Google Play Store Obligations

RichardN

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Between 2014 and 2016 I was selling App A on the Play Store. Following a large amount of customer feedback I withdrew App A completely from sale and a little later published a vastly expanded and more capable App B. This App B is still selling very well. Both are paid apps.

Under the terms of the store App A remains downloadable and supported for the very few remaining existing purchasers who have not upgraded to App B. App A has not been updated since 2016. I now have a user trying (and failing) to run App A on a brand-new handset running Android 12. He appears to think he is entitled to free upgrades for life.

The store conditions do not appear to very specific on this. Am I obliged to provide eternal updates due to an ever-changing OS for an application that was discontinued more than 5 years ago?
 

JohnC

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Question: What percentage of the users who purchased "B" had already purchased "A"?

My opinion is that you should inform this paid user "A" that you released a newer version with more features and it runs on the newest OS and that it is normally a paid upgrade. But you are willing to give him a free upgrade with the understanding that this is a one-time deal and any future upgrades will have a fee, and that they need to keep this special deal a secret.

This way the user feels special (that you did something for him that you normally don't do) and will probably post a great review (without giving away that you did a special deal because they agreed it is a secret) and they will also expect to pay an upgrade fee for the next version.
 

RichardN

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@JohnC....

Answer: Very few as A was only on sale for about 12 months. I can't say definitively how many upgraded but very few users remain using App A.

This guy's attitude does not tempt me to give away freebies, he user has already left a one-star review..... albeit on the page of the app that was withdrawn 5 years ago so nobody other than him can see it anyway!

My personal view is that there is only a certain amount of effort I am prepared to put into products that have been discontinued and later become redundant through no other reason than OS changes. There appears to be a broadly held view that all mobile software should be free and anyone charging for it is some sort of mercenary.... Even if it is a $5 database that saves the user hours of legwork.
 

Cableguy

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Is it clearly stated in the download page of app "A" that is is now obsolete AND SHOW NOT BE DOWNLOADED?
If it is, problem solved. If it's not, you need to make him understand it and maybe grant him an upgrade at a reduced fee, as stated before, as a non-oficial deal.
The, go to you app 'A' dev project and set the target platform to as low as compiler will let you, and 'update' the app store version with it. This will ensure your app 'A' will only be visible and download able by older phones.
 
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RichardN

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@Cableguy ...

When an app is withdrawn from sale the
store webpage becomes inaccessible to new purchasers. Only those who purchased it previously can login, navigate to the page and reinstall their purchase.

There comes a stage where updates to the OS have been so many and varied that a user simply cannot expect his new Android 12 cellphone to work with software dating from Android 4. The author's obligation to provide support cannot continue forever.
 

Cableguy

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@Cableguy ...

When an app is withdrawn from sale the
store webpage becomes inaccessible to new purchasers. Only those who purchased it previously can login, navigate to the page and reinstall their purchase.

There comes a stage where updates to the OS have been so many and varied that a user simply cannot expect his new Android 12 cellphone to work with software dating from Android 4. The author's obligation to provide support cannot continue forever.
The trick is to 'downgrade' the package so that it no longer even install.
Maybe build-in a OS versioning system to your app, and if the app is being installed to a 2 or 3 major OS version simply deny first run
 

RichardN

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@Cableguy
The trick is to 'downgrade' the package so that it no longer even install.
Maybe build-in a OS versioning system to your app, and if the app is being installed to a 2 or 3 major OS version simply deny first run
Both excellent ideas!........... Unfortunately both suggestions contravene the terms of the Google Play Developer agreement. To release a 'crippleware' update to an app that a user has already purchased is also fundamentally immoral.

I asked a friend in the legal profession take a look at the Google's Developer's agreement. He highlighted the pertinent articles on support (under UK law) that are quoted below:
4.2 You are responsible for uploading your Products to Google Play, for providing required Product data and support to users, and for properly disclosing the rights necessary for the Product to function on users' Devices.

4.7 Users are instructed to contact you regarding defects or performance issues in your Products. In the relationship between you and Google, you are solely responsible for and Google has no responsibility for performing or handling support and maintenance of your Products and any complaints about your Products. You agree to provide and maintain valid and accurate contact information that will be displayed on each detail page of your Product and made available to users for customer support and legal purposes. For your paid Products or in-app transactions, you must respond to customer support questions within three business days, and within 24 hours to support requests or Product issues that are identified as urgent by Google.
Basically all the terms are designed to protect Google from legal action. As a developer your only obligation is to respond to user queries within 3 business days and 24 hours to queries deemed urgent by Google. If Google make changes to the OS that 'break' an existing application (just like Apple are fond of doing :() then the developer is under no obligation to update the app so it works after the OS changes in question. Your liability to the purchaser is limited to the purchase price of the app, and that only applies if the app ceases to work within a 'reasonable time'. Coming back to the developer for a refund 7 years later because you have replaced your handset upgrading from Android 4 to Android 12 in the process is not a reasonable warranty period!

I notice from the iStore that, unlike Google, upgrading your software to accommodate OS changes is a condition of your continued use of the store..... so beware!
 

Cableguy

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To release a 'crippleware' update to an app that a user has already purchased is also fundamentally immoral.
My suggestion was NOT intented to users who had bought your app, and continued to use it on the device they bought it for/from, but for those users who bought your app using an (i.e) Android 4.4.4, and have just upgraded to an Android 10+ device, and expect it to work as before...
The crippled app would only be so in newer devices, but work as usual in the OS range it was designed to work.
What is better? an App that continuesly crashes the phone, or a app that tells the user it was not designed to work in such (newer) devices?
 
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