Review: Amazon Appstore – do you need it?

The Amazon Appstore is officially open for business. At this time there are 4,083 apps available and 1,435 of them are free. There are 29 categories to choose from along with top rated, new, and coming soon. The one exclusive app I know of is Angry Birds Rio.

I signed in this morning and downloaded my first app, Angry Birds Rio. It was fairly easy. You will need to get the Amazon Appstore App directly from Amazon because it is not available in the Google Market. I signed up using my desktop. On the main page you will see a link to the right that looks like this:

You will then receive a download link on your device for the apk. You must enable 3rd party apps on your device by going to settings / applications and clicking “unknown sources.” If you are on AT&T you will not be able to do this which means the Amazon Appstore will not be available to you until AT&T changes their policy on 3rd party apps. After the apk is is downloaded and installed you will then open the app and sign in using your existing amazon account.

You can search and install apps from either your device or you desktop, but when you do it from your desktop it will not start downloading to your device automatically like the official market. You need to open your appstore app on your device and there will be a notification within the app telling you that there are downloads that you need to accept. You can also hit menu / my apps and there will be a tab called “new” that will show you all apps that need to be downloaded. After the app is downloaded you still need to accept again to install. It would be easier if there were notifications on your home screen so you can accept the download quicker. I did not find anything in the settings on this so hopefully it is something they will add later.

Along the topic of notifications, you will not receive any on the home screen when an app has been updated. You will again have to go in to the Amazon Appstore to find out. In the “my apps” section there is a  tab called “updates” that will list any apps that need to be updated. Apps that are downloaded from Amazon will have to be updated through Amazon. I downloaded an app that is in both Google and Amazon and of course it does not show up as installed in the Google Market so therefore there is no way to update it through Google. Furthermore, it appears that the apps are either titled differently or the developer has a different name to create differentiation. For example I found Pulse News Reader in Google, but in Amazon it is Pulse News. I found that WeatherBug Elite is titled the same, but the developer in Google is Weatherbug mobile and in Amazon it is AWC Convergence Technologies. These are the same exact apps, but this forces you to download updates through Amazon.

If you want to uninstall any Amazon apps you will have to do it manually by going to menu / applications / manage applications. I do not see an easy uninstall link within Amazon. I did uninstall an app manually on my device and when going back to the Amazon Appstore, it was still  listed in the “my apps” section with “install” next to it just like the Google Market. Hopefully they will add an uninstall link in the near future.

One interesting feature is the test drive feature. You will see the following link when looking at the app’s main page:

You can actually see and try the app using your mouse to control the app on your desktop to see what it is like. This did not work at all in Chrome. I was able to get it to work in Internet Explorer, but for some reason I no longer see the link in either browser. They might be trying to fix it. I cannot tell you if this feature is available for every app or only a select few. I tried it with a very simple dice rolling app which worked well, but I am not sure how well it will do with something more complex. It is a good idea and I am sure it will evolve over time.

It has already been reported that it is all about price with Amazon. It looks like they will be offering a free app of the day and today it is Angry Birds Rio. You will also find a deals section. Right now there are 22 apps (11 games) and they range from 17% to 50% off. The first app I noticed was Flashlight Shaker. It was listed at 50% off and upon checking it with the Google Market it was indeed 50% off. Google had it for $1.99 and Amazon for .99 cents. After spot checking a few apps it appears that if it is not on the deal page the price will be the same as Google. Amazon obviously wants you to check back regularly to see what is on sale.

One concern I have is purchase history. Right now all my apps I have downloaded (both paid and free) are tied to my gmail account. If I get a new phone all my apps are easily found and downloaded. For those that download a number of apps from Amazon, you will have one extra step in that you will have to log in to reinstall those apps. That is not a big deal, but what happens if Amazon decides to close the market? You will have to re-purchase the apps from the Google Market. I think the chances are slim, but it is something that needs to be considered.

The Amazon Appstore seems easy to use, but I am not in love with it. The fact that the app name or developer names are different, you cannot easily uninstall apps, and there are no proper notifications makes it quirky. Do I plan to use it? I guess time will tell. The only thing that will make the Amazon store successful is price and exclusivity. If they are much cheaper on a particular app, I will definitely consider it. I can’t see myself downloading free apps from Amazon unless it is an exclusive or if it is free because it is on sale. It is easier to keep most of you apps tied to gmail. Amazon is in this for the long haul so I expect it to get better. I still think it is nice to have the choice and that is what Android is all about.

UPDATE: Thank you to the user comments below for telling me the Amazon Appstore is only available in the United States. For those outside the US, you may be able to download the app for you phone, but you will not be able to install any apps.

About the Author: Robert Nazarian

Robert lives in upstate New York where he was born and raised. Technology was always his passion. His first computer was a Radio Shack TRS80 Color that used a cassette tape to save programs, and his first laptop was a Toshiba T1200FB that sported a CGA greyscale screen and two 720kb floppy drives (no hardrive). From the early 90’s through late 2011, he only owned Motorola phones starting with the MircroTAC all the way through to the Droid X. He broke that streak when he bought the Galaxy Nexus. Now he's sporting a Galaxy Note 4, and absolutely loves it. He has a wonderful wife and a 6 year old son. In his free time he enjoys sports, movies, TV, working out, and trying to keep up with the rapid fast world of technology.

  • ryan

    what really sucks is that it can’t be used by canadians… grrg me want some angrybirds rio

  • ibmonkey

    nice write up. I thought I’d give it a go, but I get a message “The Amazon Appstore is only available to customers located in the United States.”
    I’m not sure if you were aware of this.

  • Gaz

    As above, I’m not from the US so I can’t use it but they only told me this AFTER going through the motions of installing it and putting in my account details…

  • Cant be used anywhere in the world except for america. Makes it pretty much useless to the majority of people who use Android. Can’t use it and when it does come out in the UK I’m not sure I’ll bother. No one likes to be treated as a second class user.

  • juan

    downloaded but it does not allow install or buy any app in europe !!!

  • Thanks guys for bringing this up. I was unaware that it was only available to the US. I am sorry for the confusion.

  • I just installed this on my Samsung Captivate using a sideloader. It installed without any issues, but when I went to install the Angry Birds Rio app (which is free today) to test it out the installation was again BLOCKED “for my protection”…. Thanks a lot AT&T.

  • Riddlin

    I like it. I think the Market is going to lag behind. Google is not focusing enough on the Market. It needs more updating. Time will tell. This is day one for Amazon. The ability to pay by different means is nice. Once they open it up worldwide and get more apps, it will crush the current Android market.

  • I hated this app. I gave me a “what’s the point” sort of feel. Wasn’t this some what already done with AppBrain? At any rate, I found the App to be more cumbersome than useful. First off, a free app a day. Maybe I have my expectations set really high, but “Angry Birds Rio” is not “Angry Birds”. I got more play out of the free version from the Market. And I didn’t even have to have another app running while playing the free Market version. That’s right! For some reason the Amazon App needs to be running to run Apps downloaded from them. It also seems to be running in the background even when not in use. All of which kills my already dying HTC Hero’s battery life.

  • bargoban

    im in hong kong and i can use amazons store. ive downloaded angry birds rio, shazam encore, soundhoud infinity for free. check again folks

  • JackRipper

    As a developer, the amazon app store is horrible. It takes a week or more to have you app approved. Within that time I’ve made huge updates to my app and upon reloading a new version, have to wait another week for approvement. This process is ridiculous, and there is no sense of status on how far along your app is from being approved. Android market is much better.

  • saunieindiego

    I do not appreciate that the Amazon app store keeps running EVEN AFTER I FORCE CLOSE IT. To stop this, I deleted the app.

    Then discovered, that ANY APP I downloaded with the App Store CAN ONLY BE USED IF I HAVE THE APP STORE??
    What kind of bull is that?

  • BladeMacStud

    The Amazon App Store can get a giant d**k. It isn’t worth f**k all until it opens up world wide.

  • Elem

    With Amazon Appstore there is a problem re installing applications from Cloud.
    I have may be a hundred of apps and it would not let me click more than one or two “Download” buttons at the same time. Other clicks are just ignored. However sometime I can click 3 or 4 Download buttons to get it started.
    What is even worse – each time the Appstore application refreshes automatically returning me to the top of the list and I have to scroll down the list to start next single download. And loading it takes a long time as it is downloading it slowly…
    What a pain