Google Play launches free trial option for in-app subscriptions


Five months after adding in-app subscription support to its Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Play multimedia storefront, Google is rolling out new options enabling consumers to trial premium subscription content for free.

Android developers may now set up try-before-you-buy periods stretching seven days or more. "To take advantage of a free trial, a user must 'purchase' the full subscription through the standard In-app Billing flow, providing a valid form of payment to use for billing and completing the normal purchase transaction," Google's documentation of the new feature explained. "However, the user is not charged any money, since the initial period corresponds to the free trial. Instead, Google Play records a transaction of $0.00 and the subscription is marked as purchased for the duration of the trial period or until cancellation. When the transaction is complete, Google Play notifies users by email that they have purchased a subscription that includes a free trial period and that the initial charge was $0.00."

After the trial period concludes, Google Play automatically initiates billing against the credit card on file for the full subscription price. Consumers can cancel the subscription at any time during the trial period, with Google Play marking the subscription as expired immediately, rather than waiting until the trial period expires. Because the user has not paid for the trial period, access to content ends after the cancellation takes effect.

"You can set up a trial period for a subscription in the Developer Console, without needing to modify or update your APK," Google said. "Just locate and edit the subscription in your product list, set a valid number of days for the trial (must be seven days or longer), and publish. You can change the period any time, although note that Google Play does not apply the change to users who have already 'purchased' a trial period for the subscription. Only new subscription purchases will use the updated trial period. You can create one free trial period per subscription product."

Google Play introduced in-app subscription support in May, enabling developers to offer both monthly or annual subscription options. Both are offered on an auto-renewing basis--Android developers set the price and billing interval, and Google Play manages all purchase transactions on their behalf, just as it does other in-app products and purchases. Developers can offer subscriptions to dynamic content like journals and magazines as well as bundled products, game levels, music and video, value-added services and any other digital content. 

Try-before-you-buy options set Google Play apart from Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) rival App Store, but developer interest in Android continues to lag behind enthusiasm for Apple's iOS. A recent Appcelerator/IDC survey reveals that 76 percent of developers are very interested in building Android smartphone apps and slightly less than 66 percent indicate strong interest in Android tablet apps. By comparison, 85 percent of respondents are very interested in building apps for the iPhone, and 83 percent express comparable enthusiasm for creating iPad apps.

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