Apple’s 12 Days of Christmas cancelled: why did Apple pull its free app giveaway?

Free is a much more complicated word for Apple nowadays, and the company doesn’t seem bothered about giveaways

Andrew Griffin
Monday 29 December 2014 15:32 GMT

Apple has cancelled the 12 Days of Christmas giveaway. The promotion has been run since 2008, and took place over the 12 days after December 26, when free apps and music would be given away each day.

The promotion was retired with little ceremony — the app simply doesn’t show in the App Store, though it has been replaced by ones trying to steal its popularity — and so Apple hasn’t commented on why the promotion was stopped.

But Apple has been increasingly uncertain about calling apps “free”, at all.

Last month, it changed all of the descriptions on free apps from “Free” to “Get”. That was prompted by the EU’s irritation over apps that were initially free but then prompted users to pay for in-app purchases.

That move reflected the increasing domination of such “freemium” games in the App Store — ones that are initially free, but can end up costing much more than paid ones as players pay for upgrades and other in-game costs.

It has meant that free apps have come to feature much more in the Apple Store — and so Apple’s giveaway might be less exciting — and also that parents and other groups, including the EU, have become increasingly suspicious of games that claim to be free.

And Apple’s other big free giveaway was U2’s new album, which appeared on users’ phones by default and required a complicated technique to dispose of.

Or it may simply be that Apple doesn’t feel the need to take part in giveaways any more. Apple didn’t take part in Black Friday or Cyber Monday in the UK or the US this year, choosing instead to give cash to Aids research.

The 12 Days of Christmas giveaway was run in the UK since 2008, and the US joined in last year. It was accessed by a dedicated app, which was usually released in early December.

The giveaways were released every day and were available for 24 hours.

Last year, it featured games such as Rayman Jungle Run, films including Home Alone, and a number of exclusive music launches like collections of live Tom Odell and Rolling Stones tracks.

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