App developers should be upfront about ads and making you pay

yahoo weather ads
Credit: Derek Walter

Updating your Android apps should be a benign process, not one that ends in a race to see how fast you can delete an app from your phone. Yet such was the case when a couple of my formerly favorite apps dropped in some unwelcome surprises.

First was the texting app HelloSMS. The formerly free app suddenly began asking for a monthly tithe of $3, $9, or $19 in order to keep it "ad free." The ads didn't appear right away, but I didn't wait around. The payments may be "voluntary," but suddenly dropping a fee on you for a once-free product is no way to keep a customer around. Farewell HelloSMS, we hardly knew ye.

The next annoyance came from Yahoo Weather, which is generally the best-looking weather app on Android. 

It doesn't look so good now that it has a giant ad greeting you on each page. I don't want to know if a storm is brewing in the latest lame TV show from Fox—I want to find out if I'm destined for another day of the California drought.

yahoo weather

A weather app should tell you about real storms, not inclement relationship events.

Worse yet, the ads are only in the Android version. Is there something about Android users that makes Yahoo think they are less worthy of the pure version that appears on the iPhone and iPad? 

There is a better way. When an app launches, it should say up front what the situation is with regards to asking you for money. If it's going to host ads, offer an in-app upgrade to nix them. A few dollars is well worth the cost of a quality app - my favorite weather app is AccuWeather Platinum, which is $3. 

hellosms

Have a spare $19 per month? You can always support helloSMS.

The same could be said for helloSMS - given that Hangouts is rather hit and miss in how it handles messaging, a one-time fee would be worth it for the well-designed texting app.

These practices aren't good for the Android ecosystem. They feel like a bait-and-switch, which can just turn people off next time they are tempted to hit that "Install" button. 

Yes, developers should get paid for their apps, and too many people have been conditioned to expect free software. But keep it consistent and don't drop unpleasant surprises on those who like your app. If you subvert your customer's trust in this way, you open the door to a competitor that will be straight with us from the start.

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