Downloading free apps can be a dicey matter when kids are involved. Free apps entice us with the promise of mobile fun at no cost. But it doesn't usually work that way. Most “free” apps have a way of making money. And that way is not always good for kids.
Free apps fall into four categories:
The first two categories above -- Apps with Ads and Freemium -- are frequently bad for kids. Here are two examples to show why:
Flow Free Free (Big Duck Games LLC, for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, and Windows phone) is a nifty logic puzzler about connecting colored dots by adding pipes to a grid. Sounds perfect for kids. The problem is that this free app makes money by hosting ads at the bottom of your screen. Thus the price of "free" is direct, in-your-face marketing. But it gets even worse, after winning a few levels, the app "rewards" you with a free download of another app – a casino-themed one. It goes so far as to lock your screen unless you download. I had to quit the app to get away from the promotion. You can pay $.99 for one of the many packs to get rid of these ads; but, as you can see, this free app is then no longer free.
Plants vs. Zombies 2 from PopCap is an alluring puzzler about growing warrior plants to stop hordes of hilarious zombies. This freemium game (for iOS and Android) sucks you in by providing nicely balanced levels in the first of three worlds. But, by the time you reach the middle of the second world, the puzzles get hard, thus enticing players to spend real money for power-ups. This free-to-play game becomes a pay-to-win game. And parents have to deal with frantic requests to spend money on in-app purchases while their kids are in the middle of an undead battle.
The better route to go when kids are involved is free apps that are genuinely free or free-to-try apps where the additional content is offered as an in-app purchase presented only to parents (meaning the offer-to-buy is behind a parental gate where parents need to answer a question that allows them into a "Parents-only" area of the app.) That way kids can enjoy a free app without suffering through hidden or aggressive in-app marketing.
To find the truly free and good apps for kids, we have created a Best Picks List just for that purpose entitled: FREE and Fabulous: Top Apps for Kids
On that list you will see examples of truly FREE such as:
The list also has Free-to-Try examples such as: