Monday, 9 January 2012

My experience with the Amazon app store.

I've been meaning to post about my experience releasing an application to the Amazon app store for some time now and finally here it is:

To give you all some context of where I'm coming from, I'm currently employed as a tester, but want to move into development. I've been working on Android for about 2 years and java for about 7. I've only released apps on the Android market for free until now so that is the only point I can not compare, and I am only asking for money on Amazon to try and cover the developer fee. I'm not really in this for the money so that its another thing to consider while reading my advice. Anyone who wants the app for fee could download the source, compile it and run it for fee (or download it from the Android market for fee)...and to be honest, IMHO if you can do that you know the secret handshake, you're in the club, help yourself.

So this all starts a long time ago, well a couple of months anyway. I noticed Amazon were giving away one year free developer accounts (normally just shy of $100), so I figured it was worth a shot... If I could make my hundred bucks back in 12 months I'd renew the account. Well I'm falling far short of my target at the moment but there is still plenty of time left and it has been a worthwhile endeavor in any case.

I had a few apps on the Android market, picked one called "Mou5e Live Wallpaper" and created promotional artwork for the Amazon store and submitted the app as-is. I was not sure if this would fly with Amazon for a couple of reasons, firstly the app I would be charging Amazon customers for would be given away free on the Android Market (and on google code), but that's what you get for charging that much a year for a developer account. Secondly I used AdMob adds in my app and I know Amazon have their own advertising program, maybe they would make me switch networks for approval.

That was on the 25th of November and having been accustomed to the Android way of doing things I sat at the developer console for the rest of the evening, occasionally clicking refresh waiting (in vain) for the status to change. It was a couple of weeks until I received an email from Amazon.

On the 6th of December at about 5:30am i received an email saying that my app had failed a test case. The test in question being that my app requested permissions which it didn't require. I found an online form somewhere which I used to explain that the permission uses internet (admittedly a dangerous permission for a background process to have) is only used to serve adds in the configuration screen, detailed the steps to see the add and mentioned that the source was available for confirmation of this.

I received confirmation of my response and then by 11:30 received a second notification of a failed test: My applications name MUST be in English. It seems that any sort of leet speak in app names is not allowed. I was a bit disappointed that I might have to change the manifest and recompile, but after re-reading the email a couple of times it only seemed to be the application name in the actual Appstore that required changing. I changed the name in the store and left my .apk as it was.

This turned out to be a good call as the next day on the 7th of December I got another email to say that the app had passed functional testing and was now in "content review". Almost a week later on the 13th of December at 10 am my app was approved for general release on the Amazon app store for $0.20.
Now comes some of the good stuff, along with my original description Amazon had added to the description a bit (in general clarifying things or talking the app up more than I was willing to do) and also explained quite clearly what permissions were used and why. This was a nice finishing touch and i have been meaning to copy over this new stuff back into the Android market. I have seen others in the market giving detailed accounts of the permissions used in their apps and as a user I find it reassuring (although far from a guarantee) and i wonder why I didn't do it before.

Finally the most interesting bit... at least for me: To this day I have only sold one copy, a single unit. But that was enough in the category I had selected (novelty apps) to rocket my app up the charts to #61 (over the last month it has now fallen to #100, but it's still there). I'm from Australia and so am not able to buy my own app (ridiculous huh?) but for all you US devs out there it'd only take a few sales in the right category to get yourself a guaranteed spot in a top 100 list (maybe there is an even less popular category where you could nab a top 50 or 20 with only a few sales). If I can do it from half a world away and a crack team of just one code monkey, I think anyone can do it. So what are you waiting for: Pick up a developer account while they're still free and take advantage of a free professional review for your apps, a free rewrite of your apps blurb by a professional and try to score yourself a top 100 while you're at it.