What I learned about in-app purchases and why I don’t buy them anymore

Getting my very first smartphone (which was a second-hand iPhone 4) and opening my Instagram account gave me so much freedom concerning photography. As I’ve already written before, I used to take photos all the time. And, even if I never managed to get so many followers on Instagram (even if I consider 1k a lot of people!), I couldn’t help but spend a lot of time using photo editing apps and playing around with filters.

During my Instagram break back in May, I took vantage of my time off to revaluate all the apps on my phone and I realized that I had some paid ones. I should say that I’ve spent very few money for apps or in-app purchases because of Google Opinion Rewards, but still, it surprised me a lot to see how many purchases I managed to do along the years and I got a bit scared when I realized that they are all attached to my Gmail. Meaning that if something happens to my account, I basically lose everything because it looks like Google Play purchases cannot be transferred to another Google Account. Not cool.

This is why I still prefer to own a hard copy (DVD, physical book, etc.) of the things I really care about and I only rent movies online or pay for Netflix (and I don’t buy ebooks if they cost more than 6€). If you don’t have the file to backup on an external hard drive and you can only consume the content through the platform you purchased it, then you will never own the product, even if you paid for it. It’s a fact. I know it’s extremely unlikely, but if Google disappears, all your Play Store purchases will go away as well.

Play Store purchases I regret

As I previously said, I’ve never paid these apps or in-app purchases full price but, still, I’ve spent some money on them and I have to say I wouldn’t do it again. I have to admit it feels a bit uncomfortable sharing this with the world because I feel a bit silly for having spent my (already limited) money for this stuff but I really care about being honest so here I am.

Unfold. This is an app to create beautiful Instagram Stories and it’s free, but I purchased 2 packs of templates. Shortly after, Canva released their free Stories templates… I was so mad with myself! This is a classic example of wasted money because, now that I’m trying to spend less time on Instagram, I basically don’t use the app anymore.

PicTapGo. This app used to be only available on iOS and, when it became available on Android too, I immediately purchased it because I’ve seen a video by Lavendaire explaining how she edited her Instagram photos and, yes, I wanted to copy her. It turned out that the app wasn’t a good one for me and I rarely ever used it.

A Color Story. This is a free app by the founders of A Beautiful Mess and I love it. But, to be completely honest, I’ve never actually liked their filter packs (you can see the ones I purchased above) and I rarely use them. Every time I purchased a new pack, I was hoping to finally get the perfect filters but they never suited my own photos. Of all the in-app purchases, the one I still use it the Texture pack that I like when I just want to have fun with my Instagram photos.

5 Minute Journal. This app was EXPENSIVE and, after only a month, I got tired of answering its premade questions daily and I never used it again. Journaling needs to happen on paper for me.

Braintoss. I saw it used by a productivity guru on YouTube and I thought I NEEDED it. Hardly ever used.

The Bullet Journal Companion. This was another disappointing app because, even if I liked the unconventional concept, it was expensive and it turned out to not have all the features of the iOS app because there is always this thing that Android is like the neglected OS when it comes to cool apps. The missing feature was the Index which was like the only one I actually cared about! I was hoping for an Android update but it’s been a year now so I doubt it will happen sometime soon.

Talon for Twitter. Before getting this app 3 years ago, I’ve read tons of reviews and it looked like it was the best third-party app for Twitter, everybody was giving it 5-star reviews and so on. Unfortunately, I never enjoyed using it! I kept preferring the original Twitter app. Then I stopped using Twitter from my phone and Talon turned out to be a big fail for me.

The only app I don’t regret purchasing: Pocket Casts

This is the only app I don’t regret purchasing because I still use it on a daily basis and it’s by far the best podcast app in the Play Store, in my opinion.

The case of VSCO

VSCO is the very first photo editing app I got. I’ve downloaded it on my old iPhone first and I still use it these days to add filters to my Instagram photos. The good thing about VSCO is that it’s a cross-platform app, meaning that all the in-app purchases are linked to your VSCO account (not the Apple Store or the Play Store). This way, when I switched from iOS to Android, I was still able to use my previously purchased filter packs.

However, things have changed. The app has recently moved to a monthly subscription plan, that gives you access to the whole library of filters, killing their shop for good.


Thankfully, I still have my old filter packs but they are no longer available for purchase, which is a bummer because I don’t use the app that much to justify paying for it on an annual basis.

I totally get that this is a more sustainable direction for the company (it’s like the Adobe products) but it made me realize that all these digital purchases always come with an (additional) price. You never actually own what you pay for.

My plan moving forward

My plan moving forward is to pay even more attention to where I’m going to put my money. It’s so easy to get influenced by other people or good marketing promotions and spend your money on this kind of things.

Since I’m trying to stay away from social media as much as I can, there is no need for me to pay for more filter packs or photo editing apps, even if I still enjoy to casually edit my photos from time to time, I can still do it with what I already have rather than waste my money over something that might suddenly disappear.

Another example that comes to mind is the original A Beautiful Mess app (which used to be a simple photo editing app with cute stickers to add to your photos). Probably the very first purchase I made when I got my iPhone in 2013. The app was amazing and I loved it, they kept adding new sticker packs and filters until they suddenly announced that the app was discontinued (no more updates and maintenance) and they also removed it from the App Store. Thankfully, it happened before I decided to repurchase it for my Android phone!

2 thoughts on “What I learned about in-app purchases and why I don’t buy them anymore”

  1. Another great post! I’ve been reading what parents do when their kid asks them to download a new app. One of the questions they ask their kid is, how does the app make money?
    I’ve paid for two apps because I wanted to support the developers but I avoid in-app purchases. It’s part of the “game” that are mobile apps. Sometimes I feel like I’m missing out on cool features. Like you, I’m trying to move away from social media so it doesn’t make sense to pay for templates or sticker packs.

    1. Thank you! Yes, I’m always suspicious when an app is completely free because it isn’t clear how they make money (selling your data?) but I’ll try to stay away from in-app purchases from now on for sure.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.