Here Come the Phones With Amazon’s AppStore Installed

Amazon’s AppStore for Android apps will be pre-loaded on its first phone in April, according to Cellular South, a regional U.S. mobile operator. The HTC Merge handset, a 3.8-inch device with slide-out QWERTY keyboard, is likely the first of many phones that will come with Amazon’s app market, saving customers from following a multi-step installation process. Amazon (s amzn) debuted its AppStore earlier in March and offers a free application each day for Android device owners.

It’s not surprising that Amazon is trying to work deals with both carriers and handset makers to get its AppStore pre-installed on phones. But the contrary scenario is intriguing: Amazon launched its mobile storefront without any news of pre-installation deals. Instead, the company announced the news on its website, along with up to eight steps for installation. While the process to install Amazon’s AppStore isn’t difficult, the company will have far more sales success if it can work deals to get the AppStore pre-installed and even featured, if possible.

Most Android (s goog) phones already come with the Amazon MP3 store installed, making it an easy process to buy music directly on the handset. With the recent addition of Amazon’s Cloud Player functionality to the MP3 app, Android owners can stream music from the cloud to their phone as well. The key is getting such software on the handsets in advance, and Amazon knows this. Watch for more phones to include Amazon’s AppStore as a result.

Ironically, the best part of the new storefront may be on the web, and not on handsets at all. Just as I do each morning to see what MP3 album is on sale at Amazon, I’m now hitting the AppStore website for the free daily Android app. This week alone, I’ve installed several no-cost apps to my Android handset that would have set me back me at least $10 in total. Amazon also includes a unique “test drive” feature that simulates a virtual Android phone online so software can be tried before purchase.

But trying and buying software is only half of the fun. Once the AppStore is set up on a device, you can simply buy an app on Amazon’s website and the software will automatically install itself the next time you open the AppStore on the handset. This over-the-air delivery method rivals Google’s own Android Market web store and makes it easier to discover and install applications on Android phones.