Bulk Up Your iOS App Catalog with FREE Premium Apps

Almost four years ago, I made a change that so very many of us have: I exchanged my “dumb” phone for a new­fan­gled smart­phone — a then already out of date iPhone 4, to be specific.

Ear­ly on, I was impressed with just how many free apps were avail­able in the App Store, and I rather quick­ly had filled up most of my phone’s stor­age with ad-sup­port­ed free ver­sions of pre­mi­um apps or “freemi­um” apps which offered some fea­tures but required an in-app pur­chase to unlock the entire thing.

This, as you can imag­ine, grew to be a nuisance.

Even­tu­al­ly, I gave in and bought sev­er­al apps for a few dol­lars apiece; the fates of these apps var­ied. Some I used or played for a while before aban­don­ing them, while some I still use or keep installed today, such as the excel­lent The Night Sky. I don’t feel guilty about these pur­chas­es in the least, espe­cial­ly when you con­sid­er how much the iPhone costs, whether out­right or on contract.

You don’t buy a Kin­dle just to enjoy the dic­tio­nary and man­u­al that come pre-installed on the device. You shouldn’t buy an iPhone to enjoy only free apps, either. You’re cheat­ing your­self, all because we’ve become con­di­tioned to feel­ing that $5 is a lot to spend on an app. It’s okay to pay for good products.

“A $5 App Isn’t Expen­sive: Cus­tomers Need to Help Fix the App Store Econ­o­my” by Lex Fried­man on Mac­world

It’s okay to pay for good prod­ucts, but I’m still cheap, espe­cial­ly because I’m now at the point where I have the apps that I know I need or want. Every­thing beyond that is bonus and nov­el­ty, and I want to share two great ways for enjoy­ing pre­mi­um apps with­out spend­ing a cent. 

Apps of the Week

An example of how the free app of the week appears within the mobile App Store
An exam­ple of how the free app of the week appears with­in the mobile App Store

Sev­er­al months ago (at least), I noticed a way to get one new pre­mi­um app each week, absolute­ly free of charge. Some­times those apps are games, and some­times they’re util­i­ties. Some­times I get loads of use out of the app, while some­times I know I’ll like­ly not use it at all. Still, I grab the app so that at any time in the future, should I decide I want or need the app, it’ll be a part of my app library. Call it being pre­pared, FOMO, or what­ev­er, but it’s become a week­ly tra­di­tion to check the App Store on Thurs­day evening to see not only what’s new and notable, but also to catch the free app of the week.

Apps which I’ve seen go free as part of this week­ly pro­mo­tion include Star Walk 2, Toca NatureGod of Light, Back to Bed, and many more. This week, you can grab Warham­mer 40,000: Death­watch — Tyranid Inva­sion com­plete­ly free!

The App Store refresh­es every Thurs­day, and the free app of the week is usu­al­ly down the App Store’s main page a bit, at least when accessed via mobile. (This week, it’s just about exact­ly 50% down the page.)

The AppHookup Subreddit

The app of the week pro­mo­tion isn’t the only time that pre­mi­um apps get their prices slashed to noth­ing. It’s actu­al­ly a fair­ly com­mon prac­tice, but if you’re only check­ing brows­ing apps as the App Store presents them to you, you’re like­ly not going to notice these new­ly free good­ies. I did­n’t, for far too long, until I dis­cov­ered /r/AppHookup, a com­mu­ni­ty of app users of all kinds (Android, iOS, OS X, and more) who share when pre­mi­um apps go on sale, whether for a dis­count­ed price or com­plete­ly for free).

Like all sub­red­dits, /r/AppHookup can be sub­scribed to, if you’re a reg­is­tered Red­dit user, which caus­es hot threads with­in it to show up on your Red­dit home­page. This is con­ve­nient, but unless you’re vis­it­ing the sub­red­dit direct­ly, there isn’t a way to guar­an­tee that you’re see­ing all of the links to all over the freebies.

If There Are New Free Premium Apps Shared to /r/AppHookup, Then Text Me the Link!

Free App Notifications Via Text Message
A sam­pling of free pre­mi­um app text messages

This being the age of tech­nol­o­gy and won­der, there is a workaround! Using the IFTTT ser­vice, you can receive a link to the Red­dit thread for every new­ly free iOS app direct­ly in your text mes­sage inbox! Once you’ve set up an IFTTT account, add the free app noti­fi­ca­tions via text mes­sage recipe (you’ll need to authen­ti­cate a text-capa­ble phone with IFTTT if you haven’t already), and wait for the links to start rolling in.

The text mes­sages include the title of the post made to /r/AppHookup as well as the link to the Red­dit thread itself. Typ­i­cal­ly, this will get you the name of the app as well as what the orig­i­nal price is so that you can see how good of a deal you’re get­ting by grab­bing the app for free.

Click­ing the link will take you to Red­dit, where you can see any dis­cus­sion about the app being offered; from Red­dit, click the title of the thread to be tak­en to the App Store’s page for the app, where you can add it to your account straightaway.

This has so far proven to be an excel­lent way to bulk up my app library, net­ting a few neat util­i­ties, includ­ing The Math Key­board, as well as sev­er­al great games for my daugh­ter, includ­ing Dra­gooo HD.


If I grab an app while it is tem­porar­i­ly free, will it be avail­able to mem­bers of my Fam­i­ly Shar­ing group?
Fam­i­ly Shar­ing is a fan­tas­tic way to save mon­ey with­in your fam­i­ly by allow­ing any mem­ber of your group to down­load just about any app already pur­chased (whether free or pre­mi­um) by any oth­er mem­ber. Whether an app can be shared via Fam­i­ly Shar­ing is deter­mined by the app’s pub­lish­er, but the vast major­i­ty of apps seem to be share­able, at least in my experience.

In oth­er words, grab­bing all of the free pre­mi­um apps that you can, such as by using the above detailed meth­ods, ben­e­fits not only you but also any mem­ber of your Fam­i­ly Shar­ing group. You may not have a need for a video for­mat con­ver­sion app that just went free, but if you add it to your account while it’s free, you nev­er know if one of your chil­dren may at some point have a use for it for improv­ing their vlog publishing!

Is there an alter­na­tive that does­n’t involve so many text messages?
Of course! First, I chose the text mes­sag­ing option because I get the noti­fi­ca­tion not only on my iPhone Mes­sages app but also the same app on my Mac­Book, so I can quick­ly grab the free apps whether my phone is handy or not. Now, all of that said, if you have the IF app installed, you can use a dif­fer­ent IFTTT recipe which will send you push noti­fi­ca­tions rather than texts when­ev­er new free apps are posted.

Fea­tured image: source, license






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Rick Beckman