My Strategies for Getting Free iOS Apps
I love trying out different software, and that includes iOS apps for my iPad and iPod touch. The problem is, there are a lot of garbage apps in the iTunes app store, and many developers don’t offer a free version so you can try the app before you buy it. Even if it’s only a dollar or two, it still hurts to find out you paid for an app that was a dud.
For me, this problem is now a thing of the past, because I’ve found a perfectly legal way to get all my iOS apps for free! I’m going to share how you can get free apps, too. I have two strategies for getting all the apps I want for free, and you can use these same strategies to get free apps for yourself.
The first strategy relies on a free app called AppShopper (website | iTunes link). There are many “deal finder” apps in the app store–I have used several of them over the years, but now I only use AppShopper. The thing I like most about AppShopper is the wish listfeature. If there is an app I want, but I don’t need it right away, I can add it to my wish list and AppShopper will notify me if it goes on sale. The wish list feature does require you to create an account with AppShopper, but this is useful in that it allows you to sync your wish list across multiple iOS devices. So if you read about an app on your computer and you don’t have an iOS device at hand, you can still add the app to your wish list on AppShopper.com and it will sync back to your devices. You can also subscribe to price drop notifications by email or RSS.
AppShopper has a nice clean layout, and very flexible ways of searching for and browsing the apps that are free or on sale. AppShopper also shows you the update history for the lifetime of the app, which is useful to see when, if ever, an app has been on sale and if it goes on sale often. If you see a lot of discounts in the history of an app, you can assume it’s likely to go on sale again at some point and it’s probably worth waiting for a sale. Many times there is a pattern to when an app is reduced, such as holiday weekends and the days surrounding an update.
Another handy feature of AppShopper is the My Apps list. By using this feature, you do not have to keep an app on your device to know when it gets updated. So if you download an app and it doesn’t have a specific feature you are looking for, you can delete it from your device, but still keep informed of updates with AppShopper. For instance, I keep several eBook reading apps in the My Apps list in the hopes that one day an auto-scroll reading feature will appear in an update. Yes, I could do this through iTunes, but I try to avoid using iTunes whenever possible.
AppShopper has helped me get a lot of great apps for free, but sometimes I just can’t wait for an app to go on sale. What to do? Well, that’s where the second part of my free apps strategy comes into play.
Redeem Credit Card Rewards for iTunes Gift Cards
The second part of my strategy for getting free apps involves the use of my credit card’s rewards program. Obviously, if you are the type of person who can’t use credit cards wisely, this is not for you. But if you can, it’s a great way to get any apps you want for free.
Because my husband and I get paid monthly, it works out well for us to use a credit card for all purchases throughout the month, and for whatever bills we can pay with a credit card. Then we simply pay the balance in full at the top of the month when we get paid. We never carry a balance, so we don’t pay interest fees and our credit card is always earning the maximum points it can for us. We also rarely travel by air, so we chose a credit card that has a flexible rewards program which can be used for gift cards (and other things) instead of frequent flyer miles or other types of rewards.
Because we use our credit card for the majority of our purchases, the points rack up pretty quickly. Anytime I have a surplus of iOS apps I’m tired of waiting for, I cash in those reward points for an iTunes gift card and use it toward those apps. I usually keep a small balance of gift card credit on my app store account for impulse purchases, and when it gets low, I refuel it with a new rewards gift card.
We earn enough rewards points on our credit card that iTunes gift cards aren’t the only thing we use our points toward. We also use them toward dinners out, gifts for friends (gift cards as gifts…. what a concept!), Amazon music purchases, and so on. I realize what I am suggesting is one of the first “don’ts” of using a credit card responsibly, but if you are disciplined and pay your credit card bill in full every month, it’s a great way to reward yourself with something fun now and then!
Best of all, you can feel good about getting free apps in this way because there is nothing shady or illegal about it, and the app developers still get paid for their work. If you have suggestions for other legal ways of getting paid apps for free, please share them in the comments section!