Will the Android Market T&Cs Kill Off "Fun" Apps?

Over recent weeks there has been a lot of speculation over when Android users will be able to buy applications from Googles Market, but some of the terms and conditions in the Developer Distribution Agreement could scare many developers away before they deploy their first application.

The first thing that came to light is that purchasers will have 24 hours in which they can get a refund apparently with no questions asked. This is a good thing for purchasers, but could kill the business model for developers working on applications which only have a few hours of enjoyment because users can buy it, get their use out of it, and return it and the developer will not make a bean from it.

You may think that it’s good to enforce this, but a number of iPhone developers release cheap short-lived apps to build their funds to develop more substantial applications and many games may only be designed to entertain for a few hours and are priced accordingly.

Following on from this came the discovery that, according to Googles Market terms and conditions "…Products sold for less than $10 may be automatically charged back to the Developer". This means that if a user tries to return a product any time after purchasing it, and the application cost less than $10, the developer could find the money taken from their Market earnings without being consulted let along getting the chance to offer some help to the user, verify the problem, or issue a fix.

Comparing this to the iPhone application store Terms and Conditions (where 90+% of apps are in the 99 cent to 10 dollar price range) shows how weighted against developers Googles terms are.

The iPhone App Store T&Cs state that purchasers can " withdraw from your transaction without charge and without giving any reason until delivery of the Products has started", so customers can get refunds if they’ve mis-clicked on something, but they don’t get a 24 hour trial period in which they can just return the app, and they certainly don’t get the right to return a $9.99 app at any time and get a refund without the developers involvement.

In an ideal world we would all get our apps for free, they would do what we want, and we’d all be happy, but unfortunatley developers need to earn money, and so given the choice of developing an application forĀ  a platform where if you’re app costs less than $10 you could see users refunded with any consultation with you, or a platform where once the user has the app running the developer knows that unless there is a serious problem they will get paid, I’m pretty sure I know where many developers will be going.

Update : After posting this Google announced that pay-for apps can now be listed, so we’re going to have to see what happens.