02
Aug

Nearly a month ago, we heard from the developer of Apparatus that the "Amazon Appstore is a disaster." To take a look at the other side of the situation, we sat down with Aaron Rubenson, the head of the Amazon Appstore. Now we have another developer, ShiftyJelly, chiming in with an even worse horror story: they were featured as the free app of the day (FAOTD), their app was downloaded 101,491 times, and they made $0 for it.

Their story isn't a fluke, either; Amazon made it abundantly clear that they do not compensate developers for the FAOTD. In the initial email itself, they even bold that there is 0% revenue sharing for the FAOTD (probably because, you know, Amazon makes 0 revenue giving out free stuff anyway), and further clarified that the developer would indeed not make a cent during the promotion. Mind you, this is contrary to the what Amazon leads people to believe - that they pay developers to be featured as the free app of the day.

In the two companies' correspondence, Amazon argued that being featured as the FAOTD would improve sales in the future since the app would be featured on the main page for 14 days. What actually happened was that sales were up the day following being featured as the FAOTD, and then promptly dropped back to normal levels. Oh, and then Amazon discounted the app to $0.99 after running it for free.

The story gets uglier, though. Much as we heard during the Apparatus story, the developers had a lot more customer emails to address - by their estimates, they had 300 emails per day. Mind you, these are support emails that required tailored responses. Things get even worse: the app (Pocket Casts) interacts with ShiftyJelly servers on a regular basis, and all the new users of the app forced the developers to purchase new hardware to support the load.

They also point out a lot of other shortcomings that we've heard about before:

  • Lengthy review times of anywhere up to 2 weeks (I’ve lost count of the amount of emails from people asking why our Google Market app is newer)
  • Amazon gets to set the price of your app to whatever they want, without any input from you, or even the chance to reject their price
  • Amazon re-writes your description, and in ours they even made up things like ‘add up to 100 podcasts’. No idea where on earth they got that number from
  • Amazon don’t provide error reports like Google do making it hard to fix errors [sic]
  • They don’t yet support Google’s new multiple APK initiative
  • Amazon pays far later than Google does, and to date we haven’t received any cheques from them, even though we are listed as being ‘payed’
  • US Only
  • Much less real-time sales information than Google
  • Update: (and this one surprised us) you can’t remove apps from their store! You have to ask them for permission via an email. Every other store lets you remove apps from sale.

It's unfortunate to see smaller (self-funded) developers go through such strain, especially when a lot of people had such high hopes for the Amazon Appstore. Then again, a lot of people really only want to use it for the free app of the day (and nothing else), so maybe that's a clue right there.

[Source: ShiftyJelly]

Aaron Gingrich
Aaron is a geek who has always had a passion for technology. When not working or writing, he can be found spending time with his family, playing a game, or watching a movie.

  • Jesse (@geniusdog254)

    Part of why I'll never be distributing any of my apps through the Amazon App Store

    • Jon Garrett

      But developers know this before they submitted it. they should have read the terms. they should stop crying.

  • http://www.androidpolice.com Jakub Glodek

    Although I see how this company and other FAOTD publishers are being tanked, I believe that getting involved with Amazon, you need to know what you are getting into. In the end, if more people use their product, word of mouth will spread and more sales will occur. Maybe Amazon should prep publishers before offering the FAOTD that way they can be ready for an influx. To fix this, Amazon has to communicate better with its publishers.

  • rTiGd2

    Well then I'm pleased I don't use the Amazon App store and in support of the developers getting screwed, I'll never use it.

  • Adam

    I would guess that Amazon does a good job of not clearly outlining the results of their sponsorship just because of situations like this. Nobody would want to be featured in cases like this.

    It's really disappointing that they would do this sort of thing. As a consumer it doesn't feel any different than stealing when I download the app from amazon for free.

  • http://www.slipshft.com Slipshft

    Amazon is in this to make money, not to share apps that people can use to make their lives better. I admit that I only use it for the FAOTD, if I am going to purchase an app I go to the Google market.

  • http://ronsome.com Ron

    I'm a little confused. I understand that Amazon's app store has problems (Amazon controlling the app's price seems particularly wrong), but if Amazon is specifically telling developers that they won't get paid for the FAOTD, that doesn't seem like one of them. As for developer's servers taking more hits, that really isn't a problem with the app store either.

  • Mastermind26

    I have hated the amazon appstore from day 1.

    DL'd Rio and thought to uninstall the amazon appstore-app, but then the game did not run. Deleted both and I'm a happier man for it.

    One more reason to not support this horrible idea.

  • Steve

    I know I only use it for the app of the day, but still, it sucks to see developers being taken advantage of in this way. A lot of them are solo developers, who spend their own time creating these apps as a side project, and then they just get abused by Amazon?

  • RainCaster

    I refuse to use Amazon's AppStore for anything but the free app of the day. My hope is that Amazon will eventually drop that stupid idea once they do the math on their own profits. Sadly, I end up abusing a number of small developers along the way.

    • Simon Belmont

      Haha. That's like saying "I will take your free gift of money, but I refuse to do anything in return for you in the future, good sir."

      You are openly admitting that you are just taking advantage of the free apps and have no intentions on giving any of the developers any business. Kind of funny (and sad) if you think about it. I know lots of people do that, but it is odd that you'd openly admit it. Oh well.

      • http://schpydurx.livejournal.com ProfessorTom

        Finally, someone understands the real reason why Android phones are selling but Android tablets aren't and why millions of Android users are pissed off at their phones and under-utilize them.

        • Simon Belmont

          I happen to love all of my Android devices. This includes three smartphones, and one table.

          I make use of all the devices mentioned above heavily throughout the day. I am not sure how this article relates to Android tablet sales but I have noticed a patten of FUD in your posts.

      • http://schpydurx.livejournal.com ProfessorTom

        I have noticed a patten of FUD in your posts
        You have eyes and you know what they're to be used for.

        My reasoning in my previous comment is that Android is perceived (at least in phones) as cheaper out the door than iPhones. Android tablets, on the other hand, have been way overpriced (al la Xoom). Furthermore, people here in the comments have been saying "They only reason I use the Amazon App Store for the FAOTD". Ergo, I'm alluding to the fact that Android users seem to be a cheaper lot, not wanting to pay for anything.

        • Simon Belmont

          Oh please, and the people who jailbreak their iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches just to get free apps, want to pay so much. Right?

          Anyway, my lunch break is over. Feel free to reply and say more, but I will not see it. I am out and have a nice day.

  • http://www.droidxforums.com Eric Curtis

    So as a dev you can refuse to put your app on Amazon right?

    • Hal Motley

      Yeah, just try SlideME or the Android Market instead.

  • http://www.droid-den.com Rachid

    I'm just not sure what to take from it..

    I mean sure, its not a great situation for devs, but then shouldn't they know they will be much better off in the official market?

    I haven't added any apps to either, but when Amazon first launched it I signed up, and read all about their T&C's, it was clear to me the biggest beneficiary of their store was Amazon themselves.

    So yeah, I understand what they say, and I think Amazon should change certain policies, but this was all discussed months ago when the store was announced, nothing is new..

    • Chris

      I too signed up on day 1, read the T&C's and decided not to list my apps on Amazon. Although, I remember there being a cause that Amazon would pay developers 20% of the apps normal price when it was FAOTD? When did that change?

      • Adam

        In the terms it mentions that they will only pay 20% of the list price when they receive funds from the purchaser.

        I too went to sign up for the Amazon App Store, and when I read their terms, I didn't even bother accepting. $99 yearly fee (waived for the first year), the greater of 70% of the purchase price or 20% of the list price (when they get paid).. Not for me.

        • Hal Motley

          One of the reasons I thought 'Forget iOS development was because the $99 per year subscription' so no Amazon for me.

          I will use Android Market and perhaps SlideME. The Android Market offers a one-time $25 fee which is more than acceptable!

  • david

    I don't support the amazon app store. I am a firm believer that there only needs to be one and that's the Android Market. I do check what the FAOTD is and have tried it but I found two things which I don't like about it that the app is 'linked' to it so if I un-install the Amazon app then the app doesn't work. Secondly, the slow rate of updates or fixes from the developer on a couple of the apps I have downloaded. And now I understand why.
    I understand the developer's dilemma and not sure what Amazon offered to lure them to the Amazon Market in the first place(greed) but in the end like I said. If they just stuck with the one market...Android Market then maybe they wouldn't have had this problem...or fewer problems and more happy users.

  • Alex1x

    I understand developer point of view, but here is my perspective as a consumer... I have been using swype keyboard for a while, then I saw FAOTD SwiftKey, I decided to try... Well, I love it. I switched my keyboard for first time in 1.5 year. I started telling my friends about it. Not sure if they purchase but it got their attention. As soon as my friends look into change SwiftKey has been implanted in their thoughts.
    Another point regarding developers getting 300 emails, I delete 80% of new apps I download because I tried and didn't like it. The only apps I would go the distance of email support is only ones I love. Developers should be thrilled their app lives within their new prospect customers. Sure it's time consuming, but if you want to expose your self to millions of people, 300 emails should be expected anyhow.
    On a side note, Amazon should better their communications with developers. IMO, if I was a developer I would hit android market and as sales decline, I would list my app on Amazon.
    Consider Amazon as a discount store. Just like retail chains, sell clothing at Macys and few months later find them at Ross discount stores. Another thing developer could talk to Amazon is maybe include Ads in their FAOTD?
    Ps I get my stuff from Amazon because they have the best deals.

    • waazzupppp

      Great Point Alex1x!

      I used the Amazon Market more than the Android Market simply due to the fact we get so many Amazon Gift Cards for presents...

    • dannyb

      I dislike the Amazon store for their need of having the app store installed to run apps but now taking money from developers while they have to endure customer complains is horrible.

      I am not going to be buying apps from the Amazon store.

  • waazzupppp

    Here's a different take on things... Without 3rd party stores, Android would quickly become iOS in a locked down - load from the Android Market only type deal. Think about how it would be if only the Android Market was around and you couldn't side load apps at all?

    Amazon may not have a good model here and developers might be getting robbed blind, but isn't it their choice to participate in the FAOTD? They can always say no... Or offer a $.99 cut version of the app and a $2.99 "full" version - think Angry Birds (no ads) with 25 levels instead of 100...

    I really feel for the developers that feel toasted by Amazon's policies, but I have to admit to having 140 downloads in my Amazon App Account and maybe 5 or 6 that I still use on my device. I never would have looked at say, Guitar Hero 5 as a download unless it was the FAOTD, and now I'm almost convinced to purchase a few more versions because this one was so much fun.

    Overall, I think Android APK's are way too easy to find online for free - which will still leave developers empty handed and providing support to people that didn't support them. Perhaps if enough developers begin opting out of the FAOTD program Amazon will rethink how this program works.

    Just my 2 cents

    • JLK

      "Here's a different take on things... Without 3rd party stores, Android would quickly become iOS in a locked down - load from the Android Market only type deal. Think about how it would be if only the Android Market was around and you couldn't side load apps at all?"

      ...developers would make money, would scramble to put out all the newest apps on Android as quickly as possible, and the Android Market would become one of the best app/software stores in the mobile space?

      Yeah, sounds horrible.

  • spookytay

    I think Amazon should do a better job at preparing a developer on what could happen when their app is featured. Not just the fact that they will have a front page placement

    Not many developers might be aware what could happen when 100's of people start downloading their app, they might not be prepared to answer all the emails, have hardware in place for a high load in a short amount of time etc. This should be explained to the developer from Amazon to make sure they are ready to feature their app.

  • http://schpydurx.livejournal.com ProfessorTom

    You've got it all wrong: this developers need to give something back to the community and Amazon is helping them do that. Android isn't about making money (except for Google) it's about being open.

    If devs don't want to get shafted, they should develop for iOS.

    • Max Cox

      Congrats, ProfessorTom, you've provided me with the stupidest thing I've heard all day. You're apparently a professor... What's your specialty? Failure?

      • http://schpydurx.livejournal.com ProfessorTom

        I'm just trying on being a hater like the rest of the commenters here because I'm thinking about switching to Android.

        • Mark

          Being a hater takes alot of work.

        • Hal Motley

          What are you a professor at out of curiosity?

  • Jim

    Did Amazon do a bait and switch on these developers? Was there a breach of contract? I'm sure developers KNOW their app will be free for that day. One thing that sucks about Amazon's Android apps is that you have to have that damn Amazon app store app on your phone to use ANY app you got from them.

    • JayMonster

      See, but for developers, that is the bonus, locking down the app that other people steal. Can't do that with the Amazon apps.

  • Max Cox

    Yes, and you ought to see the process for submitting an app that uses the Google Maps API. Amazon overwrites your app's key with their own (which seems a little dodgy on its own). When you use the Maps API, they require you to upload an unsigned binary, wait for it to be processed, then download it, sign it, and submit it, presumably for an additional approval process.

    Seems like a lot of hoops to jump through, given the apparent lack of stories of developers making much money (if at all) from Amazon app store sales.

  • 20°

    I liked the free app of the day. But I thought the dev got a cut of the downloads. I figured Amazon gave them something for them giving out their apps. I will continue to use the free app of the day feature, but now that I know the dev gets no money for it and if I like the app, I'll buy it from the google market to support the dev.

  • Bruce

    Giving developers a bad time and promoting slimy apps as app of the day. I used to think Amazon was OK as a company but this app store has lowered my opinion of them.

    If the people who are in charge of the Amazon app store are also in charge of the rumored Amazon Android tablet, the tablets will just be one more reason to dislike Amazon.

    • http://schpydurx.livejournal.com ProfessorTom

      That's right. Down with the big corporation, especially those who skip out on a $3.1 billion tax bill instead of giving that money to App Devs.

  • Matt

    There is no change log either.

  • Graham

    I purchased this product and emailed the company a couple of times with an issue that ended up being my phone. They were courteous and responsive each time. After reading this post I think that I will go ahead an actually purchase the app through Google to ensure that they are paid for a high quality app.

  • tim

    @wazzupp

    Please reread the article because you missed quite a bit. You can't opt out of the free app of the day program and will unilaterally change the price of your app

  • Jay

    Wow, now imagine if this appstore was deployed worldwide. I truly feel for the developers. I thought these free apps came ad supported, so i wouldn't feel so bad for these developers if they got over 100k downloads on the day their app was free. Surely that would bring in some revenue

    • http://schpydurx.livejournal.com ProfessorTom

      If only Google wasn't an evil corporation screwing the little guy.

      • Simon Belmont

        What does this even have to do with Google? The article was on the Amazon Appstore.

        You seem to have already made up your mind about the Android platform. Why not just go with iOS, since in your mind, that is the superior platform?

        • http://schpydurx.livejournal.com ProfessorTom

          Google doesn't make the Marketplace available world wide. Apple is in 123 countries and counting.

        • Simon Belmont

          But this article was about the Amazon Appstore. You've veered off on a tangent.

          Your pro Apple agenda is quite obvious. Why do feel the need to validate Apple over and over again by touting the praises of it throughout the discussion here, on an ANDROID website?

        • http://schpydurx.livejournal.com ProfessorTom

          If Android users can hate on Android and Android related phenomena when it's convenient for them to do so only to turn around and defend Android and its related phenomena to the death, then I ought to be allowed to hate on Android too.

          Case in point: your comment here. I agree with you and and attempting to illustrate absurdity by being absurd.

          Said another way, how can the Amazon App Store be such a good thing when Android users can get apps for free, when it's held up as an example of how "open" Android but yet when the consequences to the model come into view, Amazon gets dumped on?

          I see this kind of behavior as hypocritical and intellectually dishonest at worst and ignorant at best. I also think that Apple's solution to the problem in question, while certainly not perfect nor is it for everyone, is a much better approach.

          Employing the old adage of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend", I'm attempting to create an echo chamber of the Android complaints so that Fandroids will at least consider their thoughts and words.

        • Simon Belmont

          Wow. By the way, no one said your opinions on Apple were wrong, but your invective attitude towards Google seems to show some kind of chip on your shoulder towards them even though this article has nothing to do with Google or the Android Market. I wasn't defending anyone, by the way. I just wondered why you were making it a personal quest to go off topic.

          I have had no issues with the Amazon Appstore. I have bought paid apps from it and the regular Android Market and enjoyed them. I have no "hate" towards it in practice, but I do appreciate this website bringing to light the underpinnings of what is going on behind the scenes with the actual developers. I am a developer myself and I may, one day, post an app on the Amazon Appstore. Having varying positions and posturings on how it works is vital to my wanting to pull the trigger on that endeavor. If you love Apple, iOS, and everything that goes with it, stick with it and be happy.

        • http://schpydurx.livejournal.com ProfessorTom

          I have. This is just saber rattling. ;)

        • http://schpydurx.livejournal.com ProfessorTom

          My big gripe with Google is their motto is "Do no evil" yet they continue to become pervasive in our daily lives gathering more and more information and behavior patterns that can be used against us should they so choose.

          Also, Android is hailed as a revolutionary product, but I don't see it. While it's true that Apple didn't invent the Smartphone and that Microsoft dominated that field before Apple or Google, Google coming along and copying Apple is praised while the original is hated. This is curious to me.

          While Android allegedly has an entire ecosystem built around it, none of the parts really seem to work together for someone that doesn't know a thing about computers. Android exposes the file system on the phone. Who (other than geeks) want that? I mean really, isn't it a better solution to let each app manage its data and not worried about how or where something is stored?

          Android is constantly on the receiving end of malware, yet there are no outcries over the lack of security. While iOS does have flaws (hence the jailbreaks), apps are sandboxed and require you to list your entitlements up front. Furthermore, data integrity is kept by accessing global data through the API and ONLY through the API. And this same technology has just come to the desktop with Lion.

          iOS renders everything you see on the screen via OpenGL ES and hardware acceleration, Android does not. Instead of having to upload all of your music collection, Apple will scan your iTunes library, matching tracks based on metadata and will automatically upgrade your tracks to 256kbps AAC.

          In Google's Calendar web app as well as the app for iOS and (I think I'm right on this) Android, you can't set up a repeating events. You have to do it from the full website.

          Despite the fact that Android is made by Google, their own OS doesn't seem to fully support their fleet of cloud apps.

          I do appreciate this website bringing to light the underpinnings of what is going on behind the scenes with the actual developers. I am a developer myself and I may, one day, post an app on the Amazon Appstore. Having varying positions and posturings on how it works is vital to my wanting to pull the trigger on that endeavor.
          Indeed. I have no qualms with a press reporting on the goings on of any industry. In fact, I think we need more investigative reporting. I will give Android Police the credit they deserve for point out the problems with the Amazon App Store. As I expressed earlier, I think that Android users who have praised the Amazon App Store in the past have a black mark on their record if they want to bitch now.

          If you love Apple, iOS, and everything that goes with it, stick with it and be happy.
          I have. As a fellow developer about to start developing for iOS, I look forward to the adventure ahead of me.

  • bobomb

    The whole Amazon Appstore thing seemed halfway shady to me from the beginning. I never used it. Amazon has a bad history with things like the Kindle, and the way they ran the Appstore rubbed me the wrong way too. There's not a thing wrong with the official Market (well okay, it's not perfect, but you get my meaning), so why did we need Amazon again?

  • thee_rook

    @ ProfessorTom

    Really mano?

    The reason the Apple is believed to be more stable than Android and Windows is due to a complete lack of choice. Android gives the end user better choice and there is a reason that Android based devices are out-selling iOS devices now. Also I find it very amusing that an Apple user is calling us all "fandroid" users. Are you jealous Android is beating up all over iOS in every way?

    I enjoy my Coby Kyros, Droid X, Droid X2, Thunderbolt, Asus Transformer, and use them daily. I just gave away my iPad2 to a client that was salivating all over his macbook when I mentioned getting rid of it.

    • http://schpydurx.livejournal.com ProfessorTom

      You require two tablets and two phones for daily use?

      The reason that Android devices are outselling the iPhone is simple: there are more manufactures of devices and corporate cell phone stores are filled with high-pressured sales people hawing Android crap; there's a reason that the Verizon logo doesn't appear on the iPhone 4 nor is there any Verizon crapware installed on the iPhone.

      We'll see who's supporting developers in two years. In the meantime, you might enjoy reading this.

  • Alex1x

    Another point;

    It's not like the developers app will be free for ever, it's just "1 DAY". If I was a developer, I would 100% opt in to have my app featured in front of millions of people.

    Whichever developer is whining about having their app downloaded 100K+ and didn't get paid for it, I ask you... how many downloads did you get before your app was featured (5, 10, 100?). STOP babying around and REALIZE... there are 300,000 app's in the market. I search for something and dozens and dozens of similar products turn up all with "Free or $1.99, etc" price range, I won't download everything!

    Amazon FAOTD is "free" advertising of your product with little to give (1 day free download) and big gain! Per article above, this developers app was downloaded 100,000 times, don't forget it's possible that 1,000,000 people noticed your app of which some downloaded.

    Say what you want, but Amazon is a billion $ company, and if they want to sell my products at their set price, I would be all down with that. Amazon won't lower an app's price unless the app is sitting like a duck not getting any downloads.

    Side Note: @ProfessorTom
    I'm trying to figure out, are you an IOS fan or Android? Please research the history of electronics and you'll come across Video Cassettes, then CD's, then Blu-rays... the pattern you will find is technology evolving. iPhone came out and I was waiting in line to purchase it and I did. They revolutionized the smart phones with their apps. Now apple's is sitting on the same bench while other manufacturers (i.e. Android) is evolving. Can you imagine if this were not to happen, how we could possibly make technological progress?

    • http://schpydurx.livejournal.com ProfessorTom

      @Alex1x
      That's the point.

      How did you reach the conclusion that Apple is sitting on the bench not innovating with iOS?

      • Alex1x

        There is a saying; Don't fix it if it ain't broke. Apple has captured it's audience with simplicity. Change is not a necesity for Apple. I'm not a fan boy, heck in a few years something else may rise and I'll be first to jump ship. IOS is the app drawer of android, sitting duck. You could disagree if you have not owned android, but this is coming from an iphone user of over a year.
        May the best tech win :
        Ps3
        Android
        Macbook

    • Herp

      And developers sign up because they feel the same way. Then people with first -hand experience disagree with you. Also, it's not just a one day problem. Learn to read.

  • beankebob

    If I want to buy, I go to Marketplace. But, I check the Appstore everyday to see if the free app is anything I want.

  • David Ruddock

    Amazon has a lot of issues to work out in terms of developer relations, that much is clear. This is the fourth such developer we've heard from personally about problems with Amazon's Appstore and it seems Android devs are having a hard time making the transition to a closed ecosystem distribution model.

    However - regarding the FAOTD issue, I think that, frankly, this is just tough-love marketing by Amazon. Yes, it's obviously dubious to state that developers earn money from the promotion when 90% of their audience ends up downloading the app when it's free, with a smaller number gravitating to it shortly after the promotion because of its "Featured" status. But it's also plainly stated that Amazon warns the developer that they receive no money during the promotional period, and in return they receive high placement (featured status) for a temporary period.

    This isn't Sophie's Choice - it's a cost-benefit analysis, and sure, it's a tempting offer, but no one's forcing them to choose to participate.

    The removal policy is in the distribution agreement, if I recall correctly. But yeah, it's kind of dickish.

    • Derp

      It's plainly stated in this article that Amazon deliberately fosters the belief that its FAOTD picks get paid. Intentionally duplicitous behaviour. Their whole system is dickish and controlling at every point of interaction for consumers and developers.

  • http://androidappquickreview.blogspot.com/ K. Chang

    Being one of those who downloaded PocketCast, and was able to get a reply from the developers, I must say they did a great job for that sudden spike.

    I had an OG Droid (with CM7) and PocketCasts won't play a single podcast on it. The developers said wait for the next upgrade when they revamp the media player engine. So they are aware of the issues.

    FAOTD is a lot like Groupon: that sudden spike of traffic will cause problems, and the benefit you derive from it may not be worth the cost due to all the support you need to give later. Most other "free" programs don't have tech support at all. (see giveawayoftheday.com which is Windows only)

  • Randy

    I thought the Amazon App Store was shifty ever since I saw that your apps from their store were no longer available if you uninstall their app store. Once I saw that, I uninstalled the app store and never returned. (And actually never used it to download a single app, free or otherwise.)

    Now I'm REALLY glad that I never supported their dirty, backhanded practices.

  • Jonathan

    This Professor is a complete Quack. He speaks of Google as copycats but not seeing that iOS's UI itself is not a copy but an exact ripoff of a previous UI of another company. He's just a TROLL trying to justify in his inner-conscious doubts about iOS.

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