Today I decided to make my first purchase on the Android Market. Up until now I’ve been downloading and using free apps. Then recently I came across KJ Sawka’s DrumBanger for the iPhone and decided that I definitely needed to get in on that action on my HTC Hero. The closest thing I could find (atleast I think it’s similar) is the Electrum Drum Machine. It’s been getting great user reviews in the Market and at $4 and between 10-50,000 downloads I figured it had to be somewhat decent. So the next bit was to pay for the app and get hold of it on my phone. And this is where things got interesting…
I hit the the ‘Buy’ button on the app’s page in the Android Market. I was taken to a screen where I had to fill in my credit card details; so far so good. I filled everything in and hit the submit button. After a bit of network traffice (I could tell from the indicator at the top) I got a “Server error” message asking me to retry, cancel or return to the main screen. I retried a number of times but to no avail - the same error kept coming back at me. In frustration I turned to my desktop and logged into my Gmail account (the same one my phone uses) and tried signing up Google Checkout that way. This time I was able to submit my credit card details just fine. I got back on the phone and hit the ‘Buy’ button again. It picked up my card details from my Google Checkout account and took me straight to the confirmation page. I confirmed the payment and it informed that my download would begin soon and that the notification would appear in the top bar.
I got the notification and went to a detailed view of the download. But nothing was downloading. The progress bar was showing a fuzzy animation but the only text I could see was “Authorizing credit card…“. So I checked my Google Checkout account from my desktop and saw that the order had gone through. Even as I started writing this blog entry (20 minutes from initial payment) it was still stuck at this authorization phase. Eventually my phone informed me that my download had been “unsuccessful”. So I went back into the app page and clicked Install. This time the download started working. Hooray!
A quick search on the web (using Google Search - a product of theirs that actually works well) I can see that other people have experienced these problems too. From reading the comments posted up by other people it seems that this is a fundamentally badly run payment system. People have tried factory-resetting their phones, using different credit cards, using new Google Accounts and what-not. And apparently it did eventually work for some although the time between making the payment and actually getting the download varied from a few minutes to a few hours, all the while showing the “Authorizing credit card…” message. What’s more, numerous people rang up their bank only to find that although Google Checkout said the order had gone through their credit card hadn’t actually been charged. Bizarre!
From what I’ve heard about the iPhone purchase process, it’s far less painful and more reliable. What I really don’t understand is why Google don’t invest more in bringing Google Checkout to a higher level of quality and service. All the current evidence points to the conclusion that enabling a paid-for app market in Android really isn’t a priority for them.