When Amazon's new app promotion idea leaked earlier this year (under the name Amazon Unlocked), it looked like just another way for Amazon to organize its free app promotions. With the launch of Amazon Underground today, it's clear that could not be further from the truth.
AFTVnews, 9to5Google, and other sites are reporting (and I can confirm) that Amazon has retired its free app of the day promotion. In its place, Amazon is launching Amazon Underground, a new app which promises "over $10,000 in apps, games, and even in-app items that are actually free".
The new underground excludes
"free" apps that have adverts, and "free" apps that force you to pay in order to play the game. Both of these types of apps would occasionally make an appearance in the old free app of the day promotion, and Amazon has banished them from its new promotion service.
In their place, Amazon is offering free apps that are tagged with "Actually Free" on the icon. The retailer has worked out deals with developers to pay them for each minute that a customer uses the app (see the letter at the end of the post).
Update: Ars has discovered that an Amazon developer resource site showed that Amazon is paying developers 12 cents an hour, or 0.2 cents per minute uf use. "The company also went so far as to offer interested devs a revenue calculator to determine whether this model would make a company more cash than they'd made with traditional purchases."
There is a catch, of course.
Where the free daily app was open to all, the new Amazon Underground app is offered to only Fire tablet and Android smartphone owners. Fire phone owners are excluded from Amazon Underground (I checked)
, and so are Android tablets.
Edit: No, it turns out you can install the AU app on an Android tablet. You just have to ask Amazon to email you a download link, or go here: www.amazon.com/underground. I have the app installed on a Kobo Arc tablet (they did not make this easy).
While at first AU looks inexplicable, it makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Under the old system, Amazon threw money out the door every day in the hopes of building customer loyalty. But with AU, Amazon has adopted a "pay-per-use" model similar to the one that uses to fund Kindle Unlimited.
Do you know how Jeff Bezos likes to say that Amazon sells hardware cheap and makes money when the devices are used (content sales, for example)?
That's what we have with Amazon Underground - aside from the fact that it's not clear how Amazon will make money.
Perhaps they are counting the profit in terms of holding a user's attention, and keeping that user from going to Google Play?
Amazon isn't saying what their long term goals are, but if you want to find out more about AU, you can visit the page on Amazon.com.