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I made a change that so very many of us have: I exchanged my “dumb” phone for a newfangled smartphone — a then already out of date iPhone 4, to be specific.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.
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.
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Apps of the Week
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 Nature, God 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.
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.