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Summary:

An Android developer is pulling its game app from the Amazon Appstore for Android, calling it a “disaster” because of a number of shortcomings. It’s the complaint of one developer, but it highlights some of the challenges in building a mature market for apps.

Screen shot 2011-07-05 at 6.15.12 AM

Running a successful app store isn’t trivial. Building out the necessary features and services and making it appealing to both consumers and developers can be hard work, something Amazon is learning. The company has been taken to task by an independent developer that is pulling its game app from the Amazon Appstore for Android, calling it a “disaster” because of a number of shortcomings. It’s the complaint of one developer but it highlights some of the challenges in building a mature market for apps, even for an experienced retailer like Amazon.

Bithack, an independent Swedish developer responsible for physics-based game Apparatus, which hit No. 3 on the Amazon rankings, said it was done with Amazon Appstore and will focus all its efforts on Android Market. CEO Emil Romanus wrote in a blog post that Amazon Appstore was a disaster for him and said smaller dev shops shouldn’t bother.

He said the problems include:

  • No device filtering. The Appstore doesn’t filter out apps by device so users were downloading the app to devices that couldn’t run the app or did so poorly. Romanus said that resulted in a lot of low ratings.
  • Limited consumer feedback. There is no obvious option for contacting the developer on Amazon Appstore, and that has led to just three responses from consumers to Bithack, two through Twitter, compared to hundreds on Android Market. And there is no way to refund users, said Romanus, which is a key tool in keeping consumers happy.
  • Slow review process. It took two weeks to hear back that the app was declined for not using HTTPS for a session cookie in the community section. After that was fixed, it took another week to get approved and subsequent updates aren’t approved quickly.
  • No recourse for incorrect reviews. Romanus said the last straw was a review that stated that Apparatus must connect to the Internet to serve ads and actually tracks users. Romanus said the review was incorrect about the Internet connection and tracking but it nonetheless was voted “Most Helpful.” But because Bithack is not based in the U.S., where Amazon Appstore is limited to, Romanus couldn’t buy the app, which he said is a requirement for writing a review. So he had no way to refute the erroneous review. And that hurt sales significantly, he said.
  • Cheap pricing. Romanus said that after the bad review, Amazon lowered the price to 99 cents from $1.50, which was already a 50 percent discount, without explaining why. That is a controversial but well-publicized provision in Amazon’s developer agreement that has sparked concerns from the Independent Games Developers Association.

Romanus said larger developers can afford to stick it out in Amazon Appstore because they can buy enough testing devices and can wait through a long testing process. And they’re likely to have more clout, so Amazon follows through on supporting them. He said Amazon didn’t follow-up after featuring Apparatus as its Free App of the Day and hasn’t responded to his email requesting the app to be pulled. He said for smaller developers, there’s little reason to stick around. And he predicts there will be little drop-off in sales by focusing on Android Market because most Amazon users just come for the free app promotions. He said he had 180,000 downloads, but only 1,000 of them were paid. Romanus told me Amazon didn’t pay him for the Free App of the Day promotion.

“From a developer perspective, I don’t see why anyone would choose to publish an app on Amazon Appstore. Similarly, I have yet to figure out why any user would switch to Amazon Appstore from Android Market…” Romanus wrote.

Now, there are plenty of developers who like Amazon Appstore and Bithack’s experience is not exactly representative. Amazon has won over many consumers and developers with its powerful recommendation engine and some cool features like Test Drive, which lets users try an app on their computer first.

But Bithack’s departure shows that there is still some maturing to be done for Amazon Appstore. Providing consistent support to developers and giving them all the tools necessary to be successful and profitable is a lot of work, something Google is still working on with Android Market. And it’s another reason why Apple has done so well with its App Store, because even with some developer restrictions, it’s pretty built-out for consumers and developers.

I’m sure we’ll see more improvements in Amazon’s store over time, especially if and when it launches its own tablets and other devices. But for now, at least one developer says Amazon’s Appstore isn’t quite there yet.

  1. Richard Jones Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    So basically all this negative review about a popular site is based on ONE developer who thinks he had a bad experience?

    Thanks for the waste of the time, the few minutes that I spend reading such article.

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    1. Yes it’s only one dev in this story though I’m hearing from others who agree there are some things that need to be improved. It’s early yet but I think this developer raises some interesting points. Thanks for commenting.

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      1. Perhaps these “others” would like to chime in on this topic? This article covers not just ONE developer. But ONE developer outside of the Amazon AppStore approved countries. I’d like to hear from developers in the US and other approved countries. I really would. An article based on one source is a waste of time.

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    2. @Richard : Doesn’t matter if it’s one developer or many. If a platform coming from Amazon lacks basic features, its not acceptable. Imagine the collective pain hundreds of developers are taking to go through this mess. As an app developer the last thing you worry about and want is such poor infrastructure, from a brand like Amazon.

      Do you think the concept of “APPS” would be this popular if Apple would have given you such a poor facilities?

      @Ryan : Thanks for sharing this post. Very important for an entrepreneur and a developer to know what to stay away from. I hope Amazon folks learn not to mess around. Why don’t they hire someone from Apple/ Google space who has done this stuff. How difficult it is?

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      1. Richard Jones Wednesday, July 6, 2011

        @Sujay and few others.
        Has it occurred to you that Amazon’s app store is few months old?
        Do you remember Android app market when it first started, or even Apple’s iTunes store?
        I can list tons of basic features lacking for me as a developer in all of them, and I develop for all of them.

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    3. Dude don’t be such a dick.

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      1. Richard Jones Wednesday, July 6, 2011

        @HappyGoLucky
        So if I post my opinion about a service that I develop for and I am happy with so far, I am “such a dick”, just because you, apparently, want to suck up for the author of the article?
        Calling names because you disagree with someone’s opinion or observation makes you look like an immature person.

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  2. Their biggest missing feature in the Appstore right now is a lack of changelogs for app updates. On the Android Market, developers get blasted with bad ratings when they don’t include a changelog because they’re crucial in figuring out if the update is actually adding value or adding bloat or new security concerns.

    As for negative reviews and device filtering, this seems to happen on every single app that becomes a free app of the day, and while I can understand the developer frustration, it’s pretty easy to sift through the reviews and see what’s going on. In fact it’s almost better because you can look for reviews that mention your phone and make sure it works well before getting it, versus counting on the developer to have done the right device filtering (some even go the other route and are too restrictive just to avoid bad reviews for devices they didn’t test on, in which case you can miss out on an app that may work perfectly fine on your device).

    Hopefully as a relatively new offering, Amazon is listening to all the feedback, even if they’re not acting quickly on it.

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    1. MyNameIsMispelled Wednesday, July 6, 2011

      +1. Changelogs are a big deal and a glaring omission from the Amazon store.

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  3. I use the Amazon AppStore, but I haven’t bought a single app – only keep it installed for the free app of the day. I wonder how many other users are the same? I’m not against buying apps – I’ve spent nearly $50 in the Android Market.

    The only real benefit that the Amazon AppStore offers consumers, IMO, is for families – we can all be logged into the same Amazon account and only purchase apps once.

    The actual experience of the Amazon store is rather crappy – it can only download/install one app at a time, which means updating is a nightmare. Also, once you’ve ‘bought’ an app (free or otherwise) there’s no way to remove it from your list, even if you’ve uninstalled it.

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    1. The free app keeps drawing me in and eventually I bought one app and then another and.so on.

      Overall I love it because I need to pay once and install on many devices. The free app is by far the best feature.

      Also I have an amazon account and so paying is easy. I still don’t have a Google checkout account becuse I haven’t bought anything from checkout.

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  4. motionblurred Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    Since their app store is only a few months old, Amazon can fix these problems over the course of time. What is of greater concern is the continuing problem of app monetization.I would have thought that, since Amazon provides more security and trust with app purchases, that there would’ve been less complaints from devs. I wonder if it is the expectations of free from the platform itself or the kind of user Android is attracting.

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    1. Yeah, i’m not sure how much devs are actually making on the Amazon appstore. But if most people associate it with the free app of the day, then it makes it harder for devs to push real sales later on.

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  5. It will be interesting to see how things work out for the guys from Fieldrunners, because they seem to be anticipating a very positive experience with Amazon.

    http://fieldrunners.com/fieldrunners/fieldrunners-hd-on-android-free-this-thursday/

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  6. Hi Ryan,

    Thanks for writing this, we know Bithack is not alone, many developers have questioned Amazon’s terms as did the IGDA.

    My name is Todd R. Levy and my company BloomWorlds, is developing Android’s family friendly app store, to help Android parents discover safe, secure, and appropriate apps by utilizing our hands on approach to curation.

    Our developer pricing terms are also very fair and flexibl,
    https://bloomworlds.com/pricing Our app store will be open soon, http://launch.bloomworlds.com/5zom5

    Thank you,

    Todd

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  7. Their submission process and terms of service are terrible, but another thing that you don’t hear much about is the lack of sales. Despite the hype of its launch and pulling in popular names, the Amazon App Store is a big flop (for us at least) for many developers. We receive over 10x the downloads from the Android Market. In the last 4 months, our Top 20 $0.99 app in the Amazon App Store has had a whopping 18 downloads.

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  8. Ladies and Gentlemen, please take anything you read here on Gigaom that isnt pro apple (even that you give close scrutinty) with a very large grain of salt. Gigaom is know for its apple/mac/ios fanboyism.

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  9. The most interesting thing i. This article are the Free App numbers. I was wondering about how apps do in numbers due to the Free app promotion. I have gotten all but a handful of them but I think I have only bought one app from Amazon. Even that was because the app wasn’t available on the android marketplace (Transformers G1 Awakening)

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  10. It is not just 1 dev, there are thousands who are pissed off and do not bother using Amazon, us including. It is just 1 dev writing a story that gets published. Amazon is hopeless, slow, stupid and very very disturbing! They also lower the prices of the apps as they feel like it just to bring people to their store over from the Market and devs loose money, amazon doesn’t care

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