Amazon Appstore launches; AT&T users left out in the cold (for now)

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As expected, Amazon launched its Appstore this morning, in spite of Apple's lawsuit over the name (Apple claims it owns a copyright on "App Store" and "Appstore" is too similar).

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Yesterday I wondered how Amazon would handle getting the Appstore onto user's phones. Now we know. You start (for first time users) at http://www.amazon.com/appstore and find an app you want. As promised, Angry Birds Rio is figured prominently. When you click on "Get App" you're asked for an email address or a cellphone number. Through either of these vectors (email or SMS) you'll be sent a link to download the Appstore app. A helpful video will walk you through the steps.

Once you have the Appstore installed you'll be prompted to enter your Amazon.com credentials and then download the actual app you were initially after. You only have to install the Appstore app that first time. After that you can browse on your phone or the web. If you find an app on the website you can purchase it and choose the device you want it sent to (Kindle users will find this process very familiar). Then you have to go to your phone and initiate the download. Unlike the Android Market's website, the Amazon Appstore doesn't initiate the download to your phone automatically.

The other big question I had the other day was, what about AT&T users (AT&T doesn't let you install 'untrusted apps'). Turns out if you're on AT&T you're out of luck, at least for now. Amazon's help pages have this to say:

If you have an AT&T phone or tablet, you currently can't install the Amazon Appstore or purchase apps from it. AT&T is working to allow customers to install the Amazon Appstore and purchase apps from it. To sign up to be notified by AT&T when you are able to install the Amazon Appstore on AT&T phones and tablets, visit the AT&T website.

So the good news is, it seems like Amazon's Appstore will be coming to AT&T users; you'll just have to be a bit patient.

With the Appstore so new I'm not yet ready to offer an opinion on how useful it is. I will say '1 click' shopping for apps sounds compelling, but for free stuff I'd rather use the Android Market website and have my apps download automagically for me. How about you? Will you switch to the Amazon Appstore or is the Android Market good enough?

Peter Smith writes about personal technology for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @pasmith.

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