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Tap Pet Hotel In-App Purchases iPhone Review

01/09/2011 Family Family Gamer Review
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Tap Pet Hotel In-App Purchases iPhone

Tap Pet Hotel In-App Purchases



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iTunes allowance

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Tap Pet Hotel needs some careful handling to ensure kids don't rack up large credit card bills. The best solution all round is to play it with them.

Many of us have become used to buying things online for our families. Whether this is the weekly shopping, electronics or birthday presents we know what to expect when purchasing from a website.

A newer innovation is purchasing games and software for our handheld games consoles and mobile phones directly on the device -- the iPhone, iPad, Android phones, 3DS or PSP for example. This lets you buy new games via a Wi-Fi Internet connection without even being connected to a computer.

The purchasing process on each device can be quite different. Firstly, whereas on the traditional gaming devices like the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PSP or 3DS you are asked to enter a password or credit card details for each transaction, on Smartphones a single log-in can be enough to grant multiple purchases within a particular timeframe.

Secondly, Smartphones are leading the way with in-game purchases, the ability to progress in a game by spending real money to buy in-game currency. This is another way to spend money on the device, and there has been a rise of games that are initially free but then encourage you to pay for items during play.

Avoiding multiple password requests in this way enables Smartphones to offer a smoother purchasing experience. On the iPhone and iPad (prior to their March update) for instance once you have entered your password you don't have to do it again for 15 minutes.

This doesn't sound like a problem until you come across free iPhone games like Pet Hotel or Smurf Village. These are free to download and require a password to do so. If you then hand the device to your son or daughter they can make in-game purchases for as much as £69.99, without a need for a password in the first 15 minutes.

These games do state that the game shop uses real money, but of course it is easy to miss this particularly if you are an excited young player. They can also ask you to login before you start playing, but again this opens up the danger of the grace period.

To their credit, Apple has provided an update to the iPhone operating system (the March 4.3 iOS update) that adds an extra password request for in-app purchases (although not for general purchases). This greatly reduces the risk of children generating alarming bills on their parents phone, but it does require that you update your device -- something that users can be dissuaded from doing as it can take in the region of 20 minutes.

In addition to the update, there are also a range of other things you can do to alleviate the problem. Probably the best advice though is to play games with your children rather than let them play on their own. It means they will get more out of the experience, and you'll understand what they are getting so excited about.

Where your children are likely to play these games unsupervised, you can avoid the problem as follows:

Update iPhone/iPad Operating System

To update the operating system on your device:

  1. Plug your iPhone/iPad into a PC via the white USB cable.
  2. If it doesn’t open automatically open your iTunes software.
  3. You will be automatically prompted to update your device.
  4. Ensure you have transferred any purchases and backed up the device by right clicking it in the Devices list and selecting Backup and Transfer Purchases in turn.
  5. With the Device selected in the list click the Update button.
  6. Do not disconnect your device until prompted to do so.

Separate iTunes Account For Children

Create a separate account on the device for your children that isn't linked to your credit card:

  1. Tap Settings, scroll down and select Store.
  2. Tap Sign Out.
  3. Tap Create New Account.
  4. Follow the on-screen instructions.

If you need credit on this account use an iTunes gift card or setup an iTunes allowance. You can then log into this account before your children use the iPhone:

  1. Tap Settings, scroll down and select Store.
  2. Tap Sign Out.
  3. Tap Sign In and enter the children's iTunes account details.

Disable In-App Purchases For Everyone

Turn off in-app purchases for all users of the iPhone:

  1. Tap Settings, then select General.
  2. Scroll down and select Restrictions.
  3. Tap Enable Restrictions and enter (and confirm) a pass code for the iPhone.
  4. Tap the In-App Purchases slider so it switched to Off.

You have now disabled In-app purchases. Reverse this process to enable it should you require it in the future.

Log Out of iTunes After Purchasing

You can avoid the 15 minute password period by logging out of iTunes after making a purchase:

  1. Tap Settings, scroll down and select Store.
  2. Tap Sign Out.

You will now be prompted to login next time you make a purchase.

Written by Andy Robertson

You can support Andy by buying Tap Pet Hotel In-App Purchases

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Andy Robertson writes the Family Gamer column.

"Videogame reviews for the whole family, not just the kids. I dig out videogame experiences to intrigue and interest grownups and children. This is post-hardcore gaming where accessibility, emotion and storytelling are as important as realism, explosions and bravado."

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