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This is something I've been thinking about for a while. Why does the App Store prompt the user for a password regardless whether the app is free or not?

My theory is that of consistency; Since you are forced to enter your credit card details when you log in for the first time, and you already entered your password when downloading a free app, taking the step to actually purchasing an app will seem smaller, since the process is exactly the same.

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<del>because it's a jerk</del> Technical reasons, as Evil Closet Monkey points out. It's still a Purchase and Apple's set up simply requires password verification. –  Ben Brocka Apr 13 '12 at 20:41
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closed as off topic by Charles Boyung, ChrisF, Ben Brocka Apr 14 '12 at 16:19

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2 Answers

Apple does not store your password locally. They ask for it so they can record your "purchase" (free or not) and add it to the database under your account so they can track it and notify you of updates, etc.

There is no UX reason to it. It is simply so the AppStore can gain access to your account and make the appropriate modifications to your download history.

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But if they know who you are (in order to verify the password) they don't need a password to record the "purchase", free or not. If it's free, they could simply allow a download and store that fact. –  Andrew Leach Apr 13 '12 at 20:34
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We're getting into a security question here too. Although it is your iDevice (or Mac, if we're talking about that side of things) the AppStore doesn't really know it is you. Despite the app being free it is still accessing your account, hence the need for the password to retrieve if you have downloaded it before and to store the transaction information. Anytime you access an account you ask for the password - at least the first time - that's just good security. Addition context goes to Benny's answer below -- there are reasons not to just allow a free app to appear on your iDevice. –  Evil Closet Monkey Apr 13 '12 at 20:41
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@Monkey - I don't agree. I don't think it's a security issue. I own a few iDevices and a few Android devices, and in the Android AppStore (now Google Play) a password is not required for free apps. –  Theodor Apr 13 '12 at 20:50
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Apple restricts iTunes content (apps incl) to a certain number of devices. This was a poorly fleshed out point in my first post, my bad. Despite it being free, iTunes still manages your "right" to install it on a certain device under a given account. Android doesn't have the same install restrictions, nor the same security philosophy. It can be thought of as a form of parental control (see Benny's comment) as well as friend control, so your drunk friend isn't installing junk you don't want. It ultimately just boils down to making sure Apple has control over what is installed and where. –  Evil Closet Monkey Apr 13 '12 at 21:18
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From a fathers perspective: My daughter, age 9, have an iPhone. She (as I) have Swedish as native language, and she can't tell the difference from one app to the other. So I need to verify* that she doesn't download an app which have content not suited for a nine year old girl.

That's one reason why you still need the password.


*) I have the password, she don't

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