If you reinstall an app, wipe your iPhone or iPad, or move to a new device, any in-app purchases you made on your old device won’t show up. But some in-app purchases are “permanent”, and you can restore them if you know where to look.
This only applies to purchases you make within apps. If you purchased a paid app from the App Store, you can just revisit the App Store and reinstall the app. As long as you’re signed in with the same Apple ID you purchased the app with, you’ll be able to install it again on any device.
Consumable vs. Non-Consumable Purchases
There are two different types of in-app purchases: Consumable ones and non-consumable ones.
Consumable purchases are ones that you consume, or use up. For example, if you buy in-game currency, like an amount of gems or coins for a game, that’s a consumable purchase. Other types of consumable purchases include extra lives, health, damage boosts, experience boosts, building-accelerators, and so on. Most consumable in-app purchases will probably be for games. However, any sort of pack of credits you can spend to do something (say, send a certain number of faxes from your iPad) is a consumable in-app purchase.
Consumable purchases can’t be restored. Whether you used all those gems you purchased or not, they’re gone if you uninstall the app or move to a new iPhone or iPad.
Non-consumable purchases are ones that give you permanent access to something that can’t be used up. For example, this would include a one-time payment to remove ads in an app, or an upgrade to a professional edition of an app with more features. It would also include you paying to unlock more levels in a game, or gaining access to specific features and tools in an app. A character or accessory for a game that you pay once for and can use as many times as you want would also be considered a non-consumable purchase.
Non-consumable purchases can be restored on a new device. In other words, those coins you purchased can’t be restored, but that level you paid to unlock can be restored.
Consumable Purchases Can Sometimes Be Restored, But Don’t Count on It
Technically, it’s possible for an app’s developer to sync currency and other consumable in-app-purchases using iCloud or their own server and restore it on another device. However, that’s a choice that’s up to each developer. You can’t do anything to restore it if the developer didn’t put the feature there.
Just use the same Apple ID on your new device or sign into the app with the same account you used on your old device. You may see your consumable purchases have been restored. If they are, great! If not, there’s nothing you can do.
In other words, the consumable purchases themselves can’t be restored from Apple’s App Store. But the app’s developer can keep track of them for you–if they feel like it.
How to Restore Non-Consumable Purchases
If you have non-consumable in-app purchases to restore, you must do it from within the app itself, not from the App Store. So first, install the app in question (if it’s not already installed).
Look for a button named “Restore Purchases” or something similar in the app. You may find this option in the app’s main menu screen, in the app’s settings screen, or in the app’s in-app store. Apple instructs developers to include such a button in their apps.
You’ll need to authenticate with the App Store after you do this, providing your Apple ID password. The app will then check the receipts on the app store to see what you’ve purchased and restore the purchases on your device.
You’ll need to use the same Apple ID you did when you made the purchase. You can’t get a new device, set it up with a new Apple ID, and expect to restore your purchases. Use the same Apple ID you used previously.
What If There’s No Restore Purchases Button?
Apple tells developers to include a button for this purpose, but some apps may not include such a button. In those cases, you still have options.
Simply attempting to re-purchase the same in-app purchase from within the app should work. As Apple’s documentation for developers states, “If the user attempts to purchase a product that’s already been purchased… The user isn’t charged again for the product.” However, be careful when doing this. If you purchase a slightly different in-app purchase, you’ll be charged again. This isn’t necessarily recommended.
Instead, Apple advises you contact the app’s developer if there’s no Restore Purchases button, or if the button doesn’t work.
To do this, open the App Store and find the app you’re trying to restore purchases in. To find the app, search for it in the App Store or tap “Updates” at the bottom of the App Store, tap “Purchases,” and tap the app in the list.
Tap the “Reviews” tab and tap the “App Support” link. You’ll be given information about how you can contact the developer.
When making in-app purchases, remember that consumable purchases can’t be restored. Even if you spend hundreds of dollars on in-game currency for an app, there’s no guarantee you can take it with you to a new iPhone or iPad. So purchase wisely!
Image Credit: Karlis Dambrans on Flickr