Even without a platform of its own, Amazon is doing just fine when it comes to mobile apps. The company announced on Thursday that “[a]pp downloads in the Appstore have grown more than 500 percent over the previous year.” The two biggest drivers of such growth are likely to be Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet line, introduced in September 2011, and strong developer support for programmers to create compelling Android applications for Amazon’s tablets.
While Amazon has had its own Appstore for Android devices since March 2011, I suspect most of the growth came from Amazon’s own mobile devices and not Android smartphones or tablets made by others. A few phones have come with the Amazon Appstore pre-installed, but most do not. That means consumers have to learn about Amazon’s storefront on their own and then install it themselves. Google’s own Play store is central to the Android experience, which is a potential barrier here.
There’s no Google Play on the Kindle Fire or Kindle Fire HD tablets, however. It’s Amazon’s Appstore or nothing, save for any hacking or tinkering that might enable traditional Android apps. For that reason, assuming reasonably good sales of Kindle Fire tablets, most of the app download growth is likely from Amazon’s own hardware. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, particularly if the company launches a smartphone, as some expect it to do.
But the growth isn’t related solely to device sales: Amazon has made a serious attempt to help developers create or port applications to the Amazon Appstore. Along with the download figures shared on Thursday, Amazon announced support for A/B testing:
“With A/B Testing, developers can test simultaneous treatments of their apps, receive data about what’s worked best, and quickly adjust their apps to take advantage of this customer learning. A/B Testing is the latest developer service that Amazon has launched (along with Achievements, Leaderboards, Whispersync across devices, In-App Purchasing, and 1-Click Purchasing) that make it simpler than ever for app developers to concentrate on the differentiating parts of their apps rather than the undifferentiated infrastructure and engagement components.”
That’s a nice development feature that could give programmers a better idea of what consumers do and don’t like about application changes. From there, a developer could quickly adjust code for the optimal experience.
This new development feature is just another in a long list that Amazon has provided since launching the Appstore: GameCircle, a Maps API, Test Drive (Amazon says 20,000 apps can be consumer tested online for free), localization support, and a Kindle Fire emulator are all part of the developer experience now. And the better Amazon treats its developers with supporting tools, the better the apps will be helping to fan the Kindle Fire download flame higher and higher.