Competition is always a good thing, right? I mean, the iPhone was the first true innovation in the smartphone market for years. And along came Android, which accelerated healthy competition and made all smartphones better, and therefore better for users. So why am I not very happy with the Amazon Appstore, at least at the moment?
The promise of the Amazon Appstore sounds great, at least on paper. Adding another option for a store for consumers to buy Android apps sounds like a win-win situation, but in practice, I don’t think that it is all that it is thought to be, at least not yet. Some changes need to come to the process, but I don’t know if all of the issues I see with the Amazon Appstore can be fixed.
Don’t get me wrong, there are positives, such as:
- One different paid application is available free daily – Who doesn’t like free?
- Ability to use your Amazon market account payment methods, via 1-Click (more on this later)
- Android titles unavailable in the Android Market, such as Angry Birds Rio and, apparently coming soon, Gameloft games
- Amazon’s rating and recognition engines
- Amazon approval process (to hopefully prevent security issues)
In fact, the draw of free paid applications alone is a reason that many will look at the Amazon Appstore. But, at the risk of sounding curmudgeonly (I feel like a techno Andy Rooney), I’m going to avoid downloading apps from the Amazon Appstore, at least for now. Why, you ask?
Well, Amazon does a good job trying to make the 8-Step Process to install the Amazon Appstore easy. Their step-by-step instructions are clear, but still a bit difficult for a regular user to endure. Luckily, you only have to do this once. Or do you? I found out that for whatever reason, my phone did not get an update to the Amazon Appstore pushed to me, and I was on an older version (1.07002 instead of 1.07003), compared to the rest of the Gear Diary team. So I actually had to go back through most of the installation instructions and upgrade my existing installation manually. Also, AT&T Android users cannot currently install the Amazon Appstore, due to AT&T’s draconian policies which only allow applications from the Android Market, though Amazon and AT&T are reportedly working on this issue.
The topic of installing the Amazon Appstore has been covered in-depth online already, so let’s go over a few other annoyances:
First, a minor issue. With the Android Market, you can see how large an application is, right on the main application details page. With Amazon Appstore, you have to click on Details and scroll to the very bottom to see the size. Not a big deal for some, but for those with limited space, this is sometimes an important factor.
Amazon Appstore uses your 1-Click settings to purchase applications. In fact, there is no confirmation at all when you click the Buy App button. It just immediately charges you and begins the download process. And there is no way to “reverse” an accidental purchase on your phone. This is a bit odd, considering even the Kindle on-device buying process has that user-friendly option covered!
Okay, so that can be forgiven, right? Let’s say that you buy several applications, and decide to selectively install a few on a device. On most of my mobile devices, I have purchased an application, and then uninstalled it to either save space, or because I’m not using it any more. Amazon to the rescue here! Any time an update is available for an application, it notifies you, even if you don’t have that application installed on your phone!! And, you can’t suppress those notifications! So if you cancel out of the download, the Amazon Appstore will continue to reprompt you to update the application which isn’t installed periodically.
On the subject of updates, there is currently no “Update All” function. So if you have several applications needing an update, you have to run through them one at a time. Granted, the Android Market only recently added an “Update All” button, but it’s still something which should exist in Amazon’s offering.
There also is no functionality to backup your application settings and data like there is with Android Market purchases. With Android Market and the built-in OS functionality, if my phone is replaced, all I have to do is log into my Google Account and my applications, data, and settings are automatically restored. Sure, you can always redownload applications from the Amazon Appstore, but what about your preferences? What about your data?
Let’s say that you have an application installed from the Android Market. The application should be listed as purchased so you don’t accidentally repurchase it in the Amazon Appstore, right? Right? — Wrong! If you purchase an application in the Amazon Appstore which you already own from the Android Market and is installed on your device, not only does the Amazon Appstore not realize this (potentially causing you to repurchase an application), but it gives you this lovely dialog when it attempts to install:
But this one is my favorite… If you uninstall the Amazon Appstore, you cannot run ANY application installed via the Amazon Appstore until you have reinstalled and signed in. That’s right – somehow there is a hook built into each application which checks in the with Amazon mothership before you can run it! In the screenshots below, you see that I uninstall the Amazon Appstore, and then try to run Angry Birds Rio.
Don’t misunderstand. I like for us, as consumers, to have a choice. But, at least for me, right now, the Amazon Appstore is barely usable. And what I give up in freedom and convenience is just too great for me to use it over the Android Market. Competition and choice are good things. But, I see the iOS vs. Android ecosystems as that competition. In this case, the Amazon Appstore reminds me of the old Palm and PocketPC days, where you could buy applications from several sources. That was not ideal for consumers. Amazon can fix several of my concerns above with software updates, but some of them cannot be easily fixed. Unless Amazon releases their own Android-based tablet/eReading devices and ONLY allow their Appstore, I cannot see how they can fix some of the annoyances above, simply because they don’t own the end-to-end process. Installing the Amazon Appstore, backing up data, seamlessly updating all – those are likely out of their grasp for the general Android audience.
Lastly, I do want to point out that all of the rest of the Gear Diary team is happy so far with the Amazon Appstore, and I may be the only one who has these concerns. But I do want you to think critically before buying from the Amazon Appstore and think of what it may be doing to hinder the advancement of the Android OS and application ecosystem. Android Market is not perfect by any means, but it is improving continually.