Don't get stung by Pokemon Go: how to turn off in-app purchases

Tom Wilson
25 July 2016

The latest Pokemon game has arrived in the UK this month, and ‘Pokemon Go’ is comfortably the biggest to date.

Searches for the game have surpassed practically every fad of the last decade, including the latest Star Wars film, Euro 2016 and US presidential candidate Donald Trump.

The good news for parents is you don’t need to pay the best part of £40 if your kids want to play it. The app, which is available on both iOS and Android phones, is free to install.


However, the game does use a ‘Freemium’ charging structure where people can spend real money within the game to help them catch rarer beasts or move up levels more quickly.

Players do this by purchasing in-app currency, which ranges from £0.79 for 100 virtual coins to a whopping £79.99, which buys 14,500 virtual coins.

While many players won’t buy in-app currency, for those who do there is no spending cap, and the cost of frequent ‘micro transactions’ can add up quickly, particularly when the person spending doesn’t pay the bill.

Pokemon Go has already made over $14 million through in-app purchases, and is currently hoovering up half of all in-app microtransactions, according to Slice Intelligence, a US digital market research company.


How to turn off in-app purchases

You can’t turn off in-app purchases completely, but you can restrict them by ensuring a password or fingerprint authentication is needed to make purchases. Here’s how:

How to turn off in-app purchases on an iOS device

  • Via the home screen, select ‘Settings’
  • Tap ‘General’ in the main settings menu
  • Scroll down and tap ‘Restrictions’
  • Select ‘Enable restrictions’, and set a four-digit password


How to turn off in-app purchases on an Android device

  • Open the Google Play Store and select the ‘Menu’ button at the top of the screen
  • Scroll down and select ‘Settings’
  • Select ‘Require authentication for purchases’


Beware hefty data charges

Though it’s not necessary to spend money in Pokemon Go in order to play, you will need to have internet access to play the game, which means it could potentially eat into your data allowance.

Most users say they use 2MB to 10MB per hour, though in some cases data consumption can be higher. Still, this is substantially less than apps such as Spotify, which uses around 70MB per hour at medium quality, or video streaming apps such as Netflix, which consumes about 700MB of data per hour at standard definition.


Some reports state that Pokemon Go data usage can be trimmed down by saving local maps to your phone, rather than downloading them on the fly. In my experiments (solely for the purpose of this article, of course), my phone’s data usage seemed to drop slightly after installing maps locally – although others say this didn’t work for them. 

The best way to save your allowance is to always use free wifi where possible – especially when abroad.

Within the EU, charges for data are capped at €0.05 per megabyte (MB), so a couple hours play could potentially cost a Euro. Outside of the EU, fees could become eye-watering. Both Three and O2, for example, charge £6/MB in some territories, meaning the cost of an hour’s play could hit £60. Tesco Mobile is even worse, charging £8 for an hour’s play in some countries.

Under EU regulation, mobile networks have to freeze phone usage once roaming bills hit €50, but if users opt to go over this there’s no limit to how much they can spend.

Pokemon Go does force players to wander around, meaning using wifi isn’t always feasible. If you want to play the game on holiday, you might be better off buying a local pay-as-you-go SIM so you pay local mobile prices.

Alternatively, some providers offer bolt-ons for a couple pounds per day that let you use your UK data allowances overseas. If you do this, check your terms as some providers will use this as an opportunity to opt you out of the €50 roaming cap.

If you’re playing in the UK, ensure you keep an eye on your data allowance and stay within its limit. 

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