Apple has made me lazy. For my first purchase from the Google Android Market, I got scammed.
As part of my #noapple experiment, I will eventually give up my iPhone. The only real alternative would be something powered by Android, so when woot put a refurbished XOOM tablet on sale a few weeks ago, I bought one.
I didn’t have a need for a tablet. Between my Macbook Air (soon to run Ubuntu) and my phone, I didn’t need anything in between, but in the interest of exploring Android I figured this would be a cheap way of doing it.
So far I like the XOOM. It came with 64 GB of storage and it was easy to add another 32 GB with a microSD card. I immediately downloaded the K-9 mail client (one of the best F/OSS applications on Android) and was soon browsing my e-mail. Well, up until the point my IMAP server got upset and threw a “too many connections from the same IP” error since I was checking mail from my desktop, laptop, phone and now tablet all at the same time.
Now, one of my favorite games for iOS is Plants vs. Zombies from PopCap Games. Without thinking, I went to the “Store” section on the XOOM, typed in “Plants vs. Zombies” and bought the app for 99 cents. It downloaded pretty quickly but when I launched it all that was displayed was a screen with familiar PvZ images stating that it would take awhile for the “levels” to be downloaded.
That should have made me suspicious, but I was tired and I didn’t think about it until it was too late.
See, the Google’s Android Market allows you to return any purchase within 15 minutes, so if a scammer can keep you from returning it within that time period, it becomes very difficult to get your money back. By they time I thought to investigate, that time had passed.
When I did investigate. I saw that the “publisher” was a company called NCM, not PopCap. It seems they have but several well known “apps” into the Marketplace, and my guess is that they are all scams (clicking on the “publisher’s website” takes you to NCM.com, which appears to have nothing to do with Android software).
Does this make me want to chuck my XOOM and go back to Apple? Not really. Dealing with Apple has made me lazy, but this doesn’t mean that there can’t be trusted places to buy software for Android. I’ve spoken a number of times about the idea of reputation in free and open source software, and from this experience my trust in Google’s Marketplace has gone way down, and my trust in Amazon’s App Store has increased. Plus, now when I shop on Amazon, it immediately checks the application’s compatibility with my device, which is cool and adds an extra layer of comfort.
One could defend Google, but while I can’t expect them to police every submission, one would think that high profile games such as PvZ could be monitored. While I have submitted a refund request to the developer, my guess is that nothing will happen and they are just hoping people won’t sweat losing a buck.
They obviously don’t know how stubborn I am.
If this charge isn’t refunded by the time my credit card statement shows up, I plan to dispute it. By providing a marketplace, Google is accepting some responsibility for the third parties for which it acts as proxy. I’ll let them and my credit card company sort it out. For example, on a recent purchase through Amazon from a third party, I received the wrong item. Amazon quickly sent me a shipping label and refunded my money, even though it was not their mistake. I’m sure they have some method for resolving things with the vendor, but as a consumer it is not my problem – unlike my experience with Google’s Market.
In the F/OSS world it is as much about service as it is software, and those companies with the highest levels of service will be successful in the long run. If the Android Market is the wild west, I guess the Amazon App Store is the new sheriff in town.