28
Mar
31d15_amazon_apps
Last Updated: July 24th, 2011

On March 22nd, the long awaited Amazon Appstore was released, bringing a whole new way to find, install, and share apps on Android. After its initial debut, we decided that this new Appstore was the real deal. In this post, we'll break down what Amazon's done right, and what it still needs to improve on.

Pros

1. Better descriptions and more in-depth comments

AmazonAngryBirds_updated

Most users will tell you that finding good Android apps is not an easy task. If you're browsing the Android Market looking for something specific, then the only bit of information that you have to work with is what the developer wants to say (which usually isn’t much) and one-line-comments from other users. Amazon handled the Appstore commenting system in a way that makes sense –  the same way that they do for every product. If you’ve ever looked at Amazon, you know that it is a great go-to place for discovering what real users are saying about products, and it's no different in the Appstore.

Some of the comments that that I looked at were almost review-worthy in their level of detail. One of the best parts of the commenting system, though, is the thread-like conversations. This allows the developers (or other users) to directly respond to individual comments, encouraging  effective communication - unlike the standard Market.

The descriptions are also much better, offering a more versatile, rich environment for developers to put their apps on display. Not only are the Product Descriptions much more in-depth, but if you look at the desktop Appstore, there are easy-to-read bullet points that highlight recent updates as well as a quick rundown of the app's features.

2. Free Premium App of the Day

Who doesn’t like free premium apps? So far, this has been one of my favorite things about the new Appstore. They have already offered quality apps like Angry Birds Rio and Swiftkey Keyboard free of charge, and while they haven’t said exactly how long they can keep this policy going, the longer it lasts, the happier we'll be.

3. You can test drive apps within the browser (for apps that support this feature)

TestDrive_updated

Since there is a no-return policy (more about that in a bit), Amazon's done the next best thing – nay, one better – and provided users with the ability to "test drive" apps. The test drive emulates an Android device right in your browser, so you can try before you buy. Right now not all apps support this feature, but Amazon makes it really easy to find out which ones do. I would love to see more apps support this, so I encourage all developers to embrace it!

4. $100 Per Year Developer Enrollment

You may be thinking, “Wait, how is this a pro? The Android Market has a one-time fee of $25!” This is true, but it's more likely that only serious developers are going to be willing to pay $100 per year to have their apps available in the Amazon Appstore, thus giving us more quality apps and less, well, crap.

5. Giftcards!

Now everyone will know what to buy that Android-lover in their lives around the holidays! These are not typical Amazon giftcards, they're specific to the Appstore. How cool is that? And for us, it will make coming up with prizes for giveaways that much easier (hint hint).

Cons

1. No Return Policy

This one is a deal breaker for a lot of people, because we've all at one time or another paid for an app that was not quite what we thought it was going to be. Hopefully, more developers will start to embrace the “test drive” feature, which might even be preferable to returning an app anyway.

2. The Installation Process is Much More Annoying

In the native Android Market, installing an app is a simple tap-tap, and everything else is automated. This is not the case with the Amazon Appstore, which requires the sideloading of apps in order to work. I realize that this may not be the biggest deal for most users, but I often install apps via desktop and never touch my phone during the process, which is just not possible with Amazon’s Appstore (yet).

3. Not Available on AT&T or In Countries Outside of the US

This one is clearly a big deal for all parties involved. I mean, how many Android owners have been left out in the cold here? In all fairness, Amazon claims that “AT&T is working on enabling purchases from the Amazon Appstore in the near future” (more about that here), and it is worth noting that rooted users can access the Appstore. There is no word on when users outside of the US will gain (legitimate) access.

4. DRM

This one is another deal breaker for a lot of people. For now, the developer decides whether or not they want to include DRM in their app, it's not by any means a requirement. What this means for the end user is if a developer decides to include DRM in their app, (and many do) then you will not be able to run that app unless you have the Amazon Appstore installed and you are signed into your account. Maybe then we can start labeling phones “Amazon Experience Devices.”

5. Exclusive Apps

This is the double-edge sword of the group. On one hand, exclusive apps seem like a good thing, right? Maybe, as long as you are not an un-rooted AT&T customer or from outside the US. In a sense, it also forces users to use the Amazon Appstore. On the other hand, if you do not fall into the aforementioned categories and you already use the Appstore, why not reap the benefits of apps that you can’t get elsewhere?

Conclusion

This is, of course, a very early look at the Amazon Appstore and by no means a definitive guide. I’m sure that in the future a lot of the Appstore's shortfalls will be worked out, and new ones may arise. The pros will remain, more developers will embrace the beautiful thing that is the Amazon Appstore, and we will all be merry. Until then, I’m going to play Angry Birds Rio. Did I mention that it is free and exclusive in the Amazon Appstore?

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, and musician. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6- or 7-string, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • http://www.pretentiousname.com Leo Davidson

    What's the update process like?

    Do you get automatically notified when an app you've bought via Amazon has an update?

    If not, do you get notified of available updates to your apps when you run the Amazon Market app?

    • David Ruddock

      Leo,

      I believe it checks in intervals, because I know the Appstore itself notifies you when it needs to be updated in the notification bar.

      And I would imagine that it definitely does the same check when the Appstore runs.

  • Jahf

    "No return" = "No thanks". The only apps I've ever returned were ones that did not work on my phone (which is almost always a case of bad coding).

    I've stopped buying from the Google Market for the most part as well due to the extremely small time I have to return an app. Sometimes you don't realize that your app has a broken feature in the first 15 minutes.

    All "no return" means is "we're too lazy to implement a real business model, even though we're charging devs many times over what Google charges".

    I'm all for competition, but I hope Amazon's current incarnation fails badly enough to make them change some of these terms.

    • http://trueacu.com acupunc

      I've gotta agree. The no return and 15 minute return just aren't good enough. However, now that in-app purchasing is coming to the market we might actually get to really try the app before purchase to make sure it works properly on our device. This would solve a lot of problems.

      • Ken

        My only question then is, if you buy it "in-app", do you have to rebuy it each time you upgrade your phone?

        I like the license key system. Like NewsRob. I installed NewsRob, I don't know, a long time ago -- back on my G1. I liked it, bought the extra license APK, and I've had it on every Android device since. Nook Color, G2, Nexus One. No hassle.

        I'd want to make sure an in-app purchase is forever.

    • Ken

      Buy apps with a major credit card. Google wouldn't refund an app that wasn't working as advertised so I just called amex and they guarantee satisfaction, even for software. They ordered a chargeback and I kept the app.

  • Deon

    lol. I love how AT&T's stupid lockdown of Android has come back to bite them in the rear. AT&T's 1st android phone, the backflip, was a huge disappointment. Then they got better hardware but still locked down the OS, no sideloading, forcing alternative search engines, removing google apps (which are free, like navigation) and putting their bloatware/pay-to-use apps (like telenav ($5/mo) onto it.

    But I digress. I don't actually like Amazon's 'exclusive apps'. It's annoying to want a piece of software and now I have to check multiple programs. I do like the free app a day though. This only further complicates the fragmentation.

  • Snail

    I feel its nothing but exclusive stuff that's just available to the lucky few, and whats the hate on AT&T? Im not american, but it just seems ridiculous how most things are exclusive to the customer of a certain company

    • Cameron Summerson

      It's not because Amazon or Google want it to be that way. It's AT&T's own decision to disable the sideloading of apps.

      • Snail

        And people pay those people?

  • Michael

    Why are App Store specific gift cards a pro? Normal Amazon gift cards can be used in the App Store, so why would anyone want to get a gift card that isn't good for all of Amazon?

    • Tk

      Ditto. I had the same question. I dislike gift cards that can only be used for one thing.

  • cheshire

    AT&T's stupid policy gave me a reason to root my captivate. Took 5 minutes. As for the update process, it's pretty simple. The amazon app checks for updates and asks if you want to pull the update.

    I didn't think it was possible to build a market worse than iTunes, than Google did it. I have no problem with Amazon building an alternative market, and if more companies want to do it, feel free.

  • Tyler

    Deleted it after finding out it has no return policy. Its to easy to purchase an app. Ive installed free apps by mistake when i just wanted to read the description. I de-registered my account and it allowed to use/keep the swift-keyboard but No Angry Birds Rio. Ill wait for the paid version on the Market.

    • Cameron Summerson

      My biggest pet peeve with the Amazon Appstore is the DRM. The irony is, if I uninstall it because of DRM, I can't use the apps I've already downloaded with it.

      • Tyler

        yep.. another reason to just use the market. Im sure google will add some form of in-browser preview, like Amazon's.

      • Ken

        Ever see "license key check" in the extended (show all) permissions on Android Market? Same thing.

        Try, for example, installing Locale via Titanium Backup on a device that doesn't have Android Market. It won't work.

        Not to say the DRM is the same between versions, and Android Market definitely seems like a more "stable" option, but actually both markets contain DRM.

        I think twice about buying the DRM apps.

  • Slighter

    I'm liking it so far and will probably keep using it after the free app a day goes away, I like having options. It is way to easy to mistakenly purchase an app, would like to see a confirmation option after tapping the get app button, intentionally or not.

  • Kartiel

    I only use it once a Day 2 get the free pay app :)

  • Spencer

    I would figure the fact that Amazon is the company that charges for the app is a PRO. That way if you have a credit card that charges for international charges, you won't get charged extra fees by buying an app from UK (if you live in the US).

  • anyone

    How is "No Return Policy" a negative when the $100 annual fee for developers ensures that only quality developers apply to Amazon ?

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Just because it's a quality game doesn't mean you will like it.

  • Joe
  • SarcasticOne

    be nice for it to come to other countries... IE australia, hint hint nudge nudge

  • chanchan

    do you get charge when you update an app you downloaded for free?