Amazon's Appstore: more than just a Kindle market

What can Google learn from Amazon's specialty Android app store?

Folder Manager in the Amazon Appstore

Google is known for software, mostly free software. Amazon is known for making convenient, frighteningly so, to purchase nearly anything on the planet with confidence. So when Amazon launched its Amazon Appstore for Android in March 2011, it was a really interesting bit of really unexpected competition: an experienced retail genius leveraing the open nature of Android to make money from app buyers who might like their store better.

Amazon would, in other words, leverage what some call the First-Mover Disadvantage, described as such.

They can, for example, learn from the mistakes and successes of their predecessors, reducing their own investment requirements as well as their risks. In addition, followers can frequently adopt new and more efficient processes and technologies, whereas pioneers often remain entrenched in their original ways of doing things.

But then Amazon launched the Kindle Fire tablet about six months later, and it felt like that entirely Amazon-focused device was the not-well-hidden explanation for why Amazon had launched an Appstore in the first place. Kind of sad, really, because Amazon’s take on selling Android apps has quite a few second-mover merits

Test drive apps before buying, in a browser or a phone

Screenshots are nice, and some apps do a good job of hitting all the essential points in their text descriptions. But if you need to get one particular thing from an app and you’re not sure if it’s there, then having a few hours to mess with the app is just what you need. Apps aren’t cars, but some of them seem to have just as many features and options, and test driving them lets you know exactly what you’re buying.

Amazon gives you the ability to test drive apps: initially in the browser, but now on the phone itself, too. Google’s Play Store has gradually lowered its free refund window, now to a very tight 15 minutes, which has doesn’t always work properly.

One free app each day to keep people coming back

To buy an app in Google’s Play Store, you need to connect a credit card to a Google Checkout account, attach it to a Google account, and stay logged in. That’s a pain, but Amazon’s sign-up and purchasing process is even more onerous, requiring the installation of an unofficial app, an Amazon sign-in, and more. So why do I feel like visiting the Amazon Appstore more often than the Play Store?

Simple: Amazon offers one free app, every day, featured prominently on the front page. Most days, the app won’t be worth even a free download to your sensibilities, but you’ll want to check in occasionally. I’ve picked up Plants vs. Zombies, phone-finding and security app SeekDroid, and alternative keyboard Thumb Keyboard for free, and it makes me want to check in on the Appstore on occasion, as well as ensure I install the Amazon Appstore on every Android phone and tablet I own.

The Play Store? Not something I feel like browsing every day or two. And that’s partly because it is not a ...

Sort-able, list-able, self-curating market

Google’s Play Store offers a look at the top paid, the top free, and some staff picks, plus a bunch of categories that are, as with most categories, generally helpful but sometimes vague. Amazon’s Appstore bears the marks of a firm that knows how people find things. There are lists for deals, best sellers, new releases, free apps, a list of the apps you can “Test Drive,” featured developers, apps that work best on a Kindle Fire, and lots of recommendations based on your previous purchases. It’s a great way to look for apps.

And the apps that are there passed through a more stringent approval process than the Play Store, which is almost non-existent for functionin, non-spyware apps. That, and the apps on the Amazon Appstore had to want to be in a second, somewhat specialized Android market, so there’s far less random crudware that seems to exist just to capture the occasional accidental purchase or ad-filled install.

All that is to say, I hope some features from Amazon’s Appstore inspire the Play Store to upgrade some of its own features, and I hope more Android owners will consider the Amazon Appstore as a place to check in occasionally. Found any good apps in Amazon’s private little market lately? Tell us about them in the comments.

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