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Apple has rolled out support for promotional in-app download codes

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Historically, coordinating digital promotions on Apple’s iOS platform hasn’t been a walk in the park. That’s largely thanks to the App Store’s restrictions: For years, Apple’s digital distribution platform lacked a built-in means of discounting in-app downloads. But that’s no longer the case: on Friday, Apple extended the use of promotional codes to items sold within apps and games.

In-app promotional codes are available through iTunes Connect, the App Store’s developer portal, and they work as you’d expect. Developers can generate unique codes — 100 for each purchase item, up to a maximum of 1,000 codes per app every six months — that allow favored users to bypass in-app paywalls.

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Each promo code is good for 28 days from when the code is generated. Using a promo code for an item in a free app triggers a download of said item, while paid app downloads require a manual installation.

In-app promo codes aren’t new, but have historically been implemented on a per-app basis. Electronic Arts, for instance, has periodically launched in-app promotions for Real Racing 3. But until now, they haven’t been made available broadly. “Promo codes don’t work for in-app purchase, including Newsstand issues,” Apple’s developer documentation read as recently as a month ago.

If you’re lucky enough to receive a code, here’s how to redeem it: open the App Store on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, tap Featured, and then scroll down to the bottom of the page. Then select Redeem, enter your iTunes credentials, and submit the code when prompted.

One potential downside involves the restrictions that surround these codes. Only iTunes users with an Admin, App Manager, or Marketer role can request them. And in-app goods downloaded as part of a promotion can’t be rated or reviewed, a limitation that appears to be hard-coded in iTune’s app distribution settings.

The public rollout of in-app codes comes on the heels of another promotional tool, Search Ads, that debuted in early October. The intelligent advertising feature positions paid app promotions at the top of relevant iOS App Store search results.

Google’s Android platform, arguably iOS’s biggest competition, gained promo code support in January. As with iOS, the codes have limitations: codes are capped at a maximum of 500 per quarter, and can’t be used for in-app subscriptions.

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