Does Apple want to double charge you for apps?

alreadypurchased1Apple? Greedy? Perish the thought! Some bleeding edge iPhone users may beg to differ though: this past weekend, some of them were prompted to pay up again when trying to re-download an already-purchased app.

Blogger and Twittizen iPhonedocked (a.k.a. J. Doss in meatspace), along with a few other users came across this peculiar pop-up while playing around with iPhone OS 3.0’s beta build. When they attempted to download an app that they had previously purchased, well… you can see the image. Apps can be downloaded from iTunes onto PCs and Macs and then loaded onto iPhones with impunity, but if you really miss your deleted copy of Amateur Surgeon, you’re not getting it back for free while on the go. The bigger question is, why would Apple change their policy on over-the-air downloads?

The prime suspect is probably the iPhone’s spotty relationship with AT&T’s network. With the iPhone’s polished web capabilities, more and more people are surfing and downloading over the air by the day. It doesn’t help that Cupertino’s latest iPhone is rumored to support mobile video uploading, which would put even more strain on AT&T’s towers. We’ve seen what can happen when AT&T’s network is pushed to the limit, and with Apple poised to release what is sure to be another bestseller at some point in the near future, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them try and reduce the load on AT&T’s network by discontinuing free app re-downloads. They’ve made attempts in the past, most notably by capping the size of over-the-air app downloads to 10MB, so this certainly seems like a logical move for Apple.

For now though, we can all take solace in the fact that the prompt doesn’t pop up every time, and could easily be tweaked away before the software goes gold. Hopefully, we’ll have a solid answer for you by the time WWDC kicks off next week.

EDIT: In this case, applying Occam’s Razor would’ve helped – Apple’s intent is to prevent multiple people from re-downloading the same apps to different phones using 1 iTunes account. Thanks to Jason and Travis Clark for the update in the comments.