Apple said Thursday that it will let iPhone application developers offer their users the option to buy additional content or features within a free app on its App Store.

App developers said they received an email notice from Apple informing them that the in-app purchase feature was now available for free apps and that it would “simplify your development by creating a single version of your app that uses in App Purchase to unlock additional functionality, eliminating the need to create Lite versions of your app.” A spokeswoman for Apple confirmed the news.

The in-app purchase feature, which was first introduced in March, allows developers to offer fresh content for purchase within an app such as new levels in a game, additional books in an e-book app, or expanded capability in productivity apps. The caveat, however, was that the feature was only available for paid apps, which meant that developers had to charge at least 99 cents.

Developers say that the latest announcement helps in two ways. First, it makes it much easier for them to make a business out of free apps. Until now, developers sold ads within their free apps or tried to convert users to a paid version with more content.


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