One of the biggest items that Android fans used to lord over iOS users was the marketplace policy regarding refunds. On iOS, if you purchased an app and wanted to “return” it for a refund, good luck, and start groveling to Apple or the developer. On Android, if you purchase but uninstall within 24 hours, you get a full refund automatically! No need for as many “lite” versions of programs and it gave you a chance to really kick the tires before you committed your cold hard cash.
Well, as of last night, that window has dropped from 24 hours to 15 minutes. No, you’re not sleepy, and you read that correctly. 15 MINUTES. So basically if you purchase an app in a poor signal area and the download takes 10 minutes, you now have 5 minutes to test the app before you’re stuck with it for good. There’s no way Google didn’t know how unpopular this was going to be, judging from the fact that they posted it at 6 pm Pacific Time on a Friday night.
What’s their logic? Straight from the horse’s blog:
To streamline the browse-to-purchase experience, users can now access all the information about an application on a single page without the need to navigate across different tabs. We’re also introducing application content rating to provide users with more information about applications they are interested in. Since most users who request a refund do so within minutes of purchase, we will reduce the refund window on Market to 15 minutes. This change will be largely transparent to buyers, but will help developers manage their businesses more effectively.
Notice how sneaky they did that? List a bunch of interesting but mostly minor changes to the marketplace, and just casually mention, “Oh, and we just canceled one of the best features of our marketplace. Have a nice weekend!”
This update is going out to all users of Android 1.6 or higher, aka most of the Android marketplace. While it isn’t explicitly stated, my assumption is that this is something developers were pushing to prevent piracy, but 15 minutes is just unreasonably short. In addition to the fact that the clock starts ticking from purchase (as opposed to downloading, which can easily take up 3-5 minutes of that precious 15-minute window), it assumes you can test AND make a decision on an app in that short a period of time. If 24 hours was too long, what happened to 12 hours? Or even one hour? Just long enough to actually take advantage of a refund window, instead of a token “hey, we left you a trial time, sort of” policy.
I understand the concerns about a 24-hour window, but even just 60 minutes is more appropriate. If you have trouble downloading an app, get a phone call after purchasing, or simply get sidetracked IMMEDIATELY after purchase, under this new policy you’re stuck with the app. There’s absolutely no wiggle room, and that’s what’s disappointing here. They went from a very consumer friendly policy to a developer-friendly policy, with no compromise or in-between, and that’s what’s really disappointing here.