WWDC 2014 (IOS 8, App Bundles slide 001)

The much-improved App Store in iOS 8 features a number of enhancements. Case in point: app bundles. App bundles make it possible for developers to bundle up to ten of their existing iPhone and iPad applications in a single purchase at a reduced price.

Borrowing cues from the “Complete My Album” feature for music that debuted on iTunes in March 2007, app bundles are great promotional vehicles to drive sales and can serve as a nice reward for loyal customers.

But for the vast majority of ordinary users, app bundles are one of the least understood new features of the App Store in iOS 8. That it’s still very unclear how the App Store’s Complete My Bundle works is Apple’s fault.

And it certainly doesn’t make its users’ lives any easier with cryptic feature descriptions and the App Store’s non-intuitive bundle pricing mechanism. But don’t sweat, here’s everything you need to know in order to understand how Complete My Bundle works.

“If you purchased one or more apps from an eligible bundle, you can now use Complete My Bundle to receive the apps you don’t already have,” explains Apple’s support document dedicated to app bundles. “When you complete the bundle, you won’t have to pay the full bundled price”.

So far so good.

So, if you go to the App Store’s App Bundles section dedicated to Apps, Games or Kids (bonus: a few bundles worth checking out), you’ll notice that bundle prices vary depending on apps you already own. What this means is that in most instances, any particular bundle price I’m seeing probably won’t be the same on your end.

iOS 8 (App Store, App Bundles teaser 001)

Folks who own all of the bundled apps will see the bundle listed as “Purchased”.

I’m a huge fan of Modern Combat shooters and Infinity Blade games and own them all. Therefore, the App Store lists both Gameloft’s Modern Combat Pack and Epic Games’s Infinity Blade Trilogy as “Purchased”.

Again, based on the fact that I already own the individual items included in these particular bundles. By the way, notice how the App Store smartly removes the Buy button on such bundles in order to avoid any possibility of user confusion.

WWDC 2014 (IOS 8, App Bundles 001)

As the screenshots attest, the Infinity Blade games would run me $19.97 if purchased separately, or $20.97 in the case of the three titles included in the Modern Combat bundle.

But sometimes, apps you don’t own may cost you more in the bundle, or less, than their actual prices and it’s confusing as hell. A good example — and again, it applies only to my specific case — is Atypical Games’s Sky Gamblers bundle, comprised of Sky Gamblers: Cold War and Sky Gamblers: Storm Raiders.

Having previously purchased Storm Raiders but not Cold War, you can see that the App Store is offering to complete the whole bundle for $5.99? But wait a minute, something doesn’t compute here: isn’t Cold War listed as costing $4.99 just further below?

Clearly I won’t be completing this bundle.

iOS 8 (App Store, Complete My Bundle, Sky Gamblers 001)

And while we’re at it, what’s the deal with the App Store offering to complete the Worms Trilogy bundle for free? I mean, I’m not complaining but the original Worms game (which I don’t own) is unambiguously listed as a $4.99 value — so what’s up with that?

iOS 8 (App Store, Complete My Bundle, Worms 002)

As it turns out, developers over at Panic did their homework and were able to figure out precisely how Complete My Bundle works, even before Apple published its support document.

“Complete My Bundle takes whatever money you’ve paid for the individual apps and applies that towards the bundle’s fixed price,” the post reads.

“So, if you buy an app on sale, or use a promo code, your Complete My Bundle price can be different than someone else’s, and in some situations it might be cheaper to buy the remaining app(s) individually,” Panic explains.

So in the case of the Sky Gamblers bundle, I bought Storm Raiders on sale. But because the bundle’s fixed price of $9.98 is based off current app prices, completing the bundle would cost me a dollar more compared to simply buying Cold War outside the bundle for $4.99.

iOS 8 (App Store, Complete My Bundle, Panic Pack 001)

Panic offers an example of their own.

The user bought Transmit iOS for $9.99, Status Board for $9.99, and Diet Coda when it was briefly on SALE for $9.99. That’s a total of $29.97 worth of “credit” towards the price of the bundle. Now, the bundle’s fixed price is $39.99, based off current app prices. See where this is going? $39.99, minus $29.97 in credit, equals $10.02. Bingo. Don’t complete this bundle.

Apple’s support document specifies that a user’s Complete My Bundle price will vary depending on what they already bought from the bundle, “but it won’t be more than the price they’d pay to buy each app individually”.

The single most important thing you need to remember concerning app bundles: when buying apps from a bundle, the amount you pay for each individual app will be deducted from the total bundle price. And in case you downloaded an app from a bundle for free that now costs money, you won’t get any credit to put towards completing the bundle.

There, mystery solved.

Wrapping up, I really, really wish Apple put more thought into app bundles and made the pricing schemes and rules a lot easier to understand.

The App Bundles page at the Apple Developer portal offers more tidbits:

  • You can have up to 10 app bundles available at any given time.
  • An individual app may be included in up to three app bundles at any given time.
  • Apps contained in a bundle must also be available for individual sale.
  • If an app contained in a bundle is removed from sale in a particular market, the app bundle will also be removed from sale in that market.
  • For Kids app bundles, if all apps within the bundle belong to the same age band, the bundle will display that age band. If the apps have varying age bands, the bundle will not be assigned an age band.
  • App bundles are assigned the highest age rating of its component apps.
  • App bundles also support Complete My Bundle. Complete My Bundle credits customers for any apps they’ve already purchased within a bundle, so that they only pay the balance for the remaining apps.

Interestingly enough, sometimes the App Store won’t permit you to complete a bundle, mostly if an app becomes free or has been removed from the store. And yes, you can purchase a bundle as a gift for someone.

It’s my hope that this write-up will help clear up the confusion surrounding this much appreciated new App Store feature in iOS 8.

Thoughts?

[Panic Blog, Apple Support, Apple Developer]

  • Jeff Ramirez

    What a cluster f*ck!

  • Kevin Guzman

    Hahaha I had to figure out why my prices were different from others, I remember getting certain apps for free while my friends had to pay for them. I basically put the pieces together.

  • Andy

    Honestly, they could have simplified it easily:

    1. For a 3 app bundle (e.g. each costing $3 but $5 in a bundle), if you already own 1 app, and want to purchase the other 2 apps in the bundle, the bundle price itself is already lower ($5) than purchasing the 2 apps separately ($6), they should just charge the bundle’s price ($5).

    2. For a 2 app bundle (e.g. 1 costs $3, the other costs $5; but in a bundle they’re $6). If you own the app that costs $5, then it wouldn’t make sense to complete the bundle for $6, so you can just get the other app for $3.

    Of course, that doesn’t take into account what apps you already own in the bundle were bought on sale, for free or gifted (compared to their current price).

    The only reason I can see myself buying an app bundle is if I don’t own any of those apps. But first, you really need to ask yourself: Do you really need all the apps in the bundle? For games it may make more sense, but for others I doubt you actually need 5 cookbooks or 3 weather apps.

    • How is this any simpler than the current model?

      In current model, at least I got some bundles for free because I’ve already paid enough. In your model, there’s literally no reason to complete my bundle.

  • Cristian B

    I got Modern Combat 4 and 5 for free by using the complete my bundle feature. I had Modern Combat 1-3 purchased!

  • SoylentGreen

    Typical sneaky elites move, screw somemore cash out of the unwitting, mind you with law enforcement pwning the truststor this is just a kick in the nuts to app buyers to remember you whos ur daddy

  • ClaudieX X

    i already have Modern Combat 3 and 4… I bought the bundle and got Modern Combat 5 for 1.99 !! Excelent