Google Play lets users take subscription apps for a test drive

Android app developers can now opt to let users give their in-app subscriptions a free weeklong whirl before agreeing to purchase.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read
Google Plays in-app subscription feature now allows for free trial periods. Google

Google is now letting Android app developers aim to better satisfy customers by launching a free weeklong trial period for subscription apps.

When users want to give a subscription app a whirl -- before fully deciding to buy -- they can "purchase" the app for free. Once a week or less has passed, the user can either cancel the app or let payment automatically kick in at the end of the trial period. Android developers can elect to extend the free trial period for more than one week.

Here's more from the Android developers Web site:

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. 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.

Google rolled out its in-app subscriptions feature in May. The idea was to let users pay for monthly or annual subscriptions directly inside of apps that were set to auto-renew by default with transactions managed by the Google Play store.

Subscriptions lets developers offer apps with changing editorials and features, like magazines, news journals, and videos. And with a free trial period, Google is probably hoping that more users will be enticed to take a look at a greater array of apps.

Google took another step to let Android developers amp up their apps yesterday. It announced that developers could opt to offer customers subscription billing, apps that update themselves automatically, and so-called "smart" updates, which let users download only the parts of an app that have changed.