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Android Market gets redesign, reduces refund window

by Howard Wolinsky

The Android Market has taken some hits for its poor user interface, one that made it hard to discover and sell apps.

Now the Android Market from Google (GOOG) is being freshened and updated with a new “ecosystem.” Or as Apple Insider preferred “rewarmed.”

Android’s Eric Chu said in the Android Developers blog that a “significant update” was being phased into the Android Market over the next two weeks, affecting devices with Android 1.6 or higher.

He said the idea was to introduce features “that improve merchandising of applications, streamline the browse-to-purchase experience, and make it easier for developers to distribute their applications.”

Among the changes:

—A carousel on the home and category screens to enables users to flip through to see promoted apps and immediately reach the download page.

—Introduction of new categories for Widgets and Live Wallpapers. Apps with widgets and wallpapers will be added automatically to these categories.

—Addition of more categories for popular apps and games.

But caveat Android. The refund time for apps will go from 24 hours to 15 minutes. No more buying a 99 cent game, playing it for a nearly a day and returning it. Pretty much: you buy it, you own it.

Dean Takahashi in Venture Beat said: “With that change, developers can be confident that when they make a sale on the Android Market, they can be reasonably certain that it will count as a sale.”

Also, gone are the tabs. And the Android Market has gone “green,” emphasizing the color anyway in the new ecosystem.

Still, there are problems.

Google now makes it possible for apps of up to 50 MB to be downloaded, doubling the previous size. In contrast, Apple’s (AAPL) iPhones are not limited, as are Android phones, to over-the-air downloads.

In a piece entitled “Google rewarms Android Market, still half baked next to iPhone App Store,” Daniel Eran Dilger of Apple Insider noted: “While mobile providers can limit the download size of apps that are delivered over the mobile network (typically set at around 20MB), Apple allows users to get big apps from iTunes directly via Wi-Fi or by syncing with iTunes.”

He noted that Google offers no desktop application version of Android Market, nor even a web version that supports downloads. “This results in more difficult development and distribution for companies trying to port apps to Android,” he said.

Venture Beat noted that 20 carriers in China have created their own markets because of Android Market’s deficits.

Android Police takes a look at the new Android Market, declaring it “slicker.”

“However, where is the big change that will help us discover apps? The update is, after you dig into it, just a UI lift. I was expecting more after so many months,” noted one commentator.