The Google Android Market is kind of a mess when compared with Apple’s iTunes App Store. You can only download apps from your device, not from a computer. Apps can be hard to find, and in fact when you search for some apps developed by Google by name, such as the official Google Reader app, they sometimes show up about 15 items down the list.
But there’s one killer feature that has made the Android Market a bit more consumer-friendly than the App Store since day one: You can “return” paid apps for a full refund.
Historically, you’ve had 24 hours to return an app, which should give you plenty of time to kick the tires and decide if it’s an app you’re going to use enough to justify the money you spent on it. Unfortunately, it’s also enough time for some people to download a game, play it to completion, and then return it for a full refund. So it probably shouldn’t be a huge surprise that Google has decided the 24 hour trial period is too long, and in a nod to developers, the company is going to shorten the window.
Unfortunately, they’re going to shorten it to just 15 minutes, which seems like hardly enough time to to test many apps. Sure, you can probably get a sense of whether you want to pay for a weather widget, battery meter, or even home screen launcher in 15 minutes, but what about a text messaging app, social networking client, or another app you actually have to use for a while before making up your mind?
The upcoming change is causing a bit of controversy, with even some app developers saying they support a longer trial periods. Perhaps an hour or two would be a good compromise?
On the other hand, Google has much more data than I do about how people actually use the return feature, and the company says that most customers who return apps do so within a minute.
Fortunately, the shorter return window isn’t the only change in store for the Android Market. Google also plans to add dedicated categories for Widgets and Live Wallpapers, add a new carousel to display featured apps on the front page of the Market, and refine the app details page by placing all the information including ratings, comments, and related apps.
Google is also increasing the maximum size of .apk installer files from 25MB to 50MB.
The new Android Market will be pushed to devices running Android 1.6 and up in the next two weeks.