back to article Amazon Free Apps start to rile developers

Amazon app store isn't following its promise to kick back at least a fifth of the asking price, unilaterally deciding that free promotion is worth more than cash in developers' pockets. Amazon has been asking developers to forsake revenue for a day in exchange for home-page promotion, and demanding they don't discuss that …


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  1. dave 46

    due diligience

    Free app, front page of amazon, consumes server resources and has no advertising.

    And the outcome was a surprise to them? Maybe they need to hire a business manager, developers aren't always suited to all roles.

  2. Mike Brown

    agree with dave 46

    if they had stuck some ads in there they would have made a small fortune.

    poor choice to go with the amazon freebie scheme

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Angry ads

      Surely the ads would have angered the past and future customers who actually paid for the app?

      Amazon does not have an API for developers to tell if the app was paid for or on was given away as part for the free app of the day scheme. They are all valid purchases.

      Plus the original article does detail a few more gripes than just the losses on the free apps.

  3. spencer


    It says they accepted the terms and conditions of the Amazon market place and as such were liable to get their app downloaded for free.

    What's the problem? One developer got the hump, time will tell if others do.

    Bit of a non story I think.

    1. Gulfie

      This isn't a non-story, its market abuse

      Read the article properly. The terms and conditions signed up to by the developer stated that Amazon would pay at least 20% of the application's price, regardless of how much the punter paid.

      Now they are changing the terms and conditions after the fact to suit themselves - and trying to stop people talking openly about it. I'd call that market abuse and definitely NOT a non-story. This becoming public knowledge could have a serious impact on (a) developers agreeing to this bad deal and (b) applications being submitted to Amazon - at all.

      So as an Android dev, I was seriously considering using Amazon as a my 'number 2' outlet after the Android Market. However I've read enough to understand that all Amazon really seem to be doing is promoting themselves. The only reason this application got 100,000 downloads was because it was free. There has been no 'halo' effect for the developer - quite the reverse - but Amazon get a halo effect every day, with people going back to the app store to see "what's free today?".

      Lesson for Android developers? If Amazon won't stick with its own T's and C's, don't use it. And as far as not being able to withdraw an application from the store... I'd be VERY surprised if the owner of the application couldn't legally require the removal of a product on sale at Amazon. Failing that, just upload a new version. Upgraders get the same functionality as everybody else, new users get a week's trial and a free upgrade to a 'new' application in the Android Market.

  4. Thomas 4

    Wow, this is a really messed up deal

    So all your customers download the app on the day it is free. Oddly enough, no one buys a copy afterwards because they got it on the day it was free.

    Can anyone else see why a developer might slightly annoyed about losing out on revenue as a result?

    1. spencer

      Wow, this is something that's clearly written in the T&C's

      Devs are free to not sign up!

      1. DrXym Silver badge

        No excuse

        "Devs are free to not sign up!"

        That doesn't mean Amazon should be immune from criticism or that we shouldn't learn from the experiences of people who feel themselves ripped off by a 1-sided "deal". It reminds me of Groupon in so many ways, shafting the people who put in the effort to create an app by making misleading promises of their potential returns.

        1. spencer

          1 Sided

          I question the one sidedness, you have to agree to it first of all. In return for the free app of the day you get:

          - 1000's of users trying your app, remember that the majority will only try it once and then delete it, you can't view those in terms of lost sales.

          - Appstore main page placement for the following 14 days.

          This is a very valuable thing to have for an app to get exposure.

          Also remember Amazon isn't getting money from it either.

          It's up to the dev to decide if it's worth it or not...

          ... and in fact, with as the Free of the Day for one day, you will receive a subsequent Appstore main page placement for the following 14 days. All these highly valuable placements are at no cost to you. We want to promote your app and in exchange of the placements, at the 0% rev share for one day only.

          1. AdamWill
            Thumb Down

            Not so fast, skippy

            "nd in fact, with as the Free of the Day for one day, you will receive a subsequent Appstore main page placement for the following 14 days"

            If you read the original article, you'll see that Amazon helpfully decided to drop the price of the app to $0.99 for those 14 days, so the devs made even less money on those sales. As someone else has pointed out, the 'headline' grievance doesn't even look like the worst one here - if you go to the article and look at the bullet point list of issues, some of them are really icky. Like Amazon unilaterally rewriting your app's description, and adding stupid things to it. Or Amazon being able to dictate the price at which your app will be sold, and change it at any time without notice, subject only to the pretty poor '20% of 'list price'' protection. I guess all you can do to try and protect a vaguely practical revenue stream is set the list price really high. But I suppose Amazon would probably reject it if you tried.

          2. MikeSM

            Re: 1 Sided

            >>Also remember Amazon isn't getting money from it either.

            Can't tell if trolling or truly that naive..

            The free app of the day is a huge win-win for Amazon.

            -They get a steady steam of daily visitors to their site

            -They get word of mouth from these visitors

            -They get click-thrus for all the ads in their app store for other Amazon junk


            1. Anonymous Coward
              Thumb Down

              Indirect revenue goes to the back end owner.

              It's been that way since the first ads appeared on web sites. Amazon makes no direct revenue from the transaction and the developer is getting his 70% share of the selling price, zero. Are there really developers out there so stupid as to expect a piece of Amazon's pie? That's absurd.

              Most of the posters here have it right. The developers knew what they were getting into if they read their agreements carefully. This is no worse that B&M vendors getting shafted by GroupmorOn sales dweebs. Amazon is doing the developer a service by giving them a lesson that at least half won't forget; Multiple lessons if they aren't dense.

          3. DrXym Silver badge

            It is one sided

            Just because you agree to it doesn't mean it's not one sided. Lots of contracts are like this, usually when one of the parties isn't in a position to negotiate.

            As for your points, it isn't hard to find commentators saying that Amazon inserted the "you get nothing" clause after the fact exempting Amazon from paying devs anything. They also suggested that giving the app away free was a good way to generate sales on the days when it wasn't.

            I'd also say that having thousands of freeloaders pile on your app is not necessarily a good thing AT ALL. It depends on the app of course but anything with a backend infrastructure could get slammed by all these new users and you would have to support them FOREVER despite never gaining a penny off them. I expect if the app were client only and ad supported it might not be bad.

            As for Amazon's making money, it's more a case of gaining users at this point. Even if they don't make money from the free apps, they certainly make money for pay apps and they're free to knock up to 80% of the price of an app if they feel like it to shift it. Devs don't have a say in this matter of course.

  5. swisstoni
    Thumb Up

    No such thing as bad publicity

    Well i've just bought their app on the back of this story. I've been looking for a decent podcast app to replace the UX minefield that is Google's Listen. Looks like a nice app and has had some decent reviews, including a few from people who found out about it the same way I did. So perhaps they won't do too badly out of this after all.

  6. DrXym Silver badge

    It's a bad deal

    On Android Marketplace, the price you set is the price your app is sold for and you get 70% of that. On Amazon App Store the price you set is the list price and Amazon can discount it anywhere down to 20% of that.

    It means Amazon can always undercut your own price on marketplace, even listing it all the way down to 80% off.

    And you can't do anything about it. They set the price, not you and you end up competing against yourself. You can't even hike the list price up to compensate since the contract requires the Amazon price to be equal or lower than other stores.

    Amazon have done a great job of alienating developers. What I predict happening is that app makers will start producing "Amazon edition" versions of their apps where the name or branding changes and the functionality is slightly different. The purpose being to so they can escape the price matching clause and can jack up the Amazon price to compensate for the discounting. It will be the Amazon tablet customers who'll ultimately suffer from all this. I wouldn't be surprised if jail breaks become extremely popular on the devices when they finally appear.

    1. Thomas 4


      "What I predict happening is that app makers will start producing "Amazon edition" versions of their apps where the name or branding changes and the functionality is slightly different."

      Drastically reduced, for a kick off.

    2. Snarky

      Commenters here must be a lot smarter than developers.

      In only a handful of comments people have outlined multiple solutions that would almost completely mitigate Amazon's heavy-handed clauses and revenue-sucking behavior. The Amazon Edition ranks right at the top as it addresses the Amazon biased pricing strategy as well as differentiating versions in Android Market so they don't have to be pulled if the developer wants out of Amazon. Great thinking!

  7. John Styles

    Tired metaphor about crabs (no, the crustaceans)

    I am amazed (well, obviously I am not, that is an irksome rhetorical flourish) that here and on the guy's blog the majority of responses are of the 'yah boo' kind. Software developers always seem to be far more willing to slag each other off and/or undercut each other in a race to the bottom than they are to stand up to bullies. It is all a bit pitiful really.

    1. Seanie Ryan
      Thumb Up


      well said !

      IT tech people rarely make good business people. They all want to piss on their own street corner like a clueless mutt and bark loudly at other who come wandering by, but yet are so mad for affection and attention like a dandied up through-bred that they "race to the bottom" by providing their time and resources for Free in an effort to appear "cool".

      ** Disclaimer : before you start pissing on this corner and barking your head off, i used to be one of those until I copped on and realised that making profit was cooler.

  8. Bill Cumming

    What this article fails to mention.. the original Blog Post:

    Amazon can Re-Write the description of any app in it's store.

    So Shifty Jelly said that Amazon added items in the description that his app does not do, and he was left dealing with the new 100+'s customers complaining the app didn't work as described.

  9. Old Handle

    I don't see a problem

    Having your app featured free for a day is voluntary Isn't it? (That's how I read it.) So if you don't like the idea, don't do it. But to me it sounds like it could be a good move. It's not like 100% (or anywhere close) of your potential customers will download your app in a single day. But you do get a whole let more publicity. It seems particularly suitable for fun/funny apps that people will show off to their friends... who, if they want a copy, will have to pay.

    1. AdamWill

      There's two problems

      There's two problems.

      1), most seriously, Amazon has been quite public about how devs always get 20% of the list price even if the app is given away for free. That's what's in the public T&C anyone can see, and the T&C you agree to if you sign up as a dev. But if Amazon decides to offer your app the 'chance' to be the free app of the day, they send you an email making the offer but requiring you to give up all revenue, with a footer claiming to require you not to tell anyone else about the offer. So Amazon gets the *public* benefit of looking generous to developers, while doing something quite different in *private*, and clearly is actively trying to preserve this gap in perceptions with the 'you can't talk about this' footer.

      2) the devs of this app wanted to share the data showing that agreeing to Amazon's terms was a bad idea for them. They're not complaining on their own behalf; it says this expressly in the post. They wanted to show the data that, at least for apps of their general type, signing up for this promotion really doesn't work out for the developers.

  10. Ayelis

    It's ONE DAY. Not the rest of your LIFE.

    There are tons of people out there who are barely scraping by with rent AND a cellphone to buy your app. This service puts your app on the front-page! Highlighted, for all the world to see. If someone likes your app, they will tell their friends about it and their friends will have to pay for it. If it's a multi-user app, they will urge their friends to join the community. When they have money to spare, they will likely buy it themselves because supporting developers is important. We understand that! Many of us are developers too! Lay off Amazon. Besides, it's not like YOU aren't downloading all the free apps too. Hypocrites!

    [Brought to you by The Rent is Too Damn High Party of America]

    1. Chad H.

      But it is

      Thats a massive amount of freeloaders you need to support. For ever.

      In exchange for hundreds (or was it thousands? Of freeloaders this guy got... 30 sales.

      That's not profitable!

  11. djdjdj


    I suppose this does present a problem for developers. To everyone saying that they should have just stuck ads in the app, the whole point in getting a PAID app for FREE is that it is the full/pro/ad free version. If they are going to just stick ads in it, they should offer it for free every day.

    Regardless, I think that many developers will wise up to that , and the quality of many free apps of the day will degrade. Amazon really should go back to giving 20% of each free app of the day purchased to the developer.

  12. Phil Endecott

    Bait and switch

    I guess the important issue here is that Amazon is not being honest with developers at the point where they sign up to sell their app on Amazon's Appstore.

    The public agreement quite clearly says "min 20%". When they sign up developers only have this public agreement to go on, and presumably they judge that they are getting a good deal: they may lose out on income due to discounting, but they'll make up for it in increased volume. They will be making less than they would on the Marketplace but they'll be hoping that one day they'll be picked for the "app of the day", or similar, and that will make it all worthwhile.

    Then it turns out that their judgement was not based on the true facts. Perhaps some will now change their minds.

    Of course, this was only ever going to work while none of the "victims" spoke out. Now that everyone knows what the real deal is, they will judge things differently and perhaps say "no thanks" to listing there. Perhaps Amazon anticipated this and have some other scheme up their sleeves. Or perhaps they are more familiar with dealing with e.g. book publishers where non-disclosure might work a bit better.

    It will be interesting to see how this develops....

  13. Jon Press

    With "hardcopy" publishers and record companies...

    ... you can soon find yourself with no revenue even when the end-user is actually paying for the product.

    At least in this case you don't get charged for returns...

  14. alun phillips
    Paris Hilton

    Degrading quality?

    I don't expect the quality of the aafaotd to degrade as it already fairly near the bottom, with the odd expception, but as they say no press is bad press and this particular dev , if the comments on his blog and elsewhere are to be believed, is selling a fair few copies on the back of this story.

    Paris as she doen't give anything away for free

  15. Anonymous Coward

    I much prefer the Steve Jobs way

    Android ecosystem doomed to fail.

    1. Steven Roper

      Yes, the Steve Jobs way

      which is to patent-troll every form of technology you can get away with and then stifle innovation and competition by suing the arse off anybody who dares to make any product that is even remotely similar to the ones you sell. Which is more likely to ultimately fail than Android's method, I think.

    2. Snarky

      Apple fanboys need not think...and it shows.

      Brilliant logic there professor. Maybe take an econ class and start thinking about what the big numbers mean.

      1. stu 19

        The whole patent trolling pisses me off

        How the chuff can patent offices grant a patent on something for which there is not prototype or working model of any kind. It happens all the time and a lot of the patent wars now taking place are for patents issued years ago, before it was even feasible to build the products in question.

        It seems all the big companies are at it at the hardware and software levels and i also hear recently that the drug companies are playing similar games with relation to cures/drugs and methods that could save lives.

        Am I missing something? are the patent offices just a bunch of fuckwits or is there a genuine purpose in allowing companies to patent something they cannot build for another 20 years? I though a patent was to protect your IP or product? Surely it makes sense that for a patent to be granted it has to have at least a demonstrable working prototype.

        Someone fill in the big picture for me - ços all I can see is cynical, big corporate law getting away with it because they can.

  16. Stuart Halliday

    Only in America

    I wonder how many free apps Amazon UK will be offering when it goes live?

  17. Chad H.


    I think that this was the inevitable conclusion of combining the Agency model with giving up control of your price point - Disappointed Developers.

    At least Apple doesnt decide on you that your product is overpriced and then drop it on you.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice one developers

    Anyone notice that bit at the end where you CAN'T REMOVE YOUR APP FROM THE AMAZON STORE! So you put your app on Amazon, at the same price as its on Android and Apple stores (because Amazon says you have to), Amazon discounts it by 80% to make sure all the sales happen on the Amazon store, you lose 4/5 of your income, realise its a terrible deal, but you're stuck with forever because you can't pull the app from the store!

    I think that's what is ultimately behind this information release, the dev's have got pissed with Amazon screwing them, tried to pull their app, been told they can't, and realised that they don't need to worry about the NDA on the 20% deal, they can go ahead and tell the world. What's amazon gonna do, pull their app from the store?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      This. This. A thousand times this.

      All the people bitching and moaning about developers bitching and moaning (also apparently missing the irony there) are way off the mark.

      Amazon is being so underhanded that they must be planning to move their HQ to a base inside a volcano.

      They want good press in public, and shady dealings in private. Once you're in, there's no getting out. Ignore the free promotion thing (that was just the straw that broke the camel's back with this particular dev), and focus on the fact that:

      1. You can't remove your product from their store

      2. They set the price

      3. They set the description

      4. People who buy your product (which is now actually mostly Amazon's product) still consider it to be yours, for better or for worse - these people tell other people

      5. You can't remove your product from their store


      Did I mention that you can't remove your product from their store?

      1. Chad H.

        Could you....

        Inform Amazon their license to offer your software has been revoked, and should they persist DMCA it?

      2. stu 19

        Developer Class Action

        There can't be any basis in law for that can there? Or does the contract provide them the facility to do what they feel like?

        21a. The agent, retains the right to sell or distribute the product via any medium it chooses and at any price it deigns to set. The developer retains the right and privilege to go fuck themselves in any way they can and with any implement they choose (see Amazon store for suitable implements).

        Seems to me they are getting too big, if you have ever had any dealings with companies who sell to the big uk supermarkets, this is exactly how they treat their suppliers. they are just so big and powerful they can set the, price and pace to suit them.

  19. cs94njw


    If a contract is unfair, even though you signed up to it, a court of law can still strike it down.

    Some of these restrictions sound incredibly unfair, and legal action needs to be threatened.

  20. Justin Thomas

    Incorrect Claim

    "Angry Birds is an advertising-supported app, so the developer lost nothing by agreeing to Amazon's terms."

    The version that was given away was the paid, advertising-free version (that was previously not available on the Android Market); I took advantage of that promotion due to that fact (otherwise it would have been kind of pointless).

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