Changing The Deal: One Company’s Bitter Taste Of Amazon’s Android App Store

The Android Market is something that’s mostly tolerated, as opposed to celebrated, but one group of developers who ventured outside of Google’s app store to seek customers on Amazon’s store is pretty annoyed about a promotion gone awry and the overall state of Amazon’s app store.

One nice thing about Android from a developer’s perspective is that you’re not locked into one method of distribution like you are with Apple’s App Store. Granted, Apple’s approach is a pretty popular one, but we’ve seen a number of Android developers experimenting outside of the Android Market, and the Australian developers behind Shifty Jelly listed their Pocket Casts app on Amazon’s store in that spirit of experimentation, according to a blog post.

They also agreed to participate in Amazon’s Free App of the Day promotion knowing that they would not receive any compensation from downloads generated by that promotion. That promotion generated over 100,000 downloads of Pocket Casts, which was far more than Shifty Jelly had been selling without the promotion and which would have resulted in $54,805.14 in sales had the app sold for the regular price.

So at first it’s a little confusing as to why they directed so much hate at Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) in their post, entitled “Amazon App Store: Rotten to the Core.” After all, Amazon had told them they would receive “0%” revenue share in an e-mail explaining the promotion, which caused a prolonged internal debate over whether or not to proceed. The app is now longer available on Amazon’s store.

But the issue is that when Amazon first launched its store, it told developers that it would sometimes discount applications but would still share 20 percent of the list price for an application that was heavily discounted or given away for free, according to Techcrunch. It then changed those terms–very clearly, it must be pointed out–to share nothing with developers when an app is selected for the heavily-trafficked Free App of the Day promotion.

Given that the game developers are making more and more money these days from apps that are free to download but have in-app revenue generators, it’s not hard to understand that some developers with in-app purchasing features would leap at the chance to be featured in Amazon’s promotion and acquire a huge installed base at the expense of some up-front revenue. But that doesn’t seem to apply to Pocket Casts, which aggregates podcasts for listening on a mobile device and doesn’t appear to even have ads as a way of monetization.

Beyond the promotion–which earned Shifty Jelly nothing, as promised–the company took to its blog to outline a number of more-troubling concerns about the way Amazon is running its app store.

–“Lengthy review times of anywhere up to 2 weeks”
–“Amazon gets to set the price of your app to whatever they want, without any input from you, or even the chance to reject their price” (It would appear that the 20 percent revenue share still applies in these cases where it isn’t explicitly spelled out, such as in the Free App of the Day.)
–“Amazon re-writes your description, and in ours they even made up things like ‘add up to 100 podcasts’. No idea where on earth they got that number from.”

Despite having released nothing to date, Amazon is one potential tablet Android vendor that is getting serious buzz about being the first to really break through with an Android tablet based on the fact that it has its own application store and purchasing system.

But it doesn’t seem that it has completely solved Android’s app store problem: even if Shifty Jelly shouldn’t really be that mad about something that was clearly spelled out to them, changing the terms of a deal is never going to be seen too favorably by developers.