How To Set Passwords For In-App Purchases On Your iPhone

iOS: I'm appearing on The Project Tuesday night, discussing how in-app purchases can create unexpectedly high bills for parents who don't realise that you won't necessarily be asked for a password every time you purchase extra credits in an app or items in a game? Want to disable in-app purchases altogether, or ensure that you're always asked for a password? Here's what to do.The default settings for iOS is to request a password the first time an in-app purchase is made, but then not require the password again for subsequent purchases within 15 minutes. That loophole catches many people off-guard, especially parents who may have installed 'freemium' apps for their kids and then been nagged into purchasing just one in-game item, not realising that opens up a 15-minute window for anyone with the phone to make more purchases.

I think it's a pity that Apple didn't make the default option to always ask for a password, while allowing tech-savvy users (or people who don't share their phone) to switch that option off. But that hasn't happened. Here's how to change the settings.

  • Go to Settings on your device.
  • Choose General.
  • Scroll down and choose Restrictions. If you haven't done this before, you'll be asked to set up and confirm a four-digit pin. This is so your sneaky toddler can't change the setting back. Don't share that pin code with anyone.
  • Click to Enable Restrictions.
  • iOS includes numerous parental controls, but the one we're concerned with here is 'In-App Purchases'; scroll down the Restrictions screen to locate it. You can switch this off and disable them altogether (you can also do this for all apps). More realistically, you can tap on Require Password and change the option from '15 minutes' to 'Immediately'. That way, a password will always be required for every in-app purchase.

My other advice? Don't attach a credit card to your iTunes account in the first place: use iTunes gift cards instead. Not only will that mean you can't run up enormous bills, if you buy the cards on special (and they're almost always on special) you actually get your in-app purchases (and apps) for less than full price.


Comments

    "use iTunes gift cards instead. Not only will that mean you can’t run up enormous bills, if you buy the cards on special (and they’re almost always on special) you actually get your in-app purchases (and apps) for full price"

    Ummm typo?

    You're loving Channel 10! If it's not too forward, may I ask if you are paid for your appearances by Ten?
    It seems you're getting more comfortable on television as you do more segments; I'm really enjoying your segments (and your personality) on television. Congrats on your work!

      Thanks for the kind words. None of these appearances are paid: the most I've made from being on TV is getting the dictionary for being on Letters & Numbers :)

        No worries! I hope you continue to appear on TV. I think you'd be great on The Drum too by the way; I know Luke from Gizmodo is a frequent guest and I think it would be awesome if you did an appearance on that. Keep up the good work, both here at Lifehacker and on television!

    Revolutionary idea: supervise your children.

    Awesome article - do you have another one prepared for tomorrow when iOS 6 launches and makes this one irrelevant?

      Not everyone will update to iOS 6 the second it emerges (if at all), so I don't buy the "irrelevant" argument.

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