Amazon rolled out a new Appstore that is designed to compete with the Android Marketplace for Android smartphones. Through the store, Amazon promises you will find, discover, and have the ability to test new applications using a similar experience to what you're already accustomed to using on Amazon.com. It's certainly interesting to see a new app store roll out, and we couldn’t wait to check it out.
Installation on our Thunderbolt from Verizon Wireless was simple. For starters, we simply entered our email address in the "Get Started" box on the right side of the main Appstore page located at http://www.amazon.com/apps. Shortly after doing so, we received an email link that we clicked from our phone to download the store.
Keep in mind some carriers and phone manufacturers block or disable the ability to install non-Android Market applications. In our case, we simply had to tell the phone to allow the installation of non-Market applications. With other phones, getting around this limitation may not be quite as easy. As you may recall, AT&T currently blocks the ability to side load apps on its Android phones. According to Amazon, "AT&T is working on enabling purchases from the Amazon Appstore in the near future."
Once the Appstore downloaded, we pulled down the notification bar and tapped to install the Appstore. A couple of taps later and we were ready to sign in and browse the store. If you already have an Amazon.com account, you can use it to sign in. Otherwise, you can create a new account or skip sign in until you're ready to purchase an app.
Amazon is currently offering "a paid app for free every day." Today, the free app is Angry Birds Rio. We couldn't resist checking it out. The installation process was pretty similar to the Appstore and other Android applications we've installed in the past – click through a couple of warning/notification screens and you're ready to go.
Purchasing and installing apps from the Appstore is as simple as one would expect. As with the Android Marketplace, you can search for apps, browse top free and paid apps, browse by category, and more. Some of the categories that are available by sliding your finger along the menu bar include Games, Entertainment, Lifestyle, News & Weather, Utilities, and Social Networking.
If you like, you can also browse the available apps on your PC by visiting http://www.amazon.com/apps. While browsing the store, you may come across a handy little feature that lets you test the application from your PC. Look for the "Test drive now" button to try out this functionality. We clicked quite a few apps to try to find this button, but never did see it. Perhaps this is a feature that will become more prevalent in the future?
On the phone, if you search for an app, the results will be sorted by relevance. You can then refine the list by adjusting various parameters such as price, customer review rating, new releases, etc.
Although the store has the basic functionality as well as quite a few applications out of the gate, it won't be completely smooth sailing for Amazon's Appstore. Challenges still exist. For starters, there's still the fact that, at least for now, AT&T users won't be able to take advantage of the new store. Once this changes, Amazon will have many more users to target with its store.
Of course, there's also the fact that Amazon.com has to get the word out to prospective users. The Android Marketplace is already installed on Android smartphones, so users have to make an effort if they want another shopping experience. Unfortunately for Amazon, laziness sometimes wins. That said, we can be enticed by free apps, and Amazon definitely is starting things off right by giving away Angry Birds Rio. In addition, Amazon is expected to have exclusive deals with select apps and developers which should also help the store gain traction.
All in all, the Appstore is simple and easy to use. Amazon has provided a wide variety of apps to get the store started with a bang. Now, it's up to consumers to decide if they are interested in checking out a new way to shop for apps.