Monday, 8 September 2014

Android application submission; Amazon App Store vs Google Play.

I recently submitted applications both in Amazon App Store and Google Play and I think it is interesting to discuss the main differences of these two services. As far as it concerns android applications both of them want to work as electronic stores, so one might think that they should have similar functionality. The truth is that they have different approaches on the way they treat developers and on the demands they have from them. Let’s look at their differences in sections.


In Amazon you need to perform a full registration right from the beginning. The information you provide are cross-validated with IRS and your registration looks and actually is very formal. It is also for free. In case you submit applications for which you expect to get some royalties you only have to add a bank account.
In Google Play you have to create a Google account, then pay 25$ using a valid credit card; prepaid cards work fine, I tried a debit card and it didn’t work. If the apps you submit are for free your registration information are not cross-validated and I think there is a relaxation in the control of the accuracy of the information you enter. The only cross-validated information you have entered up to this stage is your credit card. In case you expect to make money from you apps you need to get registered as a trader. At this point your registration is cross-validated and you need to be accurate in what you declare. Also you need a bank account.

Target devices and promotion

Google Play wants to please everybody. So while submitting an app, you are welcomed to provide screenshots and graphics suitable for all kinds of devices; small phones; larger phones or tablets; 10’ tablets. At least 3 screenshots are required. You are welcomed to put a YouTube video but you need to apply promotional images of different resolutions for users that will not watch your video. Besides any low resolution image, you are also required to apply a 512 x 512 pixel icon of your app.
After acceptance of your app you may promote it any way you wish. You can pay for advertisements or do your own promotional campaign.
Amazon produces its own Android devices. So, you are highly motivated to submit apps compatible with them and also use their SDK. Amazon devices are the Kindle devices (readers, fire etc) and the new Fire Phone and Fire TV. Also, you are motivated to support the latest high-end devices with HD screens etc. Your app may be accepted even if you do not fully support these devices, but this is not a wise thing to do. Until February 15th 2015 an app that supported Kindle and HD was promoted through Amazon advertisement system getting as bonus many thousands of appearances in devices of potential clients. This promotional benefit was called Developers Select program; unfortunately it has stopped. This required that you will also provide screenshots of 1200 x 800 pixels or higher. Extra promotional motivations was given for support of special features of Fire Phone and Fire TV.
For most Kindle devices your apps needs to maintain compatibility with some older Android versions and have support for HD screens. For Fire Phone you need to integrate special widgets designed for the phone using its SDK. For Fire TV the support of its special controls is required.
Another difference between the two services is that in Amazon you can set a period during which your app will be available with a discount, even for free and after this period it will return to its normal price. In Google this not possible, you have to manually modify the pricing of your app and once you select to give it away for free this cannot be changed in the future.

Submission procedure

Amazon does not support Google Maps later than version 1.2 at least up to now.
In Amazon you can test your application before submitting it and even distribute it to some reviewers to get some feedback and pre-submission reviews. As it is announced 75% of the submitted applications pass the tests.
Google Play does not allow the packages in your app to have a prefix name “com.example” although this is a default choice in Eclipse. This is something you find out a few seconds after you submit your app; no one warns you earlier. In Google you make a full submission and then your app is tested.
Another issue with Google is that it requires the title of your app to be at most 30 characters long. This does not happen with Amazon. So, if you publish in Amazon an app with a title longer than 30 characters and then you want to publish it in Google Play you will have to shorten its title.

In-app purchase

A key difference between the two services is that when you purchase an in-app item in Amazon your purchase is not time restricted, while Google Play allows the developer to sell in-app items and services for limited period of time, such as annual subscriptions for something etc.

In-app advertising

For the advertisements of Google that you display in you app, you will be paid according to the number of times that the users have clicked on them. The same thing holds for advertisers, they get charged for the number of clicks on their advertisements.
In Amazon things are quite the opposite. Advertisers pay and developers are getting paid for the number of “impressions” of each advertisement. One “impression” stands for a single appearance of an advertisement in a device of some user through an app. Unfortunately Amazon ad network currently covers  only U.S.A., U.K., Germany, France, Spain and Italy.
Comparing the two pricing policies I have to say that a click of a Google app costs more than an impression in Amazon; but this is not a good criterion. Which policy is more profitable is case-dependent. If your app is used quite frequently by your users, then the policy of Amazon sounds better; you may get more impressions than clicks. In case your app is used once a week of some short operation then the policy of Google may be more promising as you will not get many impressions.

Licensing - Protection from unauthorized copy

Both services provide mechanisms for protection of unauthorized copying of your app. And in both services the use of these mechanisms is optional. It seems to me than when you release a free app you probably don’t care about unauthorized copying but this is your choice.
In Amazon during the submission you may choose to use the DRM (Digital Rights Management) of Amazon. In this case Amazon puts its own signature in the apk file of your app. When a user installs an apk signed with DRM, the application of Amazon checks if the specific apk is authorized to be installed in the particular device. If so, the apk is installed and work without any further check or disturbance. If the apk has been illegally purchased the app is not installed.
In Google the licensing service is quite different. As a developer you have to add extra code in your application so it may use Google Play Licensing which is a network-based service. Google Play Licensing determines during the installation of an app if a given user is licensed to use the app. The code that the developer has to add in the app is the License Verification Library (LVL) provided by Google.
There is one thing for sure. If you choose to submit an app in both services and you want to prevent unauthorised copying of your app you may not submit the same apk in both services and the apk’s will end up having different signatures.
I can’t say that I prefer one of the two app stores more than the other. Using both of them is more interesting as a user and more promising as a developer.