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Anyone can build an app
The best thing about apps is anyone can build an app and sell it. The worst thing about apps is anyone can build an app and sell it. The app market is in its infancy and it is the "Wild West" out there with some persons being very talented at app creation and others being not so talented. So take a few common sense steps before making an app purchase. Obviously, the more an app costs, the more careful you will want to be. This article uses iTunes as an example.
Read the requirements for the app
On the iTunes page for a particular app, read the requirements for that app. For example, some features may require Internet access (like GPS tracking). If you are using an iTouch and are not going to have Wi-Fi access, you need to take that into account.
Certain apps may only work with certain models of the iPhone or iTouch -- or require the latest version of the iPhone operating system. Conversely, some apps were created before the latest version of the operating system and the page for a particular app on iTunes may or may not say that it has been "tested" on the latest version of the operating system for iPhone / iTouch. Bottom line, read the requirements.
Read the "Most Recent" reviews
Read the reviews left by other purchasers. Sort the reviews by "Most Recent" as opposed to "Most Helpful." Because app development is in its infancy, some apps are great ideas, but do not work properly when first released. But then the developer fixes the problem. To get the most accurate picture, read the most recent reviews.
For paid apps, try out a free version if one is available
Some paid apps have a free (or "lite") version. If so, you might want to try that version first if you are concerned about wasting your money.
After purchasing an app, provide a constructive review
Provide a review of all apps you purchase on iTunes. This is the only way to weed out the good apps from the bad apps. Some app developers beg you to e-mail them first before leaving a bad review so they can fix the problem. I disagree. You do not know how quickly a problem will be fixed, and in the meantime, other persons are purchasing that app. But when leaving a negative review, try to be specific and constructive so the app can be improved.
Realize that there is a price for being an "early adopter"
An early adopter is someone who quickly adopts new technology. App development is in its infancy, and if you are going to be an early adopter of this technology, accept the fact that you may occasionally make an app purchase that turns out to be a waste of money. At least most apps do not cost nearly as much as some of the other wasted purchases we have all made. Remember that wall-mounted-dancing fish that would sing "Grandma got run over by a reindeer." Gosh, that seemed like a good idea at the time . . .
If there are other suggestions that should be in this article, send them to me.
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