Apr 04 AT 10:44 AM Russell Holly 37 Comments

Are Amazon’s mobile products in users’ best interest?

Over the last two weeks, Amazon has launched two different products geared at providing service to Android users who were experiencing what they considered to be a lack in functionality. There’s the Amazon App Store, which has provided users with the ability to shop for apps. This is a particularly unique concept, in that users can choose to search for the cheapest price for their apps, not to mention enjoy the “free app of the day”. Additionally, the Amazon Cloud Player, being both the evolution of the Amazon music store and the preventative competition to products that have been rumored to be in development by Google and Apple, has been in the wild for about a week. These two products have brought both frowns and smiles to the faces of many users since their respective release dates, I can’t help but feel that these products have not been designed in the best interest of the user.

Let’s look at the App Store. I, for one, fully support the concept, and happily check the app every day for the next free app. However, I can’t help but shake that nagging feeling that it’s unsafe to recommend to friends and family who may be less tech savvy. Installing the App Store requires you to leave the ability to install apps from unknown sources checked. Since this is the primary way that Android devices have been infected with malware in the past, I’m generally opposed to telling the average user to leave it unchecked, and Amazon’s instructions do not include “uncheck that box”. Granted, this isn’t explicitly Amazon’s fault, but it’s not exactly fair to expect Google to add the Amazon App Store to the Android Market. While I was ready to criticize the initial installation process of the App Store as complicated, it pales in comparison to setting up and actually using the Cloud Drive. It’s not enough to simply install the app, buy some songs and go. No, that would be simple, elegant, and intuitive. Instead, you need to go to your computer, login to the Cloud Drive, download an uploader (a phrase that nauseated me just to say out loud), and THEN you will be able to access music from Amazon’s cloud. A friend of mine could not have said it better when he uttered “What is this, iTunes?” after going through the experience. With each of these services it feels like the services were designed with a terrific function in mind, but very little concern for the user experience.

After the installation or setup procedures, these services are actually really useful. 5 GB of cloud music and storage for free? Who wouldn’t want that? Free apps every day? Awesome, right? I think these services, while not completely ready for human consumption, will serve a very indirect yet necessary function. Amazon’s rapid increase in popularity will send a very clear message to Google to make sure that their core products and services remain competitive. Amazon’s services are cool, albeit a little quirky, but now I am truly curious to see how Google responds with their own Music and Market products. Step it up, Google, your fans are waiting.

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  • http://Website steve

    only 5gb are free, the 20gb is $20.

    • http://www.brandonvfletcher.com Brandon

      If you buy a song (it can be .69-$1) they will give you a free trial for the yr.

    • http://www.technogasms.com Sean Riley

      Fixed to reflect that only 5 GB are completely free, but as Brandon noted you just need to buy any album (which go for as low as 69 cents) to receive 20 GB for a year. Obviously after that time you are probably going to have to shell out the $20 a year to continue unless we do see pressure on that pricing from one of the other major players.

  • http://Website @neidlinger

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I do use the Amazon App Store, but i always have to wonder, Why do they need me to side load applications. I know if part it’s due to Android’s, (well google’s) design protocol but i’m not recommending it to people who are not tech Savvy. And how can they offer those apps for free? It seems like they’d almost have to leach information off my phone to better advertise to me, thus me spending more money with Amazon. I dunno i just don’t think 2+2=4 in this Amazon App store….

    sorry for my rambling….

    • http://Website JayMonster

      To use a crude analogy… it is the drug pusher model. “The first one is free” but if you want more then you gotta pay. Yes, there will be a certain crowd that will only download the free app of the day. But the gamble is that enough people will, by sheer repetition continue to shop and eventually BUY applications from their appstore.

      Like anything else, “free” is not completely free. You have to set up a 1-click account (one thing I have seen many people whine about) which means giving them your credit card, and thus enabling to to become an impulse buyer. It is much easier to buy a Kindle Book, an app, or a song with “just one click” especially when it is “just a buck or so.” and you don’t think about it as much as if you had to stop and enter your information. THis is the “cost” of the free apps. One that some people are not willing to pay (and thus their whining).

      But this is simple marketing 101. Now if the free apps don’t pan out, you can be sure that in the future this “feature” will go away, but in the meantime, they are gathering “buyers” (even if it is just for the free stuff for now) that will (theoretically) buy… eventually.

  • http://nathanielray.com nathan

    You know, I’ve been growing more and more suspicious and untrusting of Amazon over the past year or so. I don’t even buy books from there anymore. It seems like they are extending their tentacles out further and further, now camping firmly in the Android zone, and that worries me.

    • http://Website Brandon

      Can you explain why it worries you? Nothing compares to Google’s tentacles (that worries people more). Personally, I love Amazon and they can gladly have my money for what i need at the right price.

      • Noice

        Not convinced either way yet… but I am leery of their entry into the “lets make a walled garden like Apple” approach. I have no desire to see them placate the “we need DRM” crowd with an already circumvented approach is an addon to the OS (Amazon’s app store) when they should be contributing to the Android efforts to make a solid, ubiquitous protection system that doesn’t lock out devs of any type and provides protection to all devs.

        I personally spend about $250 a month with Amazon’s Services outside of purchasing retail products… and have no intentions of participating as a consumer or seller in this new set of offerings.

        • Noice

          Gah meant to be a root comment. :(

    • http://Website JayMonster

      I’m curious too… why suspicious? Because they are successful? How dare they branch off into other items to sell? I mean, I don’t see them as anything different than a modern day department store that is adding a new section and new merchandise in the effort to be your “1 stop shop”

      • http://Website Jack

        Yep, because they’re successful. What other reason could there be?

    • AME

      Amazon is a business and Android is a goldmine. They’re not doing anything that any other company in their position is doing- they just have the resources to do it on a grander scale by creating their own app store.

      I agree with @Brandon that Google’s tentacles reach much farther into much more sensitive places.

  • Nate957

    Please tell us where taylor is.

    • http://Website Mark

      He’s dealing with some personal issues so he went on an indefinite leave. I hope he comes back soon too. :/

    • AME

      He tweeted this two days ago:

      “So I accepted a job in San Fran. Taking a break on the front end of blogging to do some behind the scenes work.”

      I wish him well, but I would like to see him back on the front end!

      • http://adomanico01.blogspot.com/ Anthony Domanico

        Don’t worry guys. Taylor will still be writing the blog posts you know and love, he’ll just be joining the ranks of the working stiff very-part timers like Sean, Nick, and I have been. To ensure our readers don’t miss a beat, we’ve brought on some dedicated kind-of-full-timey staff to ensure you continue to receive the same level of coverage you’ve come to expect from Taylor. They have mighty shoes to fill, but they will do their damndest.

        More info coming very soon (unless i’ve missed it already, which is very possible with my uber-part time status ;)

  • http://www.nursingassessmentform.org assessment

    They need to make improvements through the user experiences and amazon should ensure secure applications to users.

    • http://www.nexsoftware.net Justin Shapcott

      One of the main features of the Amazon Appstore is that Amazon reviews the apps prior to placement in the store. I would hope and assume that security is one of the things that is reviewed. That being said, I think the point being made in this post is that while Amazon may ensure security of the apps in their store, leaving the option to install “unknown” apps presents a security concern outside of the Amazon store. I think this point could have been more clear in this post.

  • http://Website PaulC

    I dont get your issue with Cloud Drive. You had to upload your music? Well, how else would they have a copy? They are trying to stay legal, so they can’t just say “hey, we trust you, what songs have you bought in the past?”

    I had the exact same experience, but I felt that it went perfectly smooth and it was very intuitive.

    Sign up.
    Buy a song.
    Install app on Thunderbolt
    Play song
    Be happy at how easy it was
    install music uploading app
    tell it start
    let it finish

    • http://Website mikemick

      Yeah, I didn’t get that either. Sounds like a lot of complaints, and no suggestions. How do you get your music to a cloud service without uploading? What would the better method have been?

  • http://Website Janson

    I think it’s intellectual property law that’s causing much of the usability issues with Amazon’s service. The uploader is necessary to demonstrate that the cloud space is storage, not licensing, for example. As the IP law settles out, these tools should all become easier to use. And it’s unlimited free storage for anything you buy from Amazon, which is a nice deal…

  • http://www.nexsoftware.net Justin Shapcott

    I’m not entirely sure that this title was the most appropriate for this post. Rather, I wonder if the title more suits the Appstore piece (and only partially), and the Cloud Player piece was added simply because it was also relating to Amazon.

    I probably would have titled this post “Are Amazon’s Mobile Products Ready for Prime Time?” or something along those lines.


    great write up.. I for one love the amazon features.. the free app everyday has been very useful. who doesn’t love free. I have recommended the appstore to a few people and did tell them what it entails. in the end it is there choice.

  • http://Website richard

    Been booted out of angry birds Rio with ‘you must be logged into amazon appstore to use this’ message a couple of times now, uninstalled – that’s shoddy!

    • http://www.nexsoftware.net Justin Shapcott

      Yes, it appears that the Amazon Appstore does some behind the scenes monitoring of the apps you are running. I assume this is somehow related to some licensing scheme Amazon is using. It appears not be totally reliable though.

      For example, when I downloaded WeatherBug Elite (Free App of the Day a couple days ago) I was presented with an Amazon Appstore error each time I opened it. The app itself appeared to work perfectly fine, but something Amazon was doing caused it to close. In fact it told me I had to redownload WeatherBug due to some unknown error.

      • http://www.nexsoftware.net Justin Shapcott

        Just did some investigating and there is some Amazon licensing scheme at play here.

  • http://www.profitperspectives.com Steve

    I believe that the Amazon App Store as well as all their other recent Android related moves are laying the groundwork for the eventual roll out of their own tablet device which I refer to as the “kPad.” I’d be interested in your feedback to my thesis here… http://www.profitperspectives.com/2011/03/meet-amazon-kpad.html

    • http://Website JayMonster

      Your thesis is probably sound. Just as sound as every other person that has speculated about it over the past year or so.

      A Kindle refresh sometime this year that actually is a tablet rather than another standard eReader would not be surprising. The last thing Amazon wants to do is to lose ground to Barnes and Noble. So having a range of products from a tablet to an eReader (which I will bet is $99 by the holidays, practically eliminating the barrier of entry to the eReader market) is not only plausible but downright likely

  • http://Website Daniel

    A slight tangent, but one thing that we noticed, and in my opinion isn’t acceptable, is how easily you can accidentally purchase an app. Touch on the wrong part of the screen while trying to scroll, accidentally hit the buy button, and bam!, you bought the app. No confirmation screen, and no refund window.
    Ok, so maybe you’ll say i have fat fingers, and maybe i do, but I also know many android phone have touchscreen issues – my nexus one for sure – where touches aren’t super accurate, or worse, randomly decide to go to the completely wrong place.
    A confirmation dialog box wouldn’t go amiss here.

  • http://Website Adam

    I’m not completely sold on this “cloud” stuff, the media has to be streamed to your phone and eat up data or use wifi? I would rather just store the media in my device and have immediate access without having to download this or connect to that. Seems like a big pain in the @$$ to me!

    • http://Website ari-free

      you can have it on both cloud and device.
      When i buy a new song from amazon, it goes to the cloud. then I change settings to save to my computer and then set it back to the cloud.

  • http://Website Steffen

    Until Google steps their game up, and creates a market at least equal to the Amazon appstore and the iOS app store, then I think it’s a good thing. Like seriously where is this music streaming/purchasing they told me about almost a year ago?

  • http://txhoudini.com txhoudini

    “the services were designed with a terrific function in mind, but very little concern for the user experience”

    The difference is iTunes is on it’s 10th major revision and little has been done in the UX department for the past 10 years. Amazon’s Cloud Drive has been around for a week.

    “It’s not enough to simply install the app, buy some songs and go.”

    Actually you can do just that. If you want to get the music from your hard drive to your cloud drive you do have to log in and *gasp* upload it. I don’t see the problem.

    Amazon’s service beat Google and Apple to market and surprised everyone. They released an Android app (and not an iOS app) on day one. 5GB for free? Another 15GB for buying one album a year? In comparison I’ve been (happily) spending $100 a year for 50GB on Dropbox. You do the math.

    Let’s celebrate what Amazon has been doing instead of being acting like the stereotypical “internet” and crapping on everything they are giving you.

    • http://Website Bob

      You saying “giving you” makes me think you’ve missed the point. They’ve “given” you these services like a drug dealer “gives” you a sample. They want something from you in the long run, plain and simple.

      • http://Website JayMonster

        They are a business, not a charity, of course they “want something” from you. And the drug model is quite right… but that is Marketing 101 these days. Free gets people in the door, and then they try to sell you something. It is just business.

  • http://Website JayMonster

    I find a majority of this almost hysterically funny. It is the sort of half truths that I come to expect from an Apple fanboy. But to see it here astounds me.

    Yes, the facts are well… facts, but the conclusions I find flimsy. How about we go back and look at how many people complain about at&t and their decision to not allow users to sideload apps, And, while we are at it… how many “sideloaded” virus outbreaks have there been? The biggest virus issue I recall, actually came from the Android Market, necessitating Google remote fix and pull the apps in question. But now suddenly Sideloading is an issue? Really?

    Would it be nice if the Amazon appstore could be considered an “official” source? Of course it would. Do I think Google is going to allow it? Nope. Just as they didn’t for AppBrain, GetJar, the Samsung Store and any other location for Android apps.

    Now, as to the CloudPlayer. You say, “It’s not enough to simply install the app, buy some songs and go.” But actually… it is. You don’t HAVE to upload your music. You can just buy and play to your hearts content… and with the bonus that anything you purchase does not count against your 5GB free cap. Nope storage for anything you purchase can be kept there for free. Period. But they give you an additional 5GB (plus special for first year, yada yada) for you to upload the music, if you so desire.

    In the end, choices are good for consumers. Competition is good for consumers. Is Amazon the end all be all. Eh, that is a choice, and each can make their own so it might be right for you, it might now, but it being there is going to make prices better, and services more competitive for everybody, and that is the one way consumers win, and thus, to answer your initial question, is the Amazon appstore and CloudPlayer good for consumers? The answer, whether you use Amazon or not, has to be YES.

  • http://www.a401kcontributionlimits.com/ 401k

    Daily free application is a very good offer….. But 5GB is very low space in current time… I hope they will rethink about this..