Amazon makes Google a paranoid android

Amazon makes Google a paranoid android
Dominic Smith looks at how the Amazon Appstore for Android is shaking up the mobile app market.

The battle of the app stores took a new twist this week with the arrival of the Amazon Appstore for Android here in Europe, launched initially in the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. This follows more than a year after its successful debut in the US, where it has already notched up ‘millions’ of downloads.

This is still apparently small fry in comparison with the 10 billion download mark that the official Android Market (now Google Play) surpassed at the end of 2011 and the mighty 25 billion download milestone achieved by the Apple App Store in March after just 4 years of operation. Even GetJar the independent app store has achieved nearly 3 billion downloads to date, so what makes Amazon so interesting?

Well Amazon is now the world’s largest online retailer serving more than 137 million customers per week. It is already indispensable in my own household, where barely a week goes by without an Amazon purchase, whether that is for Kindle books, kids toys, home appliances, presents, and so the list goes on. Amazon is also the master of personalised offers and recommendations – the more purchases you make across their enormous catalogue of products, the more of a profile they build up and the more targeted their marketing becomes.

And this cuts right to the heart of the app store model. One of the key challenges for the various app stores is that of how users discover the apps they might be interested in. Most users browse for apps when they get a new device and there is an initial surge in app downloads and installs, but after a while the general browsing tails off and most people only go to seek out a new app if they hear about it somewhere else.
If Amazon can nail the app recommendations then they could really revolutionise the app market. All they need is to drive enough traffic to their Appstore for Android and start building these profiles and fine tuning their app targeting.

So why would any Android device owner go there and not to the bigger and surely better Google Play? Well this week’s launch email made everything clear – they are offering a paid app for free every day.

It appears that this offer will be a permanent fixture, and on my first visit I was able to download the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire game for free, when on Google Play it would have cost me £2.29. So I’ll be sure to return to see what other free apps and recommendations they make in the coming days.

Should Google be worried? The Amazon Appstore for Android app is itself not available on Google Play and needs to be downloaded directly from the Amazon website, so it appears that Google has become somewhat paranoid about its Android.

Google already lags well behind Apple when it comes to monetising apps – The Economics of Apps reveals that just 1% of Android app downloads are paid compared with 14% for Apple. The difference between Amazon and Google is that consumers are used to buying stuff from Amazon, whereas they get free stuff from Google. If Amazon can use its sales expertise to convince customers to pay for more apps and not just download the free ones, then this can only be a good thing for Google and the Android ecosystem as a whole.