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Apple Needs to Change Their Code Redemption Policies September 1, 2017

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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Apple is one of the most successful companies in the world and in my opinion they make the best smartphones and tablets on the market. They’re also a petty, jealous company with a track record which occasionally could be considered anti-consumer.  It was because of their strict control on software publishing in the 90s that most third-party game publishers and software developers wouldn’t port their games to the Mac, and this lack of software support essentially handed Microsoft the win in the Operaring System Wars of the 90s.  Now that Apple has discontinued offering optical disc drives with new Macs and created their own proprietary digital marketplace to publish Mac software, it doesn’t look like much has changed with Apple philosophically, and now it looks like Apple is willing to push the bounds of that control even further.

All legitimate iPhone and iPad software can only be downloaded through Apple’s digital iTunes and App Store marketplaces. For limited-function personal devices, this has a lot of benefits.  Apple can guarantee the safety of its marketplace and ensure that the vast majority of software it is selling will work on your device and won’t harm it with malicious code.  If software slips through the cracks or breaks compatibility with their devices over time, Apple can also pull that software off the market so new users won’t have to worry about spending money on software that doesn’t work.  The upside of this to Apple is that Apple takes a financial cut of every monetary transaction made through their App Store, and a cut out of every in-app purchase.  This works pretty well in most cases for both the company and the consumer.  On the one hand, Apple makes some money to finance and maintain their marketplace and ensure they keep making new iOS devices, and the consumer can be sure their financial information is being credited properly.  Now let me tell you about a case where it doesn’t work out well for me, and I’ve gotten pretty mad about it.

When the Pokémon Trading Card Game Online app was first released for the third gen iPad, I saw it as a big opportunity. For years now, The Pokémon Company has offered free digital codes that their players can redeem for in-game items, booster packs, and theme decks.  Until recently these codes could be easily redeemed in any version of the Pokémon TCG Online app, but the functionality was removed from the iPad version a year ago.  At the time it was removed, The Pokémon Company announced the decision to do it was not theirs, and was being done because of new rules Apple had made for developers. A year later, the functionality still hasn’t been restored.

Two months ago, I downloaded a new Pokémon Go update and started using it in my local mall.  While playing at the mall while my girlfriend shopped there, I noticed the Sprint store in the mall had become a Pokémon Go Gym. As I investigated the Gym’s sponsored information closer, the Gym badge said if I went into the Sprint store I could be given a free download code for in-game goodies.  Not wanting to pass up a freebie, I went into the store and asked one of the clerks about it.  The nice salesman at the store told me about Sprint’s Pokémon Go website, and it peaked my interest.

Sprint was an official sponsor of Pokémon Go, and they had been giving away Pokémon Go promo codes to people who came to the store. He was willing to give me one, even though I wasn’t even a Sprint customer, but when he saw I was using an iPhone 7 to play the game he embarrassingly told me that the codes would not work with my device.  The reason why, he explained, the codes wouldn’t work was because the Apple version of Pokémon Go doesn’t have a code redemption feature even though the Android version does.  This is true, in fact it is listed on Pokémon Go’s official support site.  The Sprint salesman was really sorry about it but I told him not to worry, it wasn’t his fault.  This sure didn’t sound like something Niantic would do by design, and I’m prettty certain Apple’s App Store policies are the reason.  Knowing Apple’s track record for pulling stuff like this, I was really nice to the Sprint salesman and thanked him for his information before leaving.

Several months later, Niantic hosted their inaugural Pokémon Go Fest, which did offer exclusive in-game content to their attendees.  It looked like Niantic got around Apple’s code redemption restriction by giving attendees QR codes that, while not unique, could only be redeemed at one of the event’s specific PokéStops!  This identifier came in very handy when they had to issue in-game refunds to their attendees.

If I owned an Android phone I probably would have participated in Sprint’s Pokémon Go promotions, but it’s clear Apple wouldn’t allow iPhone owners to earn Sprint rewards.  Quite a shame as I appreciate Sprint offering things like Lucky Eggs and Pokeballs to people who came into the store. Stores like GameStop are able to offer codes for in-game unique Pokémon on the Nintendo handhelds, why can’t Sprint, a store that sells iPhones, be allowed by Apple to offer in-game promotional codes!

There’s no question that Apple has the right to define the terms of service on their digital marketplaces however they want. However I would like to remind them that their direct competitors are, in this case, much more consumer friendly than they have been. These are the same consumers who might consider buying an Android tablet or smartphone instead of an iPad or iPhone when they are selecting their next personal device.  The fact they can’t redeem digital codes in the apps they use regularly on your devices (and only your devices) could be a reason for them to weigh when buying their next smartphone or tablet. The oldest rule in business is as long you take care of your customers and provide a better experience than your competition, you have a better chance of getting their business again. That rule seems to have been forgotten in today’s day and age.

I don’t know why Apple has chosen to leave myself and a large amount of Pokémon Go’s players out in the cold, but I’d like to know Apple’s reasons.  I tried contacting Apple’s App Store via Twitter several weeks ago to confirm this policy and to ask if it would be reversed but I received no reply.  Since Apple would not comment I guess that leaves my next question to the community.  Have you had a similar problem redeeming codes for specific platforms? Comment below with your thoughts.

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