Home With In-App Purchases, has Amazon Improved its Relationship With Mobile Developers?

With In-App Purchases, has Amazon Improved its Relationship With Mobile Developers?

A year into its life, the Amazon Appstore for Android is kind of like the quirky stepchild of the other major app stores. It is not directly tied to a platform, the way Apple’s App Store or Google Play are, but it is distinctly different from other third-party app stores like GetJar that are not controlled by a large, trusted brand. Its uniqueness provides both benefits and pitfalls to Android developers, including the chief concern of many app publishers: How am I going to make money off my app?

Amazon Listening to Developer Needs

Today, Amazon announced that it is unveiling the general availability for Android developers to institute in-app purchasing through the Amazon Appstore for Android. This is a big step for Amazon and its continued evolution in developer relations. As we have noted before, the preferred method of monetization for most game and app developers is the in-app purchase, as opposed to mobile ad libraries. This move by Amazon fulfills that promise and gives it a leg up on other third-party app stores that do not have the type of clout to implement their own transactions system for in-app purchasing without going through the likes of Apple, Google or Amazon.

The Amazon Appstore now has 34,000 apps, according to Aaron Rubenson, director of the Appstore. The decision to create an in-app purchasing solution arose from listening to developers; he acted upon their wishes. After launching on March 22, 2011, the first thing that Rubenson and his team heard from developers was that discoverability of apps was an issue. This should have come as no surprise, as all the major app stores have discoverability issues. It is one of the reasons that Apple bought Chomp, a search engine for apps that had also worked with Verizon in improving discoverability for its app store on Android phones. After working on launching the Kindle Fire, the Appstore team turned its eyes to another developer wish, better monetization.

“Amazon has always done a great job in supporting our retail customers but for the Appstore, one of our core tenets is to treat developers as kind of our first-class customers, as well. We are definitely making strong efforts to make sure that we promote and help monetize developers’ content in the most effective way that we can,” said Ameesh Paleja, director of engineering for the Amazon Appstore.

As Easy as Possible?

Transactions and in-app purchasing are often one of the trickier issues that developers can deal with, especially on the Android platform. Apple makes it easy to institute in-app purchases because it holds the credit card numbers of millions of consumers through iTunes. Google works with a variety of payments processors in Google Play. Amazon is more like Apple, in that, as the biggest e-commerce retailer in the world, it also holds the payment information of most of its customers on file. The goal was to make in-app purchases simple to set up for developers and easy to interact with for consumers.

“The process is pretty straightforward. You come to the site and, if you already have an account and are all set up, you basically upload your application, you define the items that you would like to sell and upload the appropriate metadata and pricing for those items, the list price,” said Paleja. “Then, in your application it is just a handful of steps to set up IAP (in-app purchasing). You register the intent that you want to use IAP, you implement a way for your customer to actually trigger a purchase. So, if you are making a racing game and you go to the pit stop and you want to buy some tires. You press that button and it will call the API on our side that will bring up a purchase dialogue to buy that item. Then, you implement an API to handle the response back from the server that says that this has been successfully purchased, please give the customer the tires or the new car or whatever they chose to buy.”

Amazon has set up its 1-Click payment processing for in-app purchases, taking advantage of its backend transaction system that drives purchases on the entire Amazon platform.

Is This the Android Store you are Looking for?

Amazon’s relationship with Android developers has not exactly been roses since it launched last year. No recourse for bad or incorrect reviews, shifty behavior concerning the “free app of the day,” cheap pricing and a slow review process have been the primary complaints against the Amazon Appstore since it launched. When talking with Rubenson and Paleja, we asked about some of the developer issues, but their answers were noncommittal.

“I think I would say that we have very strong momentum in the store when it comes to developers,” Rubenson said. “We definitely have gotten more intelligent about the right way to market and merchandize apps now that we have been running the business for a year and feel that we have strong momentum.”

Just like with paid apps on the Appstore, Amazon is using the classic 70-30 split of revenue for in-app purchases. That split comes from the “list price” of the item, something that the developer controls. So, if an item is discounted by Amazon as a promotion, the developer still theoretically makes 70% of the original price. This is where certain developers have had problems with Amazon before in that Amazon has not paid the percentage of the list price. The three-month private beta of in-app purchases was done with some of the biggest app publishers in the mobile realm, including ZeptoLabs (Cut The Rope), Disney and Conde Nast. It is unlikely that Amazon would try to pull any fine-print tricks with those types of publishers, but we will see in several months how other Android developers are treated.

Developers: With 1-Click processing, Amazon’s brand recognition and the ability to monetize through in-app purchases, are you more likely to look at the Appstore as a destination for your titles? Or have other developers’ experiences left you wary of dealing with the e-commerce giant? Let us know in the comments.

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