by Jim Lynch

Should the iOS and Mac app stores have a 15 minute refund window?

Mar 11, 2016
Consumer ElectronicsiOSMacOS

Some users would like Apple to add a 15 minute refund window to the Mac and iOS app stores. But Apple might do better by adding usable demo versions of apps in both app stores.

Apple has had a great deal of success with its iOS App Store, and somewhat less success with its Mac App Store. But one of the common problems of both stores is the lack of usable demo versions of apps.

This has led some users to buy an app while still unsure of whether it will do what they need it to do. Sometimes users get stuck with apps that looked good at first but turned out to be duds. And the user ends up frustrated about picking the wrong app.

A 15 minute refund window for the Mac and iOS app stores

One way that Apple could help users avoid getting stuck with unwanted apps is to add a 15 minute refund window to both app stores. That would let users download and install apps, try them out and get an immediate refund without having to go through the headache of contacting Apple to get their money back.

I’ll share my thoughts below, but this idea came up in a recent thread on the Apple subreddit and redditors there weren’t shy about sharing their opinions about it:

Khoker: ”There’s far too much noise in the app stores. Just now, I wanted to make an observation on how noisy a particular work environment was. I open the App Store on my iPhone and search for a decimal meter. There are several. Living the dream, right?

Wrong. The problem is that the free ones are garbage and, while the paid ones look nice enough, I have no clue which one I’d prefer to use the most (the decibel example is trivial, any one them will work, but that’s not exactly the point).

Note, I have no issue whatsoever paying a few dollars for a polished app. I encourage developers to charge what they feel is fair. At the same time, I don’t want to spend $15 between a half-dozen decibel meters to find the one I like the best.

This problem seems so simple for Apple to solve, encourages developers to make better apps, rewards developers who make better apps, and benefits the user at the same time. Has Apple made any public admission as to why they’ve not implemented a refund window?”

Smpx: ”They actually do have an automated refund system for awhile now, it’s just not publicized. Basically, go to your app purchase history, then “Report a problem”, then click that this wasn’t the app you were looking for. It refunds your money automatically and removes the app from your account (so you can’t download it again). I’ve done this to apps I’ve used for like a week.

I do think they should have an easier system with a refund window, but then they would have to get rid of the current system which effectively lets you trial an app for a much longer period of time.”

Nerdwithatan: ”Please please please don’t do this unless the app is truly broken and unusable. You are actually stealing from developers if you do this since apple takes the full amount of the purchase price not just the 70% we originally get from you.

EllenPoo: ”That’s somehing between the developers and apple, not the consumer’s business. It is obviously unfair that apple charges that much for a refund, but it is more unfair to not be able to get a refund as a consumer. So I will still use that option. Devs aren’t running a charity, apple is not running a charity, but consumers also aren’t running a charity. And without consumers the developers would be nothing. (trickle up economics yo)”

Owlsrule: ”You can get a refund on any app. Pretty sure it’s not even just a 15 minute window.

To be fair, that’s not the same as a trial window and reflects poorly on a developer to file a complaint about their app and request your money back.

As said above, specifically request the option for trials on Apple feedback. Write that you’d like a way to experience the app before buying, rather than just seeing non interactive screenshots and marketing video previews.”

Cyanletters: ”What the App Store really needs is actual trials. It takes longer than 15 minutes to really determine if an app is right for you.”

More at Reddit

15 minutes might not be enough time for users to evaluate an app

As a short term measure to assist users in deciding if an app is right for them, a 15 minute window isn’t a bad idea at all. It would at least help prevent users from being stuck with bad apps that looked good at first glance but then turned out to be stinkers or simply didn’t do what the user needed them to do.

But let’s face it, 15 minutes is not all that long a period of time. And some apps might require a lot more time to properly evaluate. Obviously the more simple apps would not be a problem in this sense, but once you get past them and into more complex software I can’t see 15 minutes being nearly long enough.

I suppose that Apple could extend the refund window to a full hour instead of the shorter time period. That would be a lot more useful when it comes to more complex productivity apps and other software that requires a longer time period to properly evaluate.

But no matter how long the refund window is, it’s still really just a stop-gap measure that doesn’t deal with the real problem of letting users try out an app before actually buying it.

Apple needs to add the ability for usable demos in both app stores

Instead of a refund window, Apple needs to add fully usable demos of apps to the Mac and iOS app stores. That way a user can download the software, use it for a certain period of time and then pay for it if they want to keep it.

And rather than Apple setting the specific time for an app to expire, each developer could make that decision for himself or herself. Some developers such as those make gaming apps might want a much shorter evaluation time in their demos, while folks that make productivity software might want users to have a much longer evaluation period.

But the bottom line here is that usable demos of apps should be at the top of Apple’s priority list for apps in the Mac and iOS app stores. It’s somewhat shocking that this still hasn’t happened, and it hasn’t served developers or users well at all.

Let’s hope that Apple has been paying attention and will hurry up and add usable demo versions of apps to both app stores very soon. If not, users will continue to be frustrated and stuck with apps that they don’t want, and that’s not a good thing for anybody.

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