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The new 15 minute refund period on the Android Market and what you think about it

As you may already know there has recently been a change to the android market. There’s a nice new UI which makes it easier to find what you need. It has also allowed developers to add more screenshots of their app, and allowed for a longer description which ultimately leads to better advertisement.

All this is great for the developers, but how will the change to the refund period affect users?

Previously the refund period for apps purchased using the android market was 24 hours. This gave the user ample time to try the app before committing to the purchase. Most apps can be tried and liked within a matter of minutes, but games can sometimes take a little longer. Some games require a little getting used to before you can really enjoy the game, while others are simply too big and require additional download content. Is the new 15 minute limit enough? Can people really purchase, download, try and refund in 15 minutes?

I’m not so sure. My best example would be Asphalt 5 from gameloft. It requires an additional download of 130mb. how many people can download 130mb of data, play a game long enough to decide they don’t like it, and request a refund in 15 minutes? I’m betting not many. Would a slightly longer period be better? Is 15 minutes really long enough for a game? Here’s a few opinions I’ve collected over the past few days.

Mr_Land: It makes no sense to go from 24hrs all the way to 15mins…where’s the logic?

my_unique_id: I think 30 minutes would be better #15minutes

TwistedUmbrella: Mixed. If the download freezes you could be stuck with crap, but use once-per-update paid apps may see revenue finally.

richie681: I think it’s not as bad as people make it out to be. Should be longer for apps with DL’d content (games). Like an hour.

jp_hero: For the customer rubbish as it can take a few hours to really get to grips with an app. For the developer it will probably increase email complaints and refund demands.

RyanMacG: I don’t mind it at all, I’ve never needed to return an app and if I did I’d probably have known within 15 minutes 🙂

penpen72: On some apps, that’s acceptable, but to really try an app, it takes at least an hour. But android is still the only OS to do refunds!

Slightly mixed opinions there, but mostly wanting a little longer.

This change doesn’t just affect users. developers and publishers also have to deal with the new change too. having only 15 minutes to convince a customer their product is worth keeping means that developers now have to make sure everything is working first time, every time. With the previous time period of 24 hours, a helpful customer could contact the developer and let them know of any faults they were receiving and give ample time for the developer to look into their problem and provide a solution.

Now with only 15 minutes I’m quite positive developers will be flooded with emails and spam market comments stating similar to “doesn’t work on X phone, fix immediately or I demand refund”. While I’m well aware developers already get such emails, the majority would have been refunded during the first 24 hours.

I asked tom from Hyperbees what he thought about the whole change, here is what he had to say:

When it comes to the recent Market changes:

  • expanding the infamous 325 characters to 4,000, adding more than two screenshots etc. certainly helps both developers and players. It’s easier for us to showcase the games – and players get more info before purchasing a game.
  • 15 minutes limit – as far as I know it is still uncertain how Google is going to calculate this period. First app run? Purchase? Successful download?

OK, in most cases 15 mins should be just enough to say whether a game is worth keeping. But it does add an element of stress to the purchasing experience – which might be rather offputing to some. Also, there is plenty of apps (not games) that might require much more time than 15 minutes, think GPS, parcel tracking, etc. This of course might be mitigated by free or trial versions… But I am not really sure if this change is welcomed by developers. From our perspective the change might require additional work, like trial versions (and supporting them).

When you look at our sales data from a week ago, before the change, it seemed that the percentage of refunds was at a healthy level – and falling. Now I am not sure what’s going to happen (especially that the change comes right after the Android Market “weekend terribilis” of 11-12 Dec.). Let’s hope it will be beneficial, though, you live and learn.

Just so we get a wider perspective, I also approached Gamevil, the guys behind Zenonia and Baseball Superstars, for their opinion on the matter. Here’s what they said.

The drop in refund from 24 hours to 15 minutes will help developers to protect themselves from abusers who clear the game within 24 hours. We’ve always been happy to refund payment to users who are not happy with our games and the change does not make much fundamental difference on our operation.  We have also provided lite versions for all of our games so that the users could try before they buy too.”

So there you have it. A mixed opinion across the board. some think its good, others bad. Some think a slightly longer period would be better. Me personally, I think the period of 24 hours was a little long, especially for developers with “use once” applications, but I also believe from a gamers perspective, 15 minutes just isn’t long enough.

Let me know what you think. Leave a comment below.

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