. It's the thought that count! They never promise that every gift would be something you like. If it's something you want then buy it yourself. Again, it's a GIFT! Sent from the iMore App
  • Its a GIFT. But a CRAP one ;) Sent from the iMore App
  • Lol Sent from the iMore App
  • Why is it so difficult for apple to give their apps like pages for free? They are just giving us a bunch of crap in the name of gift. Sent from the iMore App
  • Apple is giving away Pages, Numbers, Keynote, GarageBand, iPhoto, and iMovie for free to everyone who buys a new device.
  • Isn't that limited only to new iOS devices? Why cant it be "GIFTED" to every device running iOS7? I have iPhone 5 and I Didn't get any of the iLife or iWork applications.
  • I feel like they don't have to give you anything. When was the last time you walked into a Walmart and they handed you a free tub of butter or something else?
  • That's exactly his point as well. When they aren't interested in giving away anything, why are they even saying they are giving something. Its not like MS is giving free stuff on WP or Google is giving away something on Android. Why are Apple setting such a worst possible example?
  • Everything they've gifted I haven't wanted so I'm disappointed in the choices. Good thing it's free but to chastise those complaining of not getting what they want for free is silly. If you're a man and someone says I'm gonna give you a free pair of pantyhose would you not be upset? Regardless if it's free or not you're going to want stuff you like
  • You would get upset if someone offered you free pantyhose? "No, thank you" would suffice. I think more men would be upset if they WEREN'T offered them, even if they aren't the target demographic.
  • "Thanks, my sister/mother/wife/daughter will love these!" :)
  • Sure, sure, whatever. They have some right to be whiners I guess. To hit the developer of the app instead of telling Apple is the work of mental midgets, without a doubt.
  • There are still probably millions of people (and different people every day) delighted with the gifts that don't interest you the same way. Perhaps tomorrow the gift will be exactly what -you- want, and it will be your day... and millions of others that day, too. Relax, kick back, enjoy the holidays, and appreciate that lots of people are getting a little happy surprise each day, and your day is sure to come up soon.
  • You people disgust me.
    Do you all live in some fantasy world where you think everything you want the next person does too? I guaranty anyone on here that would make a list of the items they want for free, the next person would complain about those items too. No one can be happy, so get over yourself.
    Its freaking free items - If I want it I download it - if not, I pass it up. I don't write to Apple being a whiny little bitch because I didn't get what I "Expected" to get - like they owe me something. I bet you all also think there nothing wrong with the christmas shoppers killing each other over stupid crap. Apple should just pull the app and say F you all, you ungrateful bastards. Seriously - Seriously - Seriously
  • I think they live in a world where it's rude to down vote app developers just because someone doesn't like that it was offered for free. A world where if you don't like a free offer, you just politely decline rather than have a baby fit. It's called the actual world.
  • Yeah, these unappreciative snobs need to learn to appreciate gifts. I suppose when they were children and got Super Nintendos for Christmas, they complained to their parents that they didn't buy them Sega Genesises. And then ranting about 12 Days of Gifts in the Toca House reviews? uggghhhhhhhh morons
  • Definitive slow-news-day blog posting :-(
  • I'd say complaints on the devs app page got the desired effect or attention. You can't tell consumers what to do. This is on apple for not managing expectations or simply not delivering on the hype they gave this. If that's even the case. I'm sure the dev benefitted much more than a few one star reviews (apple shined a spotlight on him). What did he expect when it was bumped to free?
  • I'm not so thrilled about all the gifts either, but I'm not going to cause damage to a developer leaving a bad review because that's not what I expected. Learn to differentiate one thing from the other.
  • I know, right? Unappreciative snobs who get pissed off when they don't like a gift... and then vent their anger somewhere completely irrelevant? Complaining about 12 Days of Gifts in the Toca House reviews? Boy does that piss me off.
  • Absolutely agree.
  • Word! I feel bad for those developers that were affected by those disappointed with Apple's gifts. I hope Apple can do something about it.
  • I grabbed the app anyway just so I could give them a 5-star to help make up for the bloodsuckers that are down voting them. Rest of you guys should do it too. You can always remove it once it's installed, but do the devious a solid, and help offset the entitled whiners.
  • Good idea. I really empathize with the developers for having to put up with morons.
  • Its okay that they "gift" this apps but it will be better if they say its a kids app or something for example "Day 1: action game" "Day 2: Racing game" "Day 3: World builder game" "Day 4: kids game" I might end up deleting the app... Sent from the iMore App
  • Here's three solutions. 1 - Using your purchasing history, find an app/book/movie/tv show/song in the promotion that the genius recommends. That would allow promoting more than the 12 individual items. 2 - Allow developers the right to respond to reviews. Too many reviews from people that don't know how to use apps, don't read the details on the app before purchasing, or are just flat out stupid humans leaving bad reviews. 3 - Stop giving away free stuff.
  • It doesn't matter. My predication has proved true so far. Which is that everything so far that is on this app are not worth getting.
  • Oh is that why I got two gifts on Day 2? First "Once upon a Time" pilot episode, and then midway though the day I got "Tiny Thief"
  • People just like to complain. It is free people, Apple doesn't have to give anything. Man people need to just calm down, or shut up if you are just going to complain about something free. "OMG its not something I like, my life is going to be so much worse now" boo hoo people
  • It's because other companies like Google give away much better gifts for free and hence set the bar pretty high.
  • All these morons leaving bad reviews on today's gift app are really pissing me off. 12 Days of Gifts is giving you that app for FREE. If you don't like Toca House, then oh well. It's not like you paid anything for it. And even if you don't like the gift, it's not the developer's wucking fault. Stop leaving complaints about 12 Days of Gifts in the Toca House reviews. Shut your damn mouths and stop taking the gift for granted, you unappreciative snobs.
  • It really is quite sad how people complain when they are given things for free. We've had this giveaway for many years now. I don't expect much but it's a nice gesture and sometimes I'm giving something I may not have looked at before. I saw that today's was a kids app. I have young children so I happily moved on. Is it that hard. These giveaways cater to all so there will have to be variety. You're not obligated to download it. And really, who in their right mind would leave a comment on the app when it's Apple making the decisions on what's free. Can we not just all be grateful for these free things during the holidays. Seems no matter what platform, folk just can't be thankful.
  • What app was the day 2 gift changed to? Wish I would have known. Oh well, I'm not complaining. It's free. I was just confused by the page I landed on when I clicked the link that day. I didn't bother downloading it. Sent from the iMore App
  • ... [Feeling like Linus in the Charlie Brown special where everyone is fumbling the true issue of the moment] HEY APPLE!!
    How'bout you pole everyones' iTunes "Wish Lists" for the 12 most popular media items (either directly or the top 12 of music, movies, apps, and books and then provide a random draw for the gifts). Those 12 items are your "gifts" for the "12 Days of...". The least popular is offered on day 12 and the most popular is offered on day 1.
    Once you have your list, confer with all parties involved... If someone declines, move to the next most popular time on the list until - well, you get how this works - you have a suitable list of agreeable donators to the "gift" list. Ta-daa! [I'd like a check made out to "Cash" for solving this perplexing riddle for you, sincerely, "this guy"] xD
  • Ya, this whole thing is kind of ridiculous. It's FREE. Beggars can't be choosers Sent from the iMore App
  • Do a search to understand the god damn meaning of GIFT and then feel free to bitch around. gift (n.) 1.something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to honor a person or an occasion or to provide assistance; present. 2.the act of giving. 3.something bestowed or acquired without being sought or earned by the receiver. Remember, Apple is NOT your mommy! And, Apple was / is under NO obligation to waste a few million $$ giving us GIFTS / FREE items. If you don't like it, leave it and ask google to give you what you like. Then again, google doesn't even know how to spell gift without some Ads! Be thankful. Be respectful. And, don't behave like android users / Andy Rubin. As for me, I didn't even download their App because I knew they wouldn't give me what I like. I am, however, well capable of using my own allowances and buy things / Apps I like most. FWIW, I would never EVER listen to anything from that kid Justine Bieber even if it was FREE! LMAO
  • "Be thankful. Be respectful. And, don't behave like android users / Andy Rubin." You had a reasonable post until there. To label all Android users as spoiled when there's some pretty clear evidence iOS users do the same things is incredibly rude. I use both iOS and Android and I'm personally offended. Why did you feel the need to tear a whole, unrelated user base down? Have to admit, I skipped the Bieber gift too.
  • Honestly, I love Internet and this has become my biggest weakness! That is, OMG Internet is down ... now what to do ... kind of guy! With that said, since last few years all these arguments between Apple & Android users have made monsters out of some of us. These topics are like every site I browse! Let me get to my point here without further rambling. My sincere apologies if I offended you or any one else who truly love technology for how they simplify our lives, help our world and humanity. Just to clarify, I still believe google sucks, Andy Rubin is an copyist and Bieber should go back to school! :)
  • You're entitled to those opinions too, just when you start passing blanket judgements on people based on their OS of choice, expect me to wrestle with you. ;-)
  • The kids game, Toca Boca, offered today was free the day before. I use Apps Gone Free to find daily specials all year 'round.
  • Me getting the 12 Days notification at 12pm today: Me: Oh yeah, I forgot about that.
    Pulls up app.
    Me: Oh it's a kids game.
    Closes app.
    The earth continues to spin on its axis as planned.
  • My only question about today's app was why wasn't it a more recent Toca Boca release to drive a little more buzz.
    For the record, my daughter has all but 2 Toca Boca apps and she loves them. Sent from the iMore App
  • Now is day 5 already... I have home aline movie from apple now... Thanks very much Apple... I love it Sent from the iMore App
  • The app Tiny Theif that was a gift yesturday was free since last Monday. Sent from the iMore App
  • OMG!!! Getting something for free and then bitching because it isn't what you wanted! #thirdworldprobs Seriously people... Not everyone can be pleased by everything. I like Apple products and the majority of what I use is made by Apple but I don't always approve of everything they do but this 12 days of free stuff is great! In four days we have seen a music from a popular music artist, a popular TV show, and a kids app. I mean WTF? At least it is not some no name stuff and even it if was so what? It's free! LOL, in the spirit of Christmas and the holidays just be thankful!
  • People always find a reason to complain. The apps are free. If the app is not for you move on. It's a simple delete process or do not download to begin with. Sent from the iMore App
  • I guess consumers kinda got spoiled by Apple offered a free Lorde's single for download (I had never heard of her, but she seems pretty huge in New Zealand, so it was nice exposure for her, plus I think it kinda primed users to expect iTunes content of a certain calibre). That and Apple made a pretty big deal out of hyping the entire event, so I guess it got us expecting a whole lot more. A Justin Timberlake single was kinda "meh" for me, but he is considered a US superstar, so still okay. Not saying that a free children's app or a free download of "Home Alone" is unwelcome, but consider the target demographics. Does Apple really think that anyone old enough to own an IOS device, much less eligible to download the 12 days app is interested in them? You want to do gifting properly, take the whole event seriously, spend some time to actually reflect about what sort of gifts would be most meaningful and appeal more to the consumers. I don't think I am being ungrateful when I say that if a company like Apple wants to use this event to "buy" some goodwill from consumers, then they better stop treating us like beggars by simply flinging some cheapo apps at our faces and expecting us to act all grateful for it, not least when you realise that many of them are little more than glorified advertisements. So far, the event feels extremely half-hearted. That said, I agree that if anyone is unhappy, they should direct the feedback at Apple, rather than leave negative reviews at the app review pages.
  • Just because you don't like the gifts that doesn't mean they are half hearted. Do you honestly think Apple can give gifts that everyone would like? The Justin Timberlake songs, i didn't bother downloading but my sister loves it. I didn't care for the once upon a time show but a few friends loved it. I was glad when I was able to download Hugo but a few friends weren't interested. See where I'm going? just because some people don't like these gifts doesn't make these apps "cheapo". The Toca app is an excellent app for kids. In fact I have yet to see one of these gifts that can be described as cheapo. Children may not be able to buy their own iPads but a lot of iOS users have kids who use these devices. Just because you have no use for a kiddie app doesn't mean Apple didn't think about the demographics. Even the latest gift (Diary of A Wimpy Kid) is an excellent book, but of course some people won't like it because again it's for kids. And I'm pretty sure you're complaining about that gift as well. These are high quality gifts that are free, Apple is not forcing these gifts down your throat. Get off your high horse abazigal, your false sense of entitlement is downright sickening.
  • Sense of entitlement has nothing to do with it. These free app giveaways are poorly-disguised advertisements, since the app also recommends more apps below, and the 3 non-music apps offered for download so far all contain IAPs. I took one look at them and went "forget it". I don't deny that these are quality apps, but then we come back to my question of "quality for who". The problem then comes when you are not getting more of what you want. Why can't I complain if they are free? I suspect Apple was limited more by who they could strike agreements with, which in turn limited what apps they could offer. Honestly, for me at least, I feel the selection of free content had been extremely underwhelming to date and I see nothing wrong with being upfront about it.
  • Toca boca!!! The toca apps rock! Any parent of a preschool kindergarten ager loves them because the kids can figure them out without help. Of the "no reading required" apps, theirs are some of the best. Sent from the iMore App
  • Yeah, complaining to viciously about a freebie seems a little antithetical. But, there should be a good way to provide no-nonsense feedback. Today I noticed that the free giveaway is Hugo, the feature-length, high definition movie, complete with iTunes extras - awesome!
  • Its a gift. If you don't like it, don't download it for that day. What is wrong with people when they complain that what they can get for free, for no reason, isn't exactly what they want...?! Some old saying about gifts and horse dentistry comes to mind...
  • Its a free gift why do people complain about everything Apple. If you don't like the gift don't download. Really grow Up people.
  • Have you people never heard the expression to never look a gift horse in the mouth. In other words don't complain about free.