Stop Cheating the Android Market!


When you see an application listed as FREE you expect it to be FREE, right? So did we. Little did we know that when you download applications like “Fast Food Calorie Calculator” its sole purpose in life is to direct you to the MobiHand website so you can PURCHASE the application for $9.99!

Great, just what we wanted! What a crock… the crap they’re passing off as “Android Applications” are glorified links to purchase pages. The application is clearly listed as being FREE… and it is FREE, to download… but it doesn’t actually offer much if any value unless you purchase the full application. And even then- a list of fast food nutrition information for $9.99? Can’t you get this crap for free online? The people that need this darn application are the ones that should STOP EATING FASTFOOD ALTOGETHER (me included).

This is a pretty cheap trick by MobiHand (and others) if you ask me (see update at bottom). They’re preying on excited G1 customers, tossing up paid apps that are actually skeletal “demoes” and listing them as FREE. Of course people download them thinking it is free and then get directed to their website to buy it. Which everyone knows they DON’T want to do.

I’m not sure how many different ways I can explain how obnoxious this is. It destroys the user experience. I loaded the application description and chose to “flag content” for “other reasons” and simply put “not free” in the text box. I hope they get kicked off the market. Although if they do… it opens up a HUGEEEEEEE can of worms as far as Google regulating the market, which it is NOT supposed to do. Instead, I hope the application somehow gets user-pummeled into oblivion.

If your application isn’t free than don’t list it as free. Sure, you can get into the weasel-like technicalities that it IS free because you didn’t have to PAY anything to download the software to your phone. Blah blah blah blah blah.

I’ve now got a bad taste in my mouth with these “DEMO” applications. On we’re compiling a list (here) of applications that claim to be “FREE” and then do virtually nothing but link you to their purchase page after offering you virtually zero redeeming value.

Horse Manure.


UPDATE: David Schoenback from MobiHand asked us to clarify the point that MobiHand couldn’t possibly be held accountable for how developers listed in their marketplace choose to promote applications via other avenues. He’s right… and here is a portion of the statement he sent me:

“MobiHand had nothing to do with this so-called “cheap trick”. We operate a legitimate open marketplace for developers to sell and customers to buy Android apps. We did not create or know in advance about the listing in the Android Market. It’s not our responsibility (nor would it even be feasible) for us to control how our developer partners choose to promote, through other channels, the applications they have listed in the MobiHand catalog.”

Rob Jackson
I'm an Android and Tech lover, but first and foremost I consider myself a creative thinker and entrepreneurial spirit with a passion for ideas of all sizes. I'm a sports lover who cheers for the Orange (College), Ravens (NFL), (Orioles), and Yankees (long story). I live in Baltimore and wear it on my sleeve, with an Under Armour logo. I also love traveling... where do you want to go?

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  1. I agree, and I don’t think it would be a big deal for Google to do some light regulation.

    If you’re going to charge, then charge. If you want to offer a demo ( a working, useful demo) that demonstrates the wonders of your product and convinces people — What a wonderful product, I should get the full version! — then label it as such.

    I have no problem with people making a dollar, so long as they don’t pretend something is free.

    My partner made the comment about some advertiser saying “your free gift”……..”FREE GIFT? As opposed to those gifts you have to pay for?”

  2. For Christmas, I’m going to buy all of my friends and families catalogs. I will tell them, “LOOK! I have just given you everything in this catalog for FREE! Its sitting right in front of you…. and I’ve even showed you where to buy it!”

    That’s what it feels like to me. I agree with your points as well, Jason.

  3. It’s not a problem if you can give rating or something (like comments) to the application. Can you (don’t have android yet to check). Just give it zero from whatever and no one else will download it.

  4. At first glance this may seem like an underhanded thing by these developers to post their apps as “free” when they are really only demos (I’ve noticed some will put it in the app description that what you are downloading is a demo). However, if there isn’t an option for the app to be listed as “DEMO” where it currently says “FREE” then the blame falls on Google for not having the foresight to add a simple option to distinguish the two on the listing screen.

  5. Bury it in the ratings.

    This is what Google is relying on to push down crap apps.

  6. The demo for Fast Food Calorie Counter was never meant to trick people into buying the app. We do sincerely apologize if it came across as this. The idea was that it was a demo and should be marked that way and to give full information for a handful of restaurants, while the full version contained all the restaurants. The app was released today and had issues first going live with the full description, for some reason we think it didn’t like the formatting. Long story short, the first description that went live was one sentence that didn’t describe it was a demo. It seems the description was poor after that as well not explaining well that the first 5 restaurants were totally free and that the others were for the full version.

    Basically we are trying to work through this since the shop just opened up. We don’t want to trick anyone or even come close to that since just like everyone has posted here mentions, the idea of an open market is if you don’t like it vote it down!

  7. I agree that this is part Google’s fault for not having a market ready for PAID applications. Sure the description should indicate it’s just a demo/trial version but that should be part of the submission process and not something that is hidden away in a description field. Some of us are trying to make a living with developing these programs :-)

  8. I hate to be “middle of the road” but I think we need to give App developers a bit of a break here. I commend any developer who got their app done and launched. I think Google has far more blame in this than a developer. This is uncharted territory and Google’s rush to get their market up smells a lot like the Android Challenge. Lots of good ideas but not well executed. Some app developers may be trying to scheme but I think most are caught trying to operate in a “yet to be fixed” system with little flexibility and no one to contact at motherGoogle for guidance. Good job hitting the mark and getting launched!

  9. Rob,

    I understand your issue here, but I think you’ve blown it way out of proportion. The app should simply be filed correctly under the demo section. I don’t think we’re on the verge of Google controlled apps.

  10. I agree with MaggieMae and Dan… part of the reason I included the “update”… I did overreact a bit but keep in mind that you’re basically looking at my FIRST time witnessing such a thing LIVE on video and then my immediate response afterward. Concrete Studios DID fix their description to reflect it as a “DEMO” but would they have if such a stink wasn’t made?

    Thanks for keeping me grounded, guys!

  11. Rob, maybe you don’t understand how companies work. They produce applications and in exchange need to be paid for their efforts, otherwise they go out of business. Concrete Software is a small company that produces quality apps. I’ve bought a few of their apps on other platforms and they have very good customer service and seem like good guys. What I think is wrong is you trying to rip on a company just because they want to make money. That is what they do…

  12. @ Tom… First of all, I have qualified my statements afterwards several times. Second of all, I don’t buy that excuse. All companies “want to make money”… of course. But there is a right way to go about things and a wrong way to go about things.

    I said several times I would buy an application – and suggest others to buy applications – that are worthy of being bought. I’m not the end-all-be-all of determining application worthiness… but I provide my opinion. Integrating advertising into applications? I’m all for that, too…

    But developers – like any other business – need to be honest and straightforward with the products and software they are selling. And Google needs a marketplace that allows app developers to clearly distinguish “demo” apps as being demos. Bottom line. Concrete Studios has updated their listing and props to them for fixing their initial boo boo.

    It was only a boo boo. I admitted that I overreacted but the PRINCIPLES behind my post and video still stand. Once again, thanks for updating the android market listing, Concrete.

  13. We were working on the description through out the afternoon yesterday after it went live. After we got the description out that said it was a demo, it still didn’t describe the demo well enough to explain that the first 5 restaurants in the demo were fully usable. We did read all the feedback as well that was given and tried to use that to make it better.

    We do apologize again for ever misleading anyone, that was never our intention. We will keep reading the feedback on our apps from the Android store and sites like this to make sure we address any issues.

  14. Keith, i know one way to make emmends and cater to the discrunteled on the android user market.. why not make a window of opportunity in allowing the full version to be downloaded, say for like a specified weekend, give people that hear about about this special promotion a chance to get it, dillute our feelings of being cheated with false information, THEN upload the demo to the server.

    THAT would be your best case sinerio at this time to make us feel a lil better and not already burn android bridges so soon into the android release.


  15. Thanks Alex for the comments, we’ll see what we can do – that’s not a bad idea at all. On another note we did redo our demo as well so it is easier to tell which restaurants are free in the demo and added 5 more free restaurants. We also have the app listed in a demo category as well – hopefully these changes along with the description changes that were made right away will give everyone a better experience!

  16. One thing you’re forgetting about is that developers don’t have the ability to change it from FREE. It’s hardcoded into the page where you upload your app because they don’t allow paid applications yet. I think a little more research on your part would’ve uncovered that fact.

  17. I have been doing a lot of reading about the regulating of comments and ratings on apps (like when trolls flame on and on). I have a feeling that Google will probably take the same stand they took against moderating the comments and ratings….blahblahsomething-democracy. I think the response here will be “blahblahsomething laissez-faire market,” so no one better hold their breath. I do totally agree with the whole “up front about cost” point. If the app is something I could use frequently and the one-time cost is reasonable, I would be willing to buy it. As we’ve seen from the iPhone and it’s app market, this is a successful system when there are no hidden tricks (be it whomever’s fault that the trick exists!).

  18. I wonder if the market will ever be updated to allow demo/trial applications to be listed correctly… I certainly don’t think they should be in the free section, under any circumstances, they should have their own section.

    OR… I think better still, have the option to get a trial under the PAID section.

    The problem is – whilst this is best for us, it isn’t for the marketplace, they want to make money so they want us to go for the paid apps even though there might be a free alternative which perfectly fits for us. So do you think they want to easily give up that possible extra income?

    As for ad supported, that is fine, but I would like to know which ones are first – if they want to be ad supported they better be better than free alternatives. The best way you can tell so far is when some random small game wants network access – why? Most likely it’s to get the advert, and I’d rather not have my data connection be used whilst I am playing a game, save my battery and my data thanks.

    I think the “billing method” should be made clear, free, paid, demo, trial, ad supported etc… with the trial in the paid section and the demo possibly in the free (with demo in the title or something, some developers already do this).

    The argument about developers wanting to be paid? That’s rubbish, there are enough people out there willing to create small but good applications for the community – we are talking small apps here that run on a phone, not a whole graphics editing package, or word processing application (granted there are already FREE community projects for these, OpenOffice and GIMP being the most notable).

    It’s also reflected in the cost of these apps, £1.99? £0.99? Just shows they are listing them because they think they can… before these “market places” (apple, Symbian, android) a lot more applications were being given away for free… I didn’t hear developers complaining then? (not suggesting they are complaining now :p)

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