Apps from Amazon routinely phone home and other interesting details

So the Amazon Appstore has been up and running for a few weeks now, and I've managed to break something no less than 3 times.  Yes, I am embarrassed; I should have achieved a score of at least 6.

But I inadvertently learned some fascinating details about the Amazon Appstore, so it's not a complete loss.

No refunds for apps

I accidentally bought an app while trying it on my PC last week. I'm still not sure how, exactly, but I do know that I didn't click any buttons. The bad news is Amazon have a policy against refunding apps. Luckily for me, they made an exception.

But I think they only made the exception because I called in with other technical problems. The Appstore client kept insisting that the 3GB of space I had on my SD card wasn't enough. (I had to reinstall the client.)

Did you know Amazon can remotely disable apps?

More out of curiosity that anything, I downloaded the refunded app. I wanted to see what Amazon would do. Today I tried to run it, and I got a message  saying that I didn't own it and did I want more details. Yes, Amazon remotely killed the app.

Apps phone home

I left my Viewsonic gTablet sitting at home while I was at a conference last week. The battery died while I was gone, and when I charged again I noticed 2 interesting details. The first is that all the apps wanted to check with Amazon before I could open them. What's truly curious is that I only have free apps. Some, like the Kindle app, have always been free and always will be free. But even the free Kindle app insisted on contacting Amazon before I could do anything with it.  (BTW, it seems like the apps want to do this on a weekly basis, but I'm not sure.)

Let me put it a different way. If you get the same app from the Android Market, it won't be quite so crippled by DRM. For example, I've had an illicit copy of the Kindle app since forever, and I've never encountered this kind of block before.  This strikes me as a pretty damn good reason to abandon the Amazon Appstore.

I also discovered that if you don't set the date, the apps can't phone home. I know that that is a common Android design flaw, but it's irritating nonetheless. It's also laughable that it still exists in 2011.

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So those are some of the quirks I've noticed with the Amazon Appstore. I haven't seen any mention of problems elsewhere, so I thought this post was worthwhile. Have you had any trouble?

 

8 thoughts on “Apps from Amazon routinely phone home and other interesting details

  1. Whoa. OK, that phone home bit is very, very bad. What if you’re in some disaster area with a critical app but there’s no way for it to phone home? That app is rendered useless? This is just nuts and draconian. And Amazon is making itself open to some real badass lawsuits down the road. Until this is changed, I’ll avoid that Appstore. Thanks for the warning!

  2. i can already see the videos poised to pop up from the internet youtube masses about this phoning home.
    they will take a scene straight out of 1984 of the morning routine exercising in front of the big screen. everyone is following the instructor but you stumble out of signal range and not only is your transmission cut briefly but when it returns the instructor has stopped and is waiting to scald you for interrupting the otherwise solid signals from the rest of the group as she peers directly at you on the tablet screen and threatens to cut your 3g bandwidth rations if it happens again.
    oO;

  3. If I was a developer and piracy an issue, wouldn’t I want the app to phone home occasionally to make sure the app is paid for?

    I leave my rooted nook color off most of the time, and so far haven’t run across this issue. At least I’ll know why if it happens.

    The official market is a bit of the “wild, wild west” and full of copyright violations. Amazon’s approach seems to be the middle of the official market and the apple model.

  4. Thanks for the info! I just uninstalled the Amazon app store on my phone, and now I can’t use any of the apps I downloaded. I get a message that the Amazon Appstore is required and I also must be signed in – I wonder what would happen if I had no connectivity?

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