Milestones and Google Market Woes …
During the last weeks, we’ve had some customers reporting problems with the Android Market. Maybe it’s time to sum it all up here:
It began when some people, who had bought GeOrg, rooted their phones and tried to reinstall their apps afterwards via the Market. Normally you’d expect to find all the applications previously bought in the market, ready to download them anew. After all, they are associated with your Google Account, aren’t they? But not on rooted phones…
When you root your android phone, typically you install some custom firmware to replace the standard OS that came with the phone. Now, if you look in the market for software, there’s some kind of filtering taking place.
This filtering is seemingly based on some kind of footprint of provider, country and firmware installed. The market keeps whitelists of “legal” clients to stop people on rooted phones from pirating apps. So far, so good.
The only problem is: What if you’ve rightfully acquired an app in the past and now want to install it on a custom baked or downloaded ROM? Chances are – you can’t. At least not via the Market.
Which apps are filtered? That depends on your location and the type of application. The two attributes that matter are: free/commercial and copy-protected/or not. Google sells applications in only a selected few countries. If you want to buy a commercial app like GeOrg and live in – for example – South Africa, you can’t, unless you root your phone, install the right ROM (see our FAQ) and switch the Market to some legal country and provider (for example with the Market Enabler).
Copy-protection – on the other hand – is something the developer activates for his app and this leads to filtering of applications depending on the phone you search for the app.
Copy-protection, as it is implemented right now, makes your bought apps reside in some private directory in your internal memory that you can’t access … unless you root your phone. Hence, Google attempts to filter copy protected apps from rooted phones. There is some mechanism in place in the Market app that segregates unrooted phones from rooted phones and only displays copy protected apps on unrooted phones. Alas, this mechanism is far from perfect.
For example, during the last weeks the Droid (or Milestone) was published. Right now you can buy the Milestone in three different flavours here in Germany. Branded with vodafone, o2 or unbranded for use with whatever provider and plan you see fit. Customers opting for the latter option see themselves stuck with a phone containing an Android Market application that doesn’t allow downloading copy protected apps. For some reason the Market doesn’t whitelist these Milestones and deals with them as if they were rooted.
Meanwhile Google is aware of these problems (link) and will hopefully fix them soon. But as always, they don’t tell us when the issue will be resolved
So, some of you might ask yourselves: Why would a developer refrain from deactivating this copyright protection if it doesn’t protect the apps on rooted phones and stops potential customers from buying the app? Sadly, there’s also a bug with the copyright protection. If you switch from protected to unprotected, there are some devices (e.g. Hero), that start to crash when using the app after the switch. This can only be cured by reinstalling the app, something you don’t really want your existing customers to go through…