With so many games and applications now offering ways to bolster your progress or capabilities through in-app purchases, it can be tempting, and all too easy, to spend money on what may originally have been a free app.
The real danger here is that, if you let your children use your iPhone or iPad, they could spend your cash while playing their favourite games, without your knowledge.
Thankfully iOS features a number of safeguards that can restrict your little ones’ spending, and thus save you from the shock of a big bill. In this article, to preserve peace and harmony in the family home, we show how to disable in-app purchases on iPhone.
If you’re also a Mac user then you should take a look at our How to set up parental controls on Mac guide.
Doesn’t my password stop in-app purchases?
While it’s true that Apple requires a password to make a purchase in an app, this is then followed by a 15-minute period when additional items can be bought without needing to enter it again. Plenty of damage can happen in that time, which could turn a customer-friendly feature into the stuff of nightmares.
All is not lost, though, as it’s easy to adjust the security settings in iOS to prevent this kind of disaster.
Use Touch ID or Face ID
One very quick way to shore up your defences is to turn on biometric logins – which is to say, Touch ID fingerprint scanning or Face ID facial recognition – for all purchases. This not only makes it much harder for other people to buy things on your account, but it also prompts for a password (or your fingerprint or face) each time you want to buy anything.
The precise wording of the menu options depends on which model of iPhone you’ve got (in other words, whether it’s got Touch ID or Face ID), but here’s the basic method.
Open the Settings app, select either ‘Touch ID & Passcode’ or ‘Face ID or Passcode’, and enter your passcode. In the section at the top (which will be labelled ‘Use Touch ID For’ or Use Face ID For’), tap the button for iTunes & App Store so it turns green.
Enable restrictions in iOS
Another way to curtail any retail shenanigans is by activating restrictions in iOS.
iOS offers a number of ways to restrict the way an iPhone is used. You can permit or prohibit use of the camera, AirDrop and FaceTime, and forbid (or choose not to forbid) explicit material in music, movies, TV shows, news and so on.
For a detailed look at how these settings can be used to protect your children, read How to set up iPad & iPhone parental controls.
For now we’ll concentrate on in-app purchases.
Open the Settings app and go to Screen Time. Assuming it’s not already turned on for other purposes, turn it on and set a passcode. This is to prevent any budding master criminals retracing your steps and disabling the feature.
Be sure to choose a code different to the one that normally unlocks your phone, and keep a record of it somewhere. If you forget the restrictions passcode the only way to get rid of it is to wipe your iPhone and start from scratch.
Now, from the Screen Time page, tap Content & Privacy Restrictions > iTunes & App Store Purchases.
At the top of the next page you’ll see options for Installing Apps, Deleting Apps and, bingo, In-app Purchases. If you want to disable IAPs entirely then set this to Don’t Allow.
Of course, this will mean you’ll no longer be able to make these purchases either, which could be a bit of a pain. To avoid this, you can take a less drastic route instead.
Turning off the 15-minute password rule
As one of the main problems with in-app purchases can be caused by the 15-minute window that follows the entering of a password, it makes sense to address that directly.
One option is to force iOS to require a password for every transaction. (If you’ve enabled Touch ID or Face ID for purchases on the App Store then this won’t apply, as you’ll always be prompted for your fingerprint or face anyway.)
On the same page where we set the various app actions to Allow or Don’t Allow (Settings > Screen Time > Content & Privacy Restrictions > iTunes & App Store Purchases), you’ll see a section headed Require Password. Set this to Always Require.
Hopefully with these tips you should now be able to rest in the peaceful surety that Clash of Clans will never bring ruin upon your household. To celebrate you could treat yourself to a new game or two, safe in the knowledge that micro-transactions will be kept under control.
Read our guide to the Best iPad & iPhone games for some fine suggestions.