Is Apple Changing its Policy on iOS App Updates?

Maybe my eyes were deceiving me. I have to admit that I'd just polished off my second whisky of the morning, but I saw something on my iPad this morning which was very surprising indeed.

At about 10am in Madrid in Spain on the 13 Dec 2013, I went to update some apps on my iPad. But instead of being greeted on the update screen with the normal buttons with 'update' written on them, they had 'free' on them instead. Everything exactly the same, just the wording was different.

When I saw them, I thought that Apple had changed its policy on app updates on iOS. That they had moved away from forcing every update to be free, to a model where some updates would have to be paid for (because if you had a button which said 'free' on it, it would make sense to have another which was 'not free').

To be honest I thought that it made sense to do it. Although I like not having to pay more money for an app which I have already paid for, I appreciate that a lot of hard work has probably gone into making the improvements. And if people are unable to be financially rewarded for making these improvements to their apps, why would they bother doing them? If I like or use an app enough, I wouldn't really have a problem paying for an update or new version if it added new features and improvements to it.

I didn't think anymore about this until I returned to update some more apps later that day, when I noticed that all the buttons had returned to having just 'update' on them again and there was no 'free' to be seen (If I had known this, I would have taken a screenshot. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.).

Although I have no inside knowledge of Apple (I'm just a simple user of their products), what I saw would seem to suggest that they made a mistake (which they then quickly corrected). It could have been just a simple typo, but maybe Apple has been listening to the complaints from app makers about its app update policy and is finally looking into allowing app makers to charge for updates. In my humble opinion, I would think we will be entering an era of paid app updates. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, I'll let you be the judge.