Amazon's Android play

This week Amazon finally unveiled its Android App Store to consumers, but will it add to or detract from overall Android growth?

Amazon’s Android App Store offers a curated list of Android-based applications to users that are vetted before being made available to consumers. Not only that but users will also be able to “test-drive” applications in their browser using an Android emulator before buying.

The appeal of the the Amazon Android App Store is that it supposedly elevates quality over quantity. Google’s existing Android app marketplace has around 100 000 applications on offer but Google has been widely criticised for not exercising quality control over what is and what is not accepted into the marketplace. Amazon’s App Store is intended to address this problem.

In addition to vetting applications, Amazon will also offer a free app-of-the-day which is designed to encourage users to come back to the store regularly.

Advantages

Aside from ensuring the quality of Android applications, Amazon’s other major drawcard is that it is a well-known and trusted online retailer. Not only that but users are also able to access the store using their existing Amazon account. Which in theory gives Amazon near global reach, although for now the store is only available to US residents.

Amazon also looks set on driving down prices for apps with some reports suggesting that Amazon App Store applications will sell for less than their Android Marketplace versions. Whether this is the case is unclear but if Amazon does keep pricing down it could drive many more sales.

Perhaps the biggest advantage for Android developers is that Amazon is a trusted brand. Rather than users having to buy applications through the Android Marketplace, which they may not trust, users will be able to buy them through Amazon, which they do trust. Amazon also promises the kind of support and reassurance that users new to Android need which can only be good for sales.

Disadvantages

Ironically, Amazon may well be adding to the perceived fragmentation in the Android market.

For some time now there has been concern that multiple versions of Android and multiple app market places – Amazon’s and Google’s stores are just two of many stores – make Android confusing for less savvy users, whereas Apple’s tight control over iTunes and its app store makes iOS a more user-friendly experience.

Undoubtedly the Amazon App Store will add to the fragmentation, especially if an app can be bought from Amazon or from the Android Marketplace for different prices. This does need to be weighed up against the added profile that Android apps will enjoy thanks to the Amazon marketplace.

Another concern for Android fans is that the Amazon App Store allows for DRM (digital rights management) to be attached to the various applications on offer. Although obviously geared at preventing piracy, this is not going to sit well with open source fans who will probably stick with Google’s Android Market.

Another disadvantage, although this may well be temporary, is that the store is not yet available to users outside of the US. Unless this changes, the Amazon App Store will always be a second option for users.

The Amazon Android App Store is beyond the link, and there is also a mobile-specific application that can be installed on handsets.

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Amazon's Android play