Apple Just Made the App Store Even More Kid-Friendly

Photo credit: THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images

Photo credit: THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images

Apple has stepped up its efforts to make its App Store even more accessible to children by recently introducing a new subsection — Games for Kids. Apple first announced the Kids App Store section at the Worldwide Developers Conference in 2013 before rolling it out as part of iOS 7 later that year. As noted by Apple, the first iteration of the Kids App Store allowed “teachers and parents to easily discover apps for children by age.” However, the revamped version of the Kids App Store will make it easier for kids to find their own apps as well.

Under the overall Kids App Store section, the new “Games for Kids” subsection appears to be targeted directly at children. Like the Kids App Store that is aimed at “teachers and parents,” the apps in the Games for Kids subsection are divided into three categories based on age ranges, including “Ages 5 & Under,” “Ages 6-8,” and “Ages 9-11.” Each age category offers a list of featured apps, such as Color Zen Kids for children in the youngest age category, Little Galaxy Family for children in the 6-8 age range, and Disney’s Club Penguin for older kids.

Apple is also offering a free e-book that is prominently featured at the top of the new Games for Kids subsection. Titled Family Time with Apps, the book is put out by the Sesame Workshop’s  Joan Ganz Cooney Center and is “designed to help parents better understand the variety of ways that apps can support children’s healthy development and family learning, communication, and connection.”

Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images

Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images

Not surprisingly, the new subsection also features the new labels that Apple implemented last year for so-called “freemium” apps. Freemium apps are apps that do not have any upfront costs, but feature in-app charges that tend to be necessary for unlocking the software’s full capabilities. Apple replaced the “Free” label that used to be found under these apps with a “Get” label last November. Apple also added an “In-App Purchases” label under each freemium app featured in Games for Kids, in order to make it even clearer that these apps are not free.

Apps that used the freemium model were associated with a class-action lawsuit that Apple faced in U.S. federal court in 2013 over claims that children were making in-app purchases without their parents’ knowledge. Apple settled that lawsuit in October 2013 and offered iTunes Store credits and cash refunds to affected consumers. Apple later settled another complaint from the Federal Trade Commission over the same issue in early 2014. Apple also faced similar scrutiny from the European Commission last year over how freemium apps were being advertised to European consumers and especially children.

Earlier this year, the company noted in a press release that sales in the App Store generated over $10 billion in revenue for developers in 2014, setting a new record. The company also mentioned the “expanded Kids Category” as one of the important new features that were introduced to developers last year. Although Apple made some early missteps in how it allowed freemium apps to be advertised, the revamped Kids App Store shows that the company is still very much interested in expanding its share of this young, but lucrative, demographic.

Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS

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