For all the “open” talk, Android Market sure has a lot of rules

Paid applications in the Android Market, the app store for Google’s mobile platform, are now live. This should boost development for the platform and in turn create new, interesting applications for consumers. Google has set up Android as being the antithesis of Apple’s iPhone platform in saying that it’s an open platform. But it’s not completely open — the Market, like Apple’s App Store has rules.

Of course, Google needs rules to cover itself from lawsuits, but the way its Android Market Business and Program Policies page reads, it almost seems like Google is saying, “we’ve got a bunch of rules to cover ourselves, but other than that, you’re on your own.”

Some highlights:

A 24-hour return window — Basically, this amounts to a try-before-you-buy policy without being called that. From the time you buy any application, you have 24 hours to use it and decide if you want to keep it. If not, there is an option to uninstall the app, “returning” it to the Market for a full refund.

Upgrades aren’t done through the Market — The official wording on this is a bit odd, but it seems like any app upgrades won’t go through the Market, and will instead be dished out from developers themselves. This is different from the approach Apple takes, where upgrades come through the App Store, and thus must be approved before they’re sent out (which can be annoyingly slow).

Reinstalls flow freely — Once you’ve paid for an application (after the 24-hour trial period) you can apparently uninstall and reinstall an app as often as you’d like. It’s not clear if this can be done on an unlimited number of Android devices (there is still only one so you can’t really test) or only the device you bought it on.

Application removal — Yes, Google can and will pull applications that violate policies (more on that below).

No porn — “We don’t allow content that contains nudity, graphic sex acts, or sexually explicit material. We also don’t allow content that drives traffic to commercial pornography sites,” Google writes on its policy page. Though it probably doesn’t need to be said following that, Google also has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to child pornography, and it will alert authorities if it sees any app that violates that in the Market.

Apple also has a policy against sexually explicit material, but there has been some gray area around that recently as the App Store policies loosen.

13 and up — You apparently have to be 13 years old or older to use the Market, and if Google finds a user under that age it will delete their account. Also odd, “users under 18 must have their parent or legal guardian’s permission to use Android Market.” If there’s no porn, it’s not entirely clear why that’s the case. [Update: Commenter Tim F. makes the point below that since the paid Market is tied to a credit card, parents probably don’t want their kids running wild downloading apps and charging them to their accounts.]

Billing disputes — You’re on your own.

No impersonations — You cannot impersonate someone else in the Market. I assume that’s for reviews, otherwise it just seems like something that needn’t be said.

Likewise, no hate speech — Also probably related to app reviews.

No copyright infringement — This should be pretty obvious, but several apps like PhoneSaber and Duck Hunt have been taken out of the App Store for violating copyrights. Google will also have no problem removing apps such as those.

No viruses — Google is pretty clear here: “Don’t transmit viruses, worms, defects, Trojan horses, malware, or any other items of a destructive nature. We don’t allow content that harms or interferes with the operation of the networks, servers, or other infrastructure of Google, carriers, or any third-parties. Spam, malicious scripts and password phishing scams are also prohibited on Android Market.”

The vague “prohibited products” — Google says “We don’t allow products or services that violate Carrier Term of Service for allowed usage.” Like Apple and AT&T, apparently if T-Mobile, the G1’s carrier, doesn’t like the way some app is using its system, Google can pull it.

As I said, most of these rules make sense, and protect Google from certain liabilities, but some may come as a surprise to those who are up in arms over some of Apple’s App Store strict policies. It’s pretty clear that the Android Market will share many of the same ones.

Luckily though, since Android is a more open platform overall, you don’t actually have to use the Market to get applications on your device.


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