Adam Bird

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Sunday, 6 March 2011

An Angry Bird turned Happy Bird

Angry Birds

In today’s modern society it seems that in general terms it has become very easy to moan about anyone and everyone, via either a Facebook status update or a tweet, but voicing gratitude sometimes gets forgotten or isn’t as widely recognised. In this, my latest #postaweek2011, I’d like to thank Apple for their excellent customer service and highlight the problem in which they resolved for me, just in case anyone reading this also has the same problem happen to them.

First of all, before I begin, I owe an apology to those kind Facebook friends and family of mine who openly offered me sources of inspiration to base this week’s blog post upon. I was perhaps a little hasty in sending out an SOS seeking a topic after what I falsely believed to be writers block.

Based upon the excellent suggestions made to me I was able to find out a little more about the crisis in Libya, this years Fair Trade Fortnight and that erm, coughs, Justin Bieber was actually born in Canada! But there was one suggestion, of researching which national day/week was forthcoming and writing a blog based upon it, which ultimately led me towards the path of enlightenment and a pending blog post.

However, not wanting to get back into coincidental occurrences (my brain still hurts from last week) it was one of those random events that happen from time to time which sparked a different thought in the mind and caused a minor eureka moment - so that’s what I’ll blog about instead. From not having anything to write about, I now have enough content for the next two weeks!

Anyhow, back to the topic at hand, and it begins this week with the little man, Oliver, aged just 4, who has steadily grown an obsession with my iPhone. It is fast becoming an actual pain rather than a source of amazement “Wow Oliver has beaten my highest score on Doodle Jump!” has since been replaced with “No Oliver you are NOT playing my iPhone. It’s 5.45am and I am FAST ASLEEP!”.

If Oliver isn’t working out how to blow up frogs with an array of assorted arsenal of avian weaponry, he will be solving the puzzle of how to cut a rope, whilst collecting pieces of candy and transporting all elements into another frog’s mouth, which by the way, begs the question, what is it with app manufacturers and frogs?

Not all apps test the logic of a developing brain, there are apps built specifically for children. Or at least I would hope so. Those that involve a character of some kind, which by speaking towards the phone whilst waiting patiently for the character to repeat it back to you in some annoying squeaky cartoony voice. I haven’t seen many commuters screaming into their phones on the train at night saying “you smell Mr Pooey Head” or whatever really funny things kids come up with these days.

But the app makers for the Talking Friends Collection franchise have been quite clever in monetizing their apps, the following account is what happened with Oliver, my message to Apple and the resulting message back.

Each of the Talking Friends Collection apps has a splash page which highlights which of the other apps you have installed. Oliver taking after me gets quite OCD if he is hasn’t got the full set, so I get repeatedly asked if he can have all of the new ones each time they appear. We have a rule, he can have any of them as long as they are free.

The other day, a new one appeared, Talking Gina, a giraffe, which like the Talking Tom (cat) was free. I downloaded it, put in my password and gave it back to him whilst keeping an eye on what he and the app were doing.

Around the screen real estate are a set of icons, which depending upon what you press takes you to different areas, or performs a different animation upon the character within the main frame. One of these buttons, a child enticing icon of an ice cream which when pressed allows you to feed Gina the Giraffe a delicious frozen treat. After just three more button presses Oliver had managed to purchase 20 virtual ice-creams in which to feed his new pet Giraffe.

Except, as I had been watching him, I didn’t think that he was doing anything wrong. It was only when the final “thank you for your purchase” message popped up that set the alarm bells ringing. After taking the phone off Oliver and checking my iTunes purchase history I realised that those three button presses had cost me £2.37!

Luckily I had been watching, goodness knows how much Oliver could have racked up had I left him to his own devices! It wasn’t the token amount that had been spent, it was the ease in which you could spend it that worried me. So I set off and hunted out an email address to the iTunes customer service desk.

I explained to them what happened, that I understood it was my responsibility as an adult and that I accepted all liability for the mistake. My point was, and still is, that the application developer is building tailor made content specifically for children and using cunning methods of in-app methodology to get children to buy virtual content easily and unknowingly.

Apple sent a rather nice apology email back, confirming that they would be refunding me the money back and gave the below steps to ensure that any in-app purchases are disabled.

The following steps outline the method for switching off in-app purchases for the iPhone. Below this I offer a bit more as way of an explanation why you might consider doing this. Five very easy steps, which might just save you a penny or two!

1 - Select settings
Step 1

2 - Select general
Step 2

3 - Select restrictions
Step 3

4 - Enter a password
Step 4

5 - Turn in-app purchases to off.
Step 5

It may well have only been £2.37, very small fry in the grand scheme of things. Had it been a lot more financially punishing I probably wouldn’t have been quite so passive, but I would have been equally responsible. But as parents we can be as careful and as responsible as we can, but still get outwitted by unscrupulous application developers.

And finally, thank you to Apple, who showed that huge mega corporations can still have a heart and use their common sense. It remains to be seen whether or not the app developer of the talking creature apps is asked to recall their product or at least amend it so that everyone is clear what charges are being incurred.

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