Smartphone App Store Refund Policies

Google is releasing a new version of the Android Market that includes a new user interface and features to make it easier to discover new apps. One of the more controversial aspects of the new Android Market is a change to the refund policy. The current version of the Android Market will provide refunds up to 24 hours after the app is purchased, but that time will decrease to 15 minutes when the new version of the Market is released.

A change from 24 hours to 15 minutes appears to be very drastic, but it is actually better than what exists on other smartphones. Neither Apple nor Microsoft provide refunds on app purchases, though Apple has been known to provide refunds on a case by case basis.

Both Apple and Microsoft support free trial versions of apps in their stores that enable users to test an app for a brief period of time, or with a limited amount of functionality. The Android Market also supports trial and lite versions of apps, or in many cases you will find free full versions of apps with ads, which you can keep using if you can tolerate the ads, or decide to buy a version without ads, if it exists.

My understanding is that Google got pressure from developers to lower the time frame for refunds. Game developers particularly didn’t like the 24 hour refund policy as it essentially allowed people to play their games for free for a whole day, and they are convinced it has lead to fewer sales. In my opinion, with the options available to try apps before buying, I don’t think the change to the Android Market is that bad, and it is certainly no worse than what is available for iPhone and Windows Phone users.