So the other day I ran into a MobileCrunch article on Google rolling out an anti-piracy system for Android, offering a set of code libraries to enable developers to program their apps, should they elect to, to phone home to Google periodically to make sure the purchase of the given app was and still is legit. First off, in all my years on computers and phones I’ve never encountered any software of some consumer demand whose anti-piracy methods hadn’t quickly been cracked, but Google’s method sounds like a good candidate to win the bulletproof prize. We’ll see.

Anyway this struck me as quite a relief given the rampant piracy of Android apps. I’m not going to claim to be without sin when it comes to what goes on with my PC’s bittorrent client, though there’s something about the phone piracy free-for-all, particularly with Android as I love Android and those who develop for it, that pisses me off. I suppose it’s because with phone software, the developers are especially the little guys of the programming world, and it’s hard enough for them to make money given how saturated the various app markets are with alternative applications that are free, the pervasive sense of entitlement to free intellectual property which is present in the app market comments of developers whose free software’s last update brought advertisements along with it, prompting people to swiftly change their five star rating to one star rather than springing for the $2 paid version.

You really have to first come up with a brilliant idea no one else has gone with and then code your ass off to win here, let alone to recover the money you spent on that Java for Dummies book, and it must really be a blow to their pride to realize that there are a lot of people out there installing your software, grabbing the APK, uninstalling it, getting a refund, then reinstalling the app from the file they stored (don’t try it please) rather than either paying for the paid version with no ads, using the free ad-supported one or not using it at all. And for the developers who fall into that category, I root for them in the form of paying, if the software is payware, for their software or donating if it’s donationware. But what dumbfounds me is why in the comments of the articles on this news of various blogs people were sounding off on how this is yet another instance of Google crossing the privacy line and screw Google etc just because an application is pinging, once in a while, Google to make sure the purchase was kosher. What the hell is wrong with that? What, afraid it’s going to drain your battery?

Particularly as this is old news I’ve got really nothing to offer you in this article other than rant material, hence the Rants category, but I’m just curious about what our readers think of phone software piracy. Please chime in in the comments or if that’s too much work just vote below. Thanks. Update: In the remote chance you’re a developer, here’s how you do it.

Doug Simmons

[poll id=”19″]


  1. OK, installing the paid version, uninstalling, then reinstalling – that’s kind of ridiculous. I can see where that would really get some devs as it makes their app look like it’s pretty bad and I’m sure really costs money. Perhaps this is one way WP7 will have an advantage – a better “trial” engine that can give full, unlimited access, and then lock it out. While I’m still kind of disappointed about no side-loading, I can see that as something useful for devs.

    The ratings thing is pretty sad, too. If advertising is implemented well, it can blend in pretty easily. has MoTweets with a very non-intrusive ad-supported free version. As a Twitter app, the ads appear inline with the tweets. It works really well. Obviously not everything could go that route, but if the ads really bug you, you can spring for the $3 or $4 paid version. I’d recommend it either way. It’s a good app.

    I can definitely see where the devs are coming from with wanting to ensure that an app was paid for. That makes sense. My only (and a small) concern would be something not quite registering that an app was indeed paid for. Kind of like WGA – phone home, verify, and do something not nice if it’s not deemed legit. Admittedly, this is likely to be rare, but it is something that concerns me. I’m not a big fan of WGA as its only real advantage is to MS. Anything slightly off and your system will behave in ways you don’t like, though it will at least not be completely crippled to the point of not working.

    In the example you gave above – someone “paying” for the app just to get the full version, then uninstalling it, getting a refund, and installing the saved version – that is pretty low. Extra cost all around for the credit card / payment processing, truly lost income for the developer, and more than likely encouraging them to quit. I hope that this example is not the norm. I can see trying out the full version and realizing that it really doesn’t do what you need after all (or doesn’t work), but not buying it, returning it, and continuing to use it. This may be a WP7 advantage for devs after all.

    I do tend to believe that “a little” piracy may not have huge negative effects (in most cases), but “a lot” of piracy will have negative effects. Those are probably more felt in the mobile market just because of the typical app price point. There’s not a lot of margin there.

  2. Not a big returns guy (maybe 2 oot of 100 purchases) so I try to thoroughly research an app before clicking the “buy” button. Using Marketplace, I have found trials available in the wild so I almost always get to try before I buy. If a trial is not available and I can’t find a good consensus of positive comments I would prefer to move on rather than dealing with a refund.

    If an app is for sale or even if a developer requests a contribution for his work, payment is expected. Anything short of that is theft. Same as sticking a candy bar in your pocket at the 7 Eleven. Some people can live with that. I can’t. But everything goes both ways. I have made respectable donations ($5 to $10) for half finished apps that have died on the table, never coming close to reaching their potential. No refunds there.

    I think the WP7 Marketplace model of try before you buy is a good cencept. I understand what Google is trying to do but I am not sure I kile the whole “call home” concept. Wouldn’t mind verfying apps each time you log in to the App Store, but sending out periodic verification pings is just a bit too “big brother” for me. Either of these concepts risk the possibility of mixups and errors. And we all know whose time and effort is going to be consumed in an attempt to get your $2.00 app reactivated. Who pays for that.

  3. So your guys announced something for a platform for a set of devices still with no release date and my guys have already implemented it, up and running right now for all of their devices. Yeah, case closed, Google’s got no ideas of their own so they’re tuned in on Microsoft’s secret RSS feeds and stealing and implementing their ideas faster than Microsoft is.

    But hey, free devices to all employees! Though that sounds familiar too.

  4. calling a home server to check if an app is genuine…anyone else do that? right that’s the method Microsoft has announced and shown for wp7…I’ve discussed it on the site because I think that may make sideling impossible but that’s something we’ll learn more about. to get push notifications you need an authorized purchase or remote kill kicks in. anyway glad to hear you like the idea.

  5. MS announced this months ago. It’s implemented already in test devices and it will be in all MS apps. Remember, that’s on the platform that developers will make money from – not Android that is a market of shit. 100,000 apps just filling up with more and more useless apps in a race to make the best free app ever. Can’t you just admit that you praised MS by accident and that Goog is following them for once? Facts are simple – MS has shown this off for a while and Goog would later implement a weak version of it. Ms’s version is more powerful – it’s automatically implemented in push notifications to ensure that the license is valid so it’s not just a one time check or anything.

  6. Can’t wait to see Microsoft (or Google) remote wipe a legitimate app from someone’s phone. When Microsoft GIVES me a phone, and GIVES me all of the needed accessories that are required to use it properly, all without a contract requirement, they can wipe whatever they want from my phone. But as long as I am signing the contract and running MY credit card to pay for said merchandise, I will do whatever I damn well please with it. If they want to block me from their Cloud or Marketplace, go right ahead, but don’t screw with my phone. And I don’t particularily care what the 11 page EULA says. It’s still MY phone.

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