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What you need to know about Apple's free apps policy

Serenity Caldwell | Oct. 24, 2013
Here's our guide to demystifying Apple's new pricing structure on its iLife and iWork apps

Apple made waves during Tuesday's media event when the company announced that its iLife and iWork suite would be free for customers who buy a new Mac or iOS device. But the apps are also free for users who already have the apps installed, and one app is free, period. Here's our guide to demystifying Apple's new pricing structure on its iLife and iWork apps.

How "free with purchase" works

When Apple first announced that its iOS apps would be free with the purchase of a new iPhone, I theorized that Apple might include a notification alert after you first activated your new device, with a link to download your free apps. Instead, there's no link or alert to be found. If you want your free iWork and iLife apps—on OS X Mavericks or on iOS—you have to first visit the Mac App Store to do so. When you do, however, the "Buy" button for those apps will be replaced with "Download" or "Update" (or the iCloud icon on the iOS App Store).

Though I can't yet confirm it (I asked Apple for more details but have yet to receive a response), I suspect that Apple associates the iWork and iLife suite with your Apple ID when you first activate a new device. That way, when you visit the app's page, it shows up as already "purchased" on your account, and you can download away.

The iLife app suite

Apple's new iLife suite consists of three apps—iMovie, iPhoto, and GarageBand—available for both OS X and iOS. On the Mac side, you're looking at iPhoto 9.5, iMovie 10.0, and GarageBand 10.0. iPhoto and iMovie each appear on the store for $15, while GarageBand is a free download with a $5 in-app purchase. All three apps require OS X Mavericks or later; if you attempt to download them while running an earlier version of OS X, you won't be able to proceed.

Apple's iOS versions of these apps are all version 2.0 and require iOS 7 or later; iMovie and iPhoto show up as $5 on the App Store by default, with GarageBand again available as a free download—you can add more touch-based instruments for a single $5 in-app purchase.

So who gets these for free and who has to pay up? Read on.

If you own iMovie, iPhoto, or GarageBand 9.0 or later and you got them from the Mac App Store: You should be able to download the latest versions for free by going to the Mac App Store and tapping Update.

If you own iMovie, iPhoto, or GarageBand 9.0 for the Mac but did not purchase them from the Mac App Store: You should be able to download the latest versions for free by going to the Mac App Store and tapping Update, though you may need to first visit the Purchases screen, where you might see a box called "You Have [number] Apps to Accept." This ties apps you have on your computer to both your Apple ID and a hardware identifier on your computer, and it should allow you to download free updates to these programs from any computer associated with your Apple ID.

 

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