App developer Bithack published an open letter criticising Amazon’s Appstore, warning that “if you are a small indie development team, or possibly even alone, don’t bother with Amazon Appstore.” According to the company, which developed a game called Apparatus, problems were encountered from submission until after the app was on sale, with Amazon being unresponsive to comments made. Bithack is now directing potential customers to Android Market, with the promise to refund customers who had already paid for the app from Amazon.
According to a post on its website, Bithack’s woes started at the submission stage, with Amazon criticised for having a “very slow review process.” It was then stated that the app was “completely hidden,” with the Amazon store not having a “just in” section, and the “new releases” category being “identical to the ‘top rated’ section.” Having spoken to Amazon to get the title promoted via a “free app of the day” listing and then an entry into the “hand-picked” popular games category, 180,000 downloads were made – but this number was achieved because Amazon does not filter-out unsuitable devices according to the Manifest file. This, in turn, led to poor reviews from customers who were unable to run the app adequately – if at all.
Unlike Android Market, Amazon Appstore does not provide an easy way to communicate with users, in order to address criticisms – “when a player from Android Market emails me about a bug on his phone, I can have a fix for him published in 30 minutes, ensuring a 4 or 5 star review and a happy customer,” the company said. In addition, there is no way to send dissatisfied customers refunds. In order to post comments or reviews, developers must first purchase the game – an option not open to international developers, due to the fact that Amazon Appstore is currently only available in the US.
Finally, Bithack said that Amazon – without consultation – cut the price of the game. Coupled with poor reviews (including one accusing the app of sending data to an ad server, which the company refuted), “just made things worse, from a psychological perspective.”
A number of observers have been optimistic about the potential of the Amazon Appstore, based largely on the company’s experience of merchandising. However, some observers have noted downsides to Amazon’s developer agreement, including the ability for Amazon to make a number of decisions related to app sales prices.