Amazon Appstore for Android: Reasons to love it and hate it

Amazon.com took a significant step into the word of mobile applications this week with the launch of its Amazon Appstore for Android, now available for free to select users of Google Android devices.

And the company is already making waves; Apple has filed suit against Amazon for its use of the term "app store;" and the Internet is all abuzz -- good and bad -- over the Amazon Appstore for Android, on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.

But do you really need another Android software shop, in addition to Google's official Android Market? Keep moving for a list of Amazon Appstore for Android pros and cons, to help make an informed decision.

Reasons to Embrace Amazon's Appstore for Android

1) Get Paid Android Apps for Free

Amazon wants to draw users to its Appstore for Android via a "Free App of the Day" promotion, in which it's offering a paid app for free each day. The first free app offered: Angry Birds Rio, another spinoff game of the hugely popular original Angry Birds. Amazon also got exclusive distribution right to the new app for Android. As could be expected, this deal pulled in droves of Android users who might have otherwise held off on the new app store, at least at first.

The Amazon Appstore for Android has only been live for two days, but today's free app of the day is another quality download, the popular Texas Hold 'Em game, World Series of Poker: Hold 'em Legend, which retails for $5 on Google's Android Market.

It's unclear whether or not Amazon will be able to continue offering such high-profile software during these free daily app promos, but it's certainly off to a good start.

2) You're Already a Loyal Amazon Customer

If you already buy books, music or other products from Amazon.com, and you trust the online retailer, embracing the new Appstore for Android is a no-brainer. And you won't have to store any additional sensitive payment-card or other personal information with a new service, since you very likely already saved this data with Amazon.

3) Amazon Appstore for Android Offers Personalized Software Recommendations

Like the rest of Amazon's Web services, the Android software shop offers personalized recommendations based on items you've viewed or purchased in the past -- something not currently available via Google's Android Market.

4) Amazon's Appstore for Android Lets You "Test Drive" Applications

Google's Android Market offers free trial, or "lite," versions of many paid applications so you can get an idea of how an app works before shelling out the cash to buy it. But Amazon's taking the app-trial process to a new level with its new Appstore for Android "Test Drive" feature.

Appstore for Android users can test out certain Android apps via their desktop PCs, using an in-browser, emulated Android device, to help determine whether or not they want to purchase the software.

Unfortunately, the Test Drive feature isn't available to test all the available Amazon apps -- Amazon says it's available for "many applications." But Test Drive is a unique, and cool, new way to vet apps before buying.

5) Choice is Good When It Comes to App Stores

Few non-official app stores for Android exist, especially if you choose not to "root" your mobile device to free it from various carrier- and manufacturer-restraints, so you really don't have too many third-party options. (Even the popular AppBrain App Market still uses Google's Market for downloads.)

No one knows whether or not the Amazon Appstore will stock as many apps or better quality apps than the official Android Market over time, but it should at least provide another useful option for discovering and downloading Android software, even if you simply check the stores' Top Free and Top Paid lists each day for potential downloads.

Bottom line: There's no good reason why you can't use Google's official Android Market and Amazon's third-party Appstore for Android to get the best of both worlds.

4 Reasons to Avoid Amazon's Appstore for Android

1) Amazon Appstore for Android's Tedious Install Process

Amazon's Appstore for Android currently requires a somewhat lengthy application installation process, due to the fact that you must first download an app and then install it using the default Android installer or another similar utility. More specifically, you'll currently average four "clicks" to install an app from Amazon's Appstore, while a Google Android Market app install typically requires just two clicks.

The time it takes to install an Amazon Android app versus a Google Market app isn't really that much different, but the extra steps can be frustrating when you're downloading multiple apps at one sitting.

2) You Don't Want to Support DRM, or Amazon's Use of DRM

Amazon allows Appstore for Android developers to include digital rights management (DRM) code within applications distributed via its new software channel -- though it does not mandate that devs use DRM. So while the choice to use DRM in an application goes to the developer and not Amazon, many apps in the Amazon Appstore will have DRM, and as such, they won't work on your Android devices unless: 1) You have the Amazon Appstore installed; and 2) You're logged into your account. (Read more details on Appstore DRM on the Amazon Appstore Developer blog.)

Google's Android Market and the Android mobile platform itself have always been lauded for "openness." It's true that Google doesn't set too many restrictions on the use of software distributed through its Android Market. But even Google uses some form of DRM, at least according to the Free Software Foundation.

For example, Google recently employed an Android app "kill switch" to automatically remove Market software from users' devices, after that software was determined to be malicious. And that wasn't the first time Google did something similar, either; last June, the company wiped two applications from users' phones that were built by a security researcher.

Regardless, if you're looking to avoid DRM altogether, you may want to avoid Amazon's Appstore for Android.

3) Amazon Appstore for Android Not Available on AT&T in U.S.

If you're an AT&T Wireless customer, you're out of luck when it comes to Amazon's Appstore for Android&at least for the time being. That's because AT&T does not currently support Amazon's Android software shop, though Amazon's webpage does read: "AT&T is working on enabling purchases from the Amazon Appstore in the near future." (Read more details here.)

(Note: Amazon customers in the United States with "rooted" Android mobile devices can install and use the Appstore for Android, but many reasons still exist for why it's generally a good idea to avoid rooting, at least from a security perspective.)

4) Amazon Appstore for Android Not Available Outside of U.S.

The Amazon Appstore is not currently unavailable in any country other than the United States. So if you reside outside of the United States, you simply don't have access to the new software shop.

From Amazon:

To successfully purchase digital content from Amazon Appstore for Android, the 1-Click payment method listed on the Your Account page must be a credit or debit card issued by a U.S. Bank with a U.S. billing address.

We value our international customers and hope to make the Amazon Appstore for Android available internationally in the future.

Al Sacco covers Mobile and Wireless for CIO.com. Follow Al on Twitter @ASacco. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Al at asacco@cio.com

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Tags mobileinternetGooglesoftwareapplicationstelecommunicatione-commercePhonesamazon.comPhone applications

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Al Sacco

CIO (US)
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