Buyer beware: Android Market policies are about to change

Article copyright 2010 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

Google's getting ready to roll out a long overdue overhaul of its Android Market -- but the upgrade isn't all good news.

Google Android Market

Google officially announced the plans for the revamped Market late Friday, just in time for this week's launch of the first Android Gingerbread phone. Most of the changes are cosmetic improvements that should make it easier to find and evaluate apps. One change, however, will actually cut back on a previously available benefit -- and if you aren't aware of it, you could easily get caught off-guard.

The change affects the Android Market's return policy. Right now, you can return any paid app within 24 hours and receive a full refund. With the upcoming Android Market upgrade, that window of opportunity will experience some significant shrinkage.

Google's adjusted Android Market return policy will allow for returns only within the first 15 minutes of a paid app purchase. After the first 15 minutes, your purchase will be final.

"Most users who request a refund do so within minutes of purchase," explains Google's Eric Chu.

In reality, I suspect Chu is right: For most users, the change probably won't be a big deal. But after nearly two years of having a 24-hour risk-free evaluation period, the updated policy is certainly something to keep in mind when making your next purchase.

So there's the caution -- now for the good stuff: The Android Market upgrade introduces a completely refreshed interface. As part of the new look, the main Market landing page features a "carousel"-based system for application browsing. That same system appears on individual category pages, too.

Android Market Changes
Android Market Changes

Other Android Market improvements included in the upgrade:

  • Revamped app pages with all information condensed onto a single tab

  • The addition of developer-provided ratings for every app

  • The addition of a "Related" section for all applications (already in place for many users)

  • A new "Widgets" category for easy browsing of all apps that offer widgets

  • A new category for live wallpapers 

Android Power Twitter

A few things are noticeably absent from the list: the addition of PayPal-based app purchases, which we've been expecting to see for some time; the launch of Google's Google Music song-buying service, once widely expected to debut before the year's end; and the introduction of a Web-based Android Market storefront, originally demoed by Google back in May. Google's Android reps do note, however, that this is only the start of the Market's renovations; more new features will be revealed "in the coming weeks and months," they say.

As for the current Android Market upgrade, you can expect to see it show up sometime within the next two weeks. The rollout will reach all devices with Android 1.6 or higher.

JR Raphael writes about smartphones and other tasty technology. You can find him on Facebook, on Twitter, or at eSarcasm, his geek-humor getaway.

Article copyright 2010 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

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