Rumor Mill: Apple to introduce iOS application rentals

With Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) widely expected to unveil its much-anticipated iPhone 5 during a media event Tuesday, code unearthed in the iTunes 10.5 beta 9 suggests the company may also introduce a new iOS application rental program, a move that could quell developer frustrations over the absence of software trial options within the App Store.

Code discovered by self-described "iOS hacker" Sonny Dickson hints an App Store rental option is in the cards--the relevant string states in part "Do you want to start playing the app 'AS'?" and "Apps are automatically removed from your iTunes library at the end of the rental period." However, language like "This app will be deleted from your computer" (as opposed to "phone") suggests the service is instead optimized for Apple's App Store for Mac, not the iOS platform. Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

The introduction of an App Store rental option would enable consumers to trial premium iOS applications while simultaneously generating income for developers--for example, users could sample a game typically priced at $9.99 for a 24-hour rental period priced at 99 cents, ideally converting the player to the full-priced version at the end of the rental period. Many iOS developers currently offer free, so-called "lite" versions of apps designed to migrate consumers to the fuller-featured premium edition.    

Apple first unveiled its iOS 5 operating system update in June during its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, promising more than 200 new user features and 1,500 new APIs. iOS 5 is first and foremost about seamless integration with iCloud, which replaces Apple's premium MobileMe offering and automatically syncs content on Apple servers for access across iOS devices as well as Macs and PCs. Each day, iCloud Backup saves information from the user's iOS devices over Wi-Fi, storing content including purchased music, apps and books, as well as photos, videos, device settings and app data. Apple is expected to release iOS 5 later this month.

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