After sifting through the latest version of iTunes 10.5 (beta 9), Twitter user @sonnydickson has revealed references to something that may surprise you: iOS app rentals. While the possibility of renting apps is certainly interesting news in itself, it gets really intriguing when you imagine what Apples motivations for the move could be. Could it be related to a big step forward in iOS gaming?
First, heres the code for you to see for yourself. With lines like Apps are automatically removed from your iTunes library at the end of the rental period, it clearly refers to the renting of applications:
The first question that I had after hearing about app rentals was why would anyone want to rent an iOS app? With the vast majority of paid apps costing under $10 (many of those under $5), why bother renting one?
One of the more obvious examples would be for navigation apps, that typically ring up in the $30-50 range. If youre looking for GPS for your annual road trip, the prospect of renting it for, say, $5 could be appealing to budget-conscious iOS users.
With Apple, though, its often wise to wonder if theres a bigger plan behind changes like this. Would they bother bringing in a major new service just so travelers can rent an app that they might otherwise buy for the full price? I have serious doubts about that.
With the (almost certain) addition of an A5 processor in the new iPhone (and with the iPad 2 already toting the A5), iOS gaming is set to take off like never before. We already have near console-quality games in Infinity Blade, Dead Space, and the myriad of Gameloft console clones (9mm and Backstab come to mind). Perhaps Apple sees this as the time to take the next step into more advanced mobile gaming?
With the superstars of their iOS hardware lineup the iPhone and iPad soon to be both sporting more powerful components, perhaps the only thing keeping iOS gaming from jumping to the next level is customer expectations. Specifically, the expectation that iOS games are going to cost less than $10.
If Apple wants to encourage developers to create games that start to rival the PS3 and Xbox 360, it isnt going to work if nobody is willing to pay more than $8.99 for each of them. Could app rentals be a way to ease customers into pricier gaming?
We tend to want eternally-advancing capabilities, but we generally dont like being asked to pay more for them. Considering the amount of development that goes into a console-level game, a few bucks seems like a meager price to sell each copy for. But if wed be willing to pay $20-40 for one of them, it stands to reason that we could see some things happen on the iPhone and iPad that dwarf what the current cutting-edge iOS games bring.
Would we also see lots of crappy titles that used to cost $5 now costing four or five times as much? Sure. But wouldnt it be worth sifting through all of that garbage to see a full Grand Theft Auto or Batman: Arkham game on the iPad? Id take that trade-off any day.