Android In-App Purchases Breached By Ringz


One advantage the iPhone OS has over Android is the capability of in-app purchases. Want to buy weapons, credits, add-ons, extensions or anything WITHIN your game or application that goes above and beyond the initial free or paid application? Too bad… until now. While this feature isn’t SUPPOSED to be enabled within Android, developer of the game Ringz found a way to bypass the limitation, even taking into consideration tricksters trying to download/save/return add-ons to get the goods for free.


Ringz is a puzzle game that is FREE but you can buy more levels from within the application. The folks at MobileCrunch pinned down the Ringz developers who made a detailed map of exactly how the work-around is deployed (click to enlarge):


I’m wondering if Google is going to pull this from Android Market. The main problem with allowing this is it sets precedenet – if you let Ringz in you’ve got to let all that employ this work around in. All those additional transactions pass through Google servers bet never get taxed/charged the percentage which Google and the Carrier partner are supposed to share. Lost revenue.

This is especially bad for an application like Ringz which is essentially offering a “Free Demo” of the game and allowing you to buy the full version but bypassing the market and earning more revenue for each add-on. Tisk, tisk. I’m not sure Google will look too favorably upon this although they’re much more accommodating than some other application markets of which we know. At some point Android will need a system to facilitate in game/app purchases so it will be interesting to see how the company approaches this delicate issue.

UPDATE: Those voicing their concern in the comments are absolutely right – I articulated this news in haste and the work around does NOT bypass the market but rather utilizes links TO the market to download the added levels. Still newsworthy as an innovative system of including in-app purchases for your own stuff and apologies to the developers of Ringz to jumping to the false conclusion. Shame on me!

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. Looks like the upgrade purchase is still going through the android market so surely Google still get their 30%, no?

  2. I don’t see how this is not going through Android Market. The way I see it is that it’s just multiple apps being signed with the same key (and being separate purchases). The Ringz app is then checking (querying the Package Manager or something) what addons are installed and responding appropriately.

    Or did I miss something?

  3. All these issues are now coming to byte Google, which didn’t think through enough on how the market will work.
    IMO Google should not interfere in this as it goes against the Android philosophy. As it is, I can buy apps from SlideMe or other non-google stores by using Paypal or credit card. So what’s so different in this case.
    But Google sure needs to up its act regarding Market, and have a mechanism to make sure unsuspecting users are not scammed by rogue Apps.

  4. It looks like you’re still buying from the market to me. They just link to the market, and the new app opens the parent app when open installed. It just saves the user some clicks. Or am I missing something?

  5. @Jeff J: You’re quite right. This isn’t bypassing the market at all. This is a non-story.

  6. It looks to me like it uses the marketplace for the purchase / install, not like it bypasses it.

  7. Oh, and Rob – can you tell us why you believe that Google don’t get to take their cut in this case?

  8. I agree. Nothing bad or sinister here, it’s just clean, simple and the way it should be done IMO.

  9. I don’t see the problem. It looks like their level pack, just does a search in the market by the application package “”. I bet each individual level is it’s own application, but all that application does is install itself to the main app.

    I don’t think it’s bypassing the market at all, the second screenshot in their workaround looks like the market to me.

  10. Three quick thoughts:

    (1) Bravo to the guys at Urbian. Innovate, adapt, overcome!

    (2) This kind of spark is _exactly_ what the Android program needs. Look back over the first year (or so) of iPhone apps and you’ll similar dev-exploits, amidst the ever-present whining. Sure, ‘the man’ – Apple, Google or whomever – won’t be thrilled, but this kind of anarchic energy is what impels the whole ecosystem forward.

    (3) Mtn. View could grab (get back?) serious goodwill points by handling this situation with something like aplomb. Ok, that’s not what they do best, but wow – this could be a truly magic moment. I hope they don’t screw it up by acting like – ack! – engineers. Hey, kids, try to remember that you’re geeks, first. :)

  11. Also… when I posted my previous comments they were comments 2 and 3. Now they’re 5 and 7. How did people manage to post comments before mine after I’d posted them? Are you using the browser’s time stamp or something?

  12. There have already been apps that do this, as well. Look at Weather Widgets, for example. It gives you the option to download a forecast plugin, which (AFAIK) is a paid app. Clicking on the link from inside the app brings you to the market, which then lets you buy and download, which then loads automatically inside Weather Widgets.

    The REAL story here should have been that the only reason this is possible is that Google doesn’t sandbox each app independently. This is a super clean way to do this, without forcing the devs to build in their own in-game store fronts. This kind of thing wouldn’t be possible on the iPhone, since apps can’t interact in any meaningful way.

  13. this is good. Now we can have something like Second Life for android. maybe even with a touch of Augmented reality? hmmm

  14. What kind of rubbish news is this? Many apps already do this. If a piece is missing (this can also be a paid extension), they just launch an intent to the piece on the Market, where the user installs it, and it ends up as new functionality with which the original app can interact.

  15. Looks like a valid workaround for a missing feature. It seems to go through the Market anyway, so everyone should be happy.

  16. Eh… apps like Walkie Talkie has had add-on sound packs since march of 2009.

  17. Rob does this all the time. researching before posting would go a long way.

  18. Like it says on the image, this is a work-around, and who gives a hoot, noone wrote about this befor. As an android developer (check out SheepShack for Android, coming out in 2 weeks.woot!) this would be usefl for unloking new levels and stuff.

    Still not as cool as in-app purchasing on the iphone, but the best i’ve seen so far.

    has anybody ACTUALY tried ringz?

  19. Good on you for admitting you made a mistake, Rob. Not every tech news blogger would be so honest.

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