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Google bars Android app makers from their own apps

Copy protection unprotected

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If you join the Android developer program, Google will sell you an unlocked Android phone that works on any mobile network. But it can't download paid applications from Google's very own app market.

The Android Market began offering price-tagged applications late last week - at least in the US - but developers wielding unlocked Googlephones soon discovered they couldn't download them, IDG News Service reports.

As it turns out, Google has prevented these developer phones from downloading any application that's copy protected, including paid apps.

Anyone who forks over $25 to join the official Android developer program can then purchase an unlocked version of the T-Mobile G1, the inaugural Googlephone. Price: $400. These phones give developers unfettered access to their hardware and software, and judging from a brief statement from Google, they can somehow circumvent the company's copy protection.

"Copy protection is a tool that provides basic protection to application developers and prevents casual user-to-user pirating of applications," reads a canned statement Google tossed our way. "The Developer version of the G1 is designed to give developers complete flexibility. These phones give developers of handset software full permissions to all aspects of the device, including the ability to install a modified version of the Android Open Source Project. We aren't distributing copy protected applications to these phones in order to minimize unauthorized copy of the applications."

According to one blogging Android developer, Google copy protects apps simply by downloading them to a restricted folder. But on unlocked phones, he says, the folder isn't protected. In theory, once a paid app is downloaded, a developer could make a copy and return the original for a refund. The Android Market allows refunds within 24 hours of purchase.

So, Google has banned downloads of copy-protected apps on developer phones. The result: Many developers are prevented from downloading their own applications. ®

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