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Watch Out for Accidental Android App Purchases

I love my smartphone and I am a die-hard Android fangirl. The only reason I haven’t upgraded my Motorola Droid is I’m waiting for the Bionic, in all its geektastic sexiness, to be released. Yes, the waiting IS the hardest part.

I’ll let you in on my dirty little secret, I sometimes hand my phone to my children to entertain them so I can work more effectively or sometimes to keep them from bouncing around like maniacs in public. I have it loaded to the gills with educational games, but in spite of that they are all rabid Angry Birds players. Can you really blame them? Pigs, birds, what’s not to love?

Would you like to know what I hate about the Android Market?

Accidental app purchases triggered by my kids.

The Android App Market is connected to my Google Checkout. While fantastic in theory, it’s not cool when one of the kids meanders in and makes a purchase. Thankfully I’ve caught almost all of them within the 15 minute grace return period and gotten a full refund.

How easy would it be for Google to prevent accidental app purchases?

It’s as simple as adding a tick box choice to the Market Place Settings:  Enabling require password for app purchases.

This solution be simple to implement and would allow parents and other security conscious people to add an extra layer of  protection without inconveniencing those who never hand their phone to anyone else.

I do understand that adding any barriers to the purchasing process will dissuade some consumers from following through.

The Android Market should keep in mind there 74+ million households in the US with children under 18. I know not all of these have or plan on having smartphones, I just bring up the number to illustrate we are a significant portion of the market. I know app publishers enjoy all these random $0.99 accidental purchases, but as a consumer I’d much rather deliberately spend that $0.99 or so on a game or tool in a way that will support quality app publishers.

The Android Market should keep in mind that without a stringent filter for quality apps, like Apple, they should at least give us the ability to have better control over the purchase process.

Don’t get too smug, Apple fanboys and girls, accidental app purchases are an issue for you, too. Edit 12:09pm it appears the iOS 4.3 requires a password for all in-app purchases. Cool.

Yes, as a parent I am aware that I have final control; I could never hand my phone over to my children.

A parting tip for those Android users who don’t mind their children playing with their phones on occasion: Where’s My Droid. This app overrides the volume / ringer settings and allows the owner to make the phone ring continuously for 5 minutes with a simple text message.  This is invaluable for when the phone has been stuffed into or under the couch. Don’t worry, the app contains instructions for sending texts via email. Best of all, it’s free.

Have your children ever made any accidental app purchases?

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