What’s Your Take on 24 Hour Market Return Policy?



I’ve been getting a few Tweets and emails about the newfangled  Market payment system. I’ve personally been quite impressed with the streamlined, slick way the payments are handled. I love the fact that I can login to my Google Checkout account online and see all of my purchases, cancellations, and refunds in one place, instantly. In fact, it reminds me of the rest of the Google services on the G1 – they sync seamlessly with the web, almost instantly. I thought that the iPhone’s push services were fast until I bought the G1. However, all things said, I’ve also received quite a few disheartened emails from developers about the return policy. To me, and the rest of the app “consumers” in the Market-o-sphere, this return policy seems pretty logical. It’s a great way to preview an app without worrying about bugs. However, a few of the devs mentioned that this system almost encourages the return of apps. And once I think about it, if I was a dev, I’d be a little afraid with the 24 hour return policy on apps.

I’ve noticed in the few days that I’ve been able purchase apps that I’ve return around 90% of them. I only chose apps with around 3.5 to 4 stars to try out to see what the cream of the crop looked like, and in fact, most of them were actually pretty useful and innovative. But I always had something in the back of my mind telling me, “Hey, this app is okay…but guess what? You don’t really like it…and you still have 23 hours to return it…so, wait until you find a really good application and then drop a couple bones on it.”  So, in essence, since I had the choice to return the app and not make do with my purchase, I almost always returned it. Back in my iPhone days, I read reviews of an app, purchased it, and regardless if it was well made, used it. For example, I’ve downloaded Duke Nuke ‘Em and Midnight Pool to try out. I felt like they were well made for the most part, but got bored, and just returned the game. Now, if the purchase was final, I probably would have kept it and played the game out. The developers of these two games now get zero of my dollars. So, at first look I really, really like the new payment scheme for Market – it is incredibly smooth and streamlined, and the 24 hour return period is nice to knock off the bad apps – but I’m now wary of purchasing an app and not giving it a thorough look over before I uninstall and refund. Hopefully, a happy medium of sales and return will be reached where the developer gets the sales he/she deserves for their well-made app, and the sub-par developer will make a smaller amount because his app simply wasn’t as good. This is the way it should be, and I think overall the Market scheme is taking it in stride, but it all needs to be carefully done.

So, what’s your take of this Market pricing scheme? Are you a dev or consumer or both?  Like it? Love it? Gotta Have It?


Twitter me up about it, too!

Spencer Gardner
Spencer sheds blood, sweat, and sometimes tears over each and every story that is written. All in the name of Sci..er..Android! He also runs many miles many days of the year and hugely enjoys the tech world in general.

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  1. Gotta have returns, folks. If for no other reason than it is a key differentiator from the App Store competition.

    Another reason returns are necessary is that we have no screen shots in the market. Even if they get screens, there’s no telling the quality of applications which are sound-based (sound boards, games, audio books, etc.).

    I don’t understand why devs would be afraid of the policy. If developers want to avoid returns, they can:
    – Release a free, demo / trial version (as many have done).
    – Develop a quality, useful app. The one return I have made (Midnight Bowling 2) was a joke. I had hoped it was great, but it was horrible. No 3D, bad interface, etc.

    Keep the refunds available to us.

  2. Try before you buy is the only way to go, which this is for all intents and purposes.

  3. Although RC33 has made tremendous improvements in the Market, personally, I think that the Market is still a disorganized mess. (1) Ironically, the biggest problem with Google’s market place is that the search function sucks. Google has so conditioned the world with its unbelievably excellent http://www.google.com search (finds grammar equivalents, partial text matches, context equivalents, common misspellings, etc) that we expect that level of competency everywhere in their product offerings. Don’t believe me? How would you find every password safe program in the market? I bet you money you can’t (with a single search). (2) Application renaming. If a developer wants to change the name of his/her application they can only release a new app which causes the history of prior releases to be lost… or worse, for a malicious or inferior developer to simply rebrand applications that had poor ratings to, in effect, reboot the ranking. (3) Multi-version support. Demo versions and full/pay versions should be tied together under one app screen rating system. I shouldn’t have to find demos and full versions separately.

    Those are my big three… and yes, returns are a fundamental right and requirement for an open marketplace.

  4. I agree with Ryan and actually I have a few apps in the works that I plan on selling. When Apple released the app store they did not have returns (as far as i know?), but they didn’t really need them. Why? because they have an approval process, Android does not. Google does not check the quality of applications so the user is not guaranteed anything. By allowing 24 hours to return an application it makes sure that the good applications will sell and remain sold and the others will either be improved or removed. The return policy is important for user satisfaction and Android’s success, if people are ripped off or scammed it will hurt Android’s reputation.

    So yes, the return policy is important, but I think 2-8 hours would be plenty of time to test an application and determine whether or not they like it.

  5. 24 hours seems ok to me when you consider useful applications that you will be using beyond the novelty period. If you tried it and realized you didn’t really need it, or it didn’t do what you thought it did, return seems fine.

    But things like simple games? In a few hours you can probably complete most of the games out there. It was still probably worth the price of the game, but since you already finished, and there is no penalty for returning, most people will return at that point. I can see it really hurting game developers.

    There have been suggestions of 2 hour return policy. I think it would make perfect sense for games. And I bet you can thoroughly test out *any* application in 2 hours, so it would be simple if the try-out period would be limited for all applications, instead of to just, say, games.

  6. Here’s my take: I buy apps I need or want, and I return those that don’t work or aren’t very close to working. I wouldn’t return something that I needed or wanted if I actually needed or wanted it, but I don’t experience buyer’s remorse. If you know you’re going around buying apps because the market just lauched paid apps and you want to see what’s out there without having to actually spend money, then you’re basically just messing up your own pool of results, but as people get used to the marketplace having paid apps I think that phenomena will go away.

    If I could test an app before I buy it then I wouldn’t need to return it. So either Google needs to implement test versions somehow, or the 24-hour return thing is a good idea imo.

    If developers make quality apps they’ll make their money. Lots of devs I’ve seen so far have released apps that cost money, yet are not fully developed yet. They don’t deserve the few sales they get. Release a free version until it’s finished, then make it a paid full release w/a free beta or whatever.

  7. Daniel I agree with all your points except the return policy time.

    I think the 24 hour time period makes sense, if you were to limit the time usage further you would not see certain things like battery drain or the consistency of the application to function continually. Or if you bought an application in the evening and you were to find problems in the morning, you would still have the ability to return the application. A great example would be an alarm/notification based program.

    I am finding paid applications that still lack features or are in beta like the Game Boy Color emulator; which has no sound currently. I am hoping the return policy pushes the developers to make a complete application and not to quickly make some cash for a half-way finished project.

  8. I do not like the return policy. As a developer we spend a lot of time and effort creating applications that will sell. The rating system already points out what apps are good and what apps are not.

    According to a recent study 70% of iPhone users download an application and never use it again after the first few days. This return policy could reduce sales by as much as 70% thus providing less funds for us to continue to improve our existing applications and release new ones.

    While I support a return policy, it should be measured in minutes, not days.

  9. Some recently published App Store stats suggested only 20% of people continued to use an app more than 24 hours after downloading it. That’s a pretty telling stat.

    Personally I think Google needs to release the Market online, requiring login and tying in with Checkout. You can comment if you have the app, and can view purchases etc…

  10. As we get close to releasing our first application onto the Android Market, I’ve considered what the effects of the 24 hour return policy could mean. And, until I see evidence of rampant piracy, I have to say that I think Google has it right. Competition is a good thing. And, the (smaller) software companies that I admire will basically refund your money at any point, if you don’t like/want their software. I feel the same way. I have no desire to make a few quick bucks due to licensing restrictions. I think the Android Market is going to lead to some real “best of breed” applications, and I’m excited by that !

  11. Also, the trend toward “ringtone-priced” software is counter-productive. It doesn’t help the future of mobile applications to have so many $1 “crapplications” bombarding users who actually want to DO SOMETHING with their expensive phones. And the concept of subsidizing such “crapplications”, by basically eliminating the customer’s ability to return unwanted software is the opposite of what needs to happen in this burgeoning marketplace.

  12. I am a software developer by trade (not Android or any other mobile platform yet) and I think the returns system is a stroke of genius for the longevity of the platform. With a final sale system, it doesn’t take long to become disillusioned by the constant letdown from poorly written applications. As others here have pointed out, the return system encourages well written applications and puts the consumer in charge. In the long term, this will also encourage competitive pricing. To those above who talk of 70% reduced sales, it may be better to consider it as 70% increase in customer satisfaction (or, more correctly, a 70% decrease in customer dissatisfaction). The returns policy will also greatly encourage people to try out software they may otherwise have skipped because they didn’t want to pay for something they were not sure about.

  13. I agree with 99% of everyone here. Mr. Hadley is
    complaining about the return policy because of all
    the hard work he puts in. If the developer puts in the
    “hard work” then he/she should not have anything to worry about. The market is full of crap apps, some that don’t
    tell you what they do…. kinda sucks. As far as the
    rating system goes, when all apps were free, I cannot
    recall seeing any 5 star apps. Now, all of the sudden
    there are several 5 star paid apps. I have downloaded several and they suck. They typically have 1-3 ratings with no comments, seems fishy to me. Is it possible that developers are rating their own apps high to gain
    interest in the app? Some of the most useful apps imo, do not have 5 star ratings (i.e. visual voice mail and call back plus, sms popup, etc). Anyone have any thoughts on this?

  14. I agree with nik. There are lots of apps I have only tried that I wasn’t sure about ,knowing I could return it if I didn’t like it. More apps than not that I tested I did not return.

  15. “Daniel” nailed it. Whereas I certainly understand developers’ concern, the main reason the return policy was implemented was to encourage quality products and not the numerous “Crap Apps” that we have been seeing. If you have a strong app that does what it is supposed to do and has a nice interface (i.e. ASTRO, Chomp SMS, Hide & Seek) then people aren’t going to want to return it. If your app is marginal at best and hasn’t quite worked out all of the kinks (i.e. Guitar Hero) then people are going to want their money back (especially at $9.99)

  16. I feel for the developers, and I know alot of them work hard and are eager to put out an app early so users can beta test or to show the world their creation. But there are alot of developers building poor applications and saturating the market making it harder to find well developed apps. I do beleive some developers buy their $1 app on multilple accounts and give it 5 star rating to bump sales. So I think the return policy will help the developers that are trying, its just not going to be the same as the iPhone market, but you don’t have the restrictions either. The good Apps will show in the ratings and rating count and users will pick up on this.

    The market could correct a bit of the return policy woes by showing the rating count below the stars from the main screen. It takes too much effort to go into each Application to see how many users there. This would give a quick oversite to how many people have tried. Another idea would be able to sort the Applications by rating and rating count.

    Also the market definetely needs screen shots now with the paid apps as other posters comented. A secondary page/link that would show a couple screen grabs and more details would be nice. I would be more inclined to buy and probably return less because I can see what I am purchasing. The seperation of demos makes it hard to tell wether an app has a lite/free/trial version avaiable.

  17. I have mixed feelings but overall I think it’s good. To be perfectly honest, we’ve experienced a very low return rate with a2b.

    Why? Several reasons:

    1) a2b works! and works really well! We’ve found zero defects in production!

    2) Our price is extremely competitive ~ 99 cents!

    3) a2b offers more features than other paid apps in our class (travel) [compass, GPS, camera, voice recording, free text notes, unlimited stored locations…on and on and on)

    4) product support ~ I personally email every single person that purchases our app to say thank you and let them know if they have any issues they can personally contact me. If someone returns the app I follow up to see why they returned.

    5) 4.67 stars out 5 with positive comments

    In conclusion, build a solid product, support your customers, sell it at a reasonable price and returns should be a non issue.

  18. Abe has a good point about games. Reading through marketplace comments of several games you’ll find numerous posts to this effect: (5 stars) “Great game! Really well done but I beat all 100 levels before the 24 hours were up so I got a refund!”

    This has to be frustrating for developers. They make an admittedly excellent product, get good ratings, but people still don’t end up paying them for their efforts. I’m not saying the refund period should be eliminated, but it would be nice if there were a good solution to keep people from taking advantage of the market.

  19. To offset lost sales due to returns should the average price go up?

  20. A 1-2 hour return policy would make a lot more sense.

  21. @Froogloid

    You are unlike most developers with their applications in the market place. You have a youtube video about the app, a website and provide direct support all listed on the details page for you app in the market place. This gives the user the ability to preview what they are going to buy. You are an asset to the community.

    With almost all applications/games in the market place I don’t know what I am getting and can only rely on the reviews. These reveiws are hard to qualifiy as usable since most of them seemed to be written by some one with the comprehension of a 13 year old.

  22. Thanks Josh. Our strategy is likely much different than most android developers. We want to build a “business”, not just some one-off, half functional application. Thanks for noticing and I certainly appreciate your positive comments!


  23. To the developer complaining about the 70% drop in sales, bcuz no one buys the crappy apps…its developers like yourself who made google add a 24hour return policy, google as a brand doesnt want to be labeled as a corporation that supports a half ass product, like your trying to sell with your apps…anyone that’s taken a few programming courses would be making apps on this Os and taking money from people with real jobs…no if wyou get on your job, and be innovative, and also provide a well developed app…u would be rejoicing in a 70% increase in your sales..soo stop complaining and make some good apps, or shut the hell up, and go work at mcdonalds..thnk u

  24. Hi all. What is the difference between the 24h return policy and a 3-days unlimited trial version ? (Limited time but unlimited features).
    Every desktop computer application has a trial period. Their developers aren’t (that much) afraid of people using the trial then not buying it. Or at least, it as been accepted now.
    Maybe the problem for the Android apps developers is that they are *paid*(almost) so they fill they *have the money*, then there is a refund so they fill the *money is taken back*.
    In anyway, consumers need to test/try because ratings are not enough. What do you think about 2 options :
    – 24 return policy apps
    – Apps with a trial version and an unlimited version
    and developers could choose what they prefer ?

  25. If people don’t want to continue using it, you don’t deserve to get paid for it. The fact that you spent time making an app that someone doesn’t want for more than 5 minutes doesn’t mean you deserve a paycheck. It means you didn’t have something good to put out there in the first place, suck at your job, or you weren’t trying very hard. A customer can’t tell if you’ll like an app until trying it so a closed return policy would be unfair. No one would buy half the stuff out there and the developers would earn even less. Maybe they should set it up more like a shareware model where you can try apps and then they either expire after a while or you pay for it if you want to keep it. Otherwise, I say put it on your own website instead of the market and let people find it on their own if it’s really so good.

  26. YES, we in the uk have paid apps today, adn i am liking the new pricing system!

  27. Agreed with most of the comments here. Crap apps need to be weeded out, and buyers should be protected and this is the easiest solution for now

  28. As a new developer to the Android Market, i must say the 24hr returns thingy it is a bit of a shock after selling on the iPhone App Store.

    The orders come in and then you have a nail biting 24hrs pacing up and down like an expectant father, constantly checking to see if the customer has returned the App!

    It does however encourage developers to make sure their app is worth keeping by making it unique or quirky or tempt them with updates, nuggits, of even easter egg features.

    One good point is that the 24hr return is a once only deal. If you buy the app again its FINAL!

  29. No, it’s not necessary for the android market to provide more than 24 hrs to sample the apps, for Gosh sakes most apps are a DOLLAR, you can even consider it a low scale tip for us, developers and let us keep it.
    Many complain of “crappy apps”, well how can we make quality apps (which require a team of developers and artist) when we are making just a few dollars as developers, because a lot of people returns the app or gets it pirated. While people don’t spend money and google fixes the crappy android market I don’t see myself wasting time developing nothing else for android.

  30. Has anyone actually received a refund? Over the last year, of the many, many apps I have returned easilywithin the 24 hour limit, (some after only 10 mins or so), I have not received one refund. I can see the money going out of mybank account, but not one depoit of a refund.
    This refund carot is a marketing scam.

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