Naively, I used to think that once I’d purchased music, I could easily download it again, for free, on any other computer or WiFi-connected iPhone or iPod touch as long as I was signed in with my iTunes account. As most of you probably know, that’s not the case. Instead, if you try to download it again, iTunes recognizes that you’ve already purchased the content, but notifies you that should you download it again, you’ll actually be paying for it twice.
The nice thing about the App Store, whether on a computer or using an iPhone (s aapl) or iPod touch, is that you can re-download titles you’ve already purchased elsewhere, or maybe deleted for whatever reason. I’ve used this feature many, many times, because I don’t really like having a cluttered springboard, so I regularly cull apps that fall into disuse. I honestly couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve re-downloaded Shazam just to find out the name of a song I hear in passing. You’d think at some point I would just keep in installed, but those occasions where it comes in handy are just so few and far between.
This much-appreciated ability to download an app as many times as you want from wherever you want may be in jeopardy in iPhone OS 3.0, according to The iPhone Blog and others. They recently posted an article in which they describe how some users with the 3.0 beta on their phones are receiving notification that should they wish to download an app they’ve previously purchased, they either have to buy it again, or sync with their computer to re-install for free.
I tested this out on my own devices, and was able to replicate the new “feature,” which you can see in the screenshot attached to this article. The iPhone Blog proposes that the new measures are designed to prevent people from installing apps they don’t own while on the go quickly and easily using the new iTunes account switching-feature included in the latest builds of the upcoming firmware revision.
Even though I’ve taken to installing and updating apps exclusively via iTunes on my Mac and syncing (which is why I haven’t noticed this before, I guess), the ability to re-install on the fly is still very useful in cases like the one I describe above with Shazam. In fact, in terms of pure convenience, account switching is far less of an advantage if it means sacrificing re-downloads. This is inevitably going to cause some folks to pay twice for the same app, too. So far, 3.0 has been nothing but roses, so hopefully this occurrence of thorns is an isolated example.