We've established by now that applications are a major part in our smartphone lives. Among other things, applications are what give smartphones extended and ever-evolving capabilities. Without them, we would really have little use for our pocket-sized companions beyond browsing the Internet and shooting off a few emails while sitting in a waiting room.
If you're anything like me, which I doubt too many of you are (I have a problem with compulsively and impulsively buying way too many applications), you've spent a good chunk of change on mobile apps over the years.
The problem with mobile applications, though, is that they are usually a hit or miss, and they're not always cheap. Sometimes a free app works perfectly and does everything it needs to do in order to get the job done without a hitch. Other times, you might have to shell out a few bucks to score an application that does everything you need. And the rest of the time, you might spend a few dollars to learn it just wasn't worth the money or the time downloading it. Android users are lucky enough to have a return policy – which I will argue is way too short – and can return a less-than-stellar application within 15 minutes of purchase. On the other hand, iOS users are stuck with anything they purchase from the App Store for life.
This is where user reviews really come into play. A standard, five-star rating system and a short synopsis of the existing users' experiences should be enough to tell whether the application is worth your time and money. But I was browsing my Google Reader earlier today and stumbled across an article by Jerry Hildenbrand on Android Central titled Android Resolutions: Resolve to leave better comments in the Android Market. So there are two sides to rating applications: some are extremely helpful while the rest are desperately lacking intelligence or usefulness. What's new?
What's more important than how useless some user reviews can be, however, is how Hildenbrand's article got me to thinking about how often – seldom, really – I rate applications.
I always look through ratings and commentary before purchasing an application, especially on iOS. I rely on them to help me sort out any issues before spending my hard earned money on a problematic app. With Android, I typically skim through the ratings rather quickly and read a few comments while keeping an eye out for anything that mentions one of my devices. If I don't like it or it doesn't work as stated, I can always return it and get my money back. On iOS, I typically spend a lot more time reading through user reviews before pulling the trigger; after you buy it, it's yours for good.
So, I never spend my money on an application without doing my homework. However, I rarely ever return the favor and rate the app afterwards. I never really thought about it before, but I'm kind of doing a disservice to my fellow smartphone users by not giving any feedback. Instead of telling any potential buyers and the developer why the app didn't work for me, I simply opt to uninstall and refund without a peep. And if I stumble across a golden application that has unexpectedly solved one of my outstanding problems with my smartphone? Zilch.
Out of the 70 or more applications I've purchased, I bet I have only rated two. (Three, actually. I just rated Grand Theft Auto III for Android in the picture above. Baby steps.)
Man, that's terrible. Developers put a lot of hard work into these apps both to put bread on their table and to make smartphones that much more enjoyable, yet I can't take two seconds and hit a couple stars and make a comment on how great the app is or what problems it has been giving me. Maybe "rate more applications" is something I should add to my tech resolutions for 2012.
Tell me, readers. How often (or seldom) do you rate and review applications when you buy and download them? Do you read through ratings before purchasing? Or do you just glance at the overall rating and pull the trigger if it's four stars and above?