Amazon.com March 22 opened its Amazon Appstore for Android, offering free and paid applications based on the open-source operating system, albeit with some features that differentiate it from Google's competing Android Market.
While the Android Market lets users download free and paid applications, the Amazon Appstore will let users test applications they're interested in on a simulated Android phone. Customers access the application simulation through their computer using a mouse. The company calls this feature Test Drive.
With Test Drive, consumers can decide if they like the application before bothering to download it. This is a clever feature distinction from Google's Android Market.
One of the chief knocks against the Market is that it doesn't make it easy for users to find applications to download. Despite the presence of a search bar, the Market did not have any other feature to help users slog their way through 150,000 applications.
By contrast, Test Drive will help mobile-applications consumers sift through the 3,800 applications in the Amazon Appstore. This is particularly important for paid applications so users don't spend money without being certain they're going to like what they purchase.
"Test Drive lets customers truly experience an app before they commit to buying. It is a unique, new way to shop for apps," Paul Ryder, vice president of electronics for Amazon.com, said in a statement.
Amazon.com is also offering another perk to bring users into the Appstore. The company partnered with Rovio Mobile to launch Angry Birds Rio for Android exclusively in its Appstore, allowing customers to download it for free for a limited time. Also exclusively, the company will launch ad-free versions of Angry Birds and Angry Birds Seasons.
Moreover, the Appstore will offer customers a paid application for free every day. Developers suggest a price for paid applications, but Amazon could sell the applications for less to undercut applications on the Android Market. Amazon will pay developers the greater of either the standard 70 percent of the sale price, or 20 percent of the price the developer suggests the application sells for.
Customers can buy applications in the Appstore in two ways. Users may buy applications through their computer's Web browser, or through an Amazon Appstore application they may download to their Android phones or tablets.
Amazon.com should be able to draw consumers in to the Appstore by parlaying its personalized recommendation engine by suggesting applications users might be interested in based on their previous purchases and browsing activity on the e-commerce Website. Customer reviews and one-click payment options will also be potential hooks.
While the Amazon Appstore for Android will compete with the Android Market, it's also a stepping stone to compete with Apple's App Store, which offers some 350,000 applications for iPhone and iPad users.
Apple didn't take kindly to Amazon's Appstore nomenclature and on March 18 filed suit against Amazon.com for trademark infringement, claiming ownership of the App Store name.
"We've asked Amazon not to copy the App Store name because it will confuse and mislead customers," Apple told The New York Times.