Amazon’s main app from the Play Store, which has been downloaded between 50 and 100 million times, has been removed from the store. Taking its place is a brand new Amazon Shopping app, which has the same functionality, but doesn’t include access to Amazon’s Appstore.
Here’s what’s going on behind this unusual switch. Back in September, Amazon made the bold move to update its app with full access to its catalog of apps and games. We say bold because Google frowns upon apps that give users access to competing app stores.
Amazon used a loophole to plant its Appstore in the Play Store
However, Amazon used a loophole of sorts from the Play Store’s Developer Distribution Agreement: at the time when the Amazon app was updated with Appstore access, Google was explicitly forbidding apps whose primary purpose was to distribute other apps. But Amazon argued that its app had a different primary purpose than to offer apps, and so, for a while, got away with planting a competing app store in the Play Store.
Google, unsurprisingly, didn’t like it. On September 25, the company removed the “primary” bit from the Play Store agreement, and replaced it with wording that bans all apps that act as app stores, regardless of their primary goal, closing Amazon’s loophole.
After the legalese change, Amazon had two options: to update its app and remove the Appstore access from it; or, to remove the old app and add a new one that doesn’t infringe on the Play Store distribution agreement. It chose the latter, probably because, that way, the 50 to 100 million users who have the old app can still access the Amazon Appstore from their app (which will remain available on their devices).
Here’s what Amazon had to say about the change, in a statement to TechCrunch:
We launched a new Amazon App for Android Phones on September 9 that provides an award-winning mobile shopping experience, enables customers to discover and purchase all of Amazon’s digital catalog, and provides customers access to the Prime Instant Video player and unlimited streaming of over 40,000 movies and TV episodes. Google subsequently changed their Developer Distribution Agreement on September 25. As a result, we removed the app from Google Play and published the Amazon Shopping app. Customers who want the best Amazon experience on their Android phone, including access to Prime Instant Video and Amazon’s entire digital catalog, can still get the Amazon App for Android Phones at amazon.com/androidapp
To wrap up, if you want to browse the Appstore from the Amazon app, you can keep the old app indefinitely. You can still install it from the Play Store with this direct link (will go offline soon.) You can also download if from Amazon directly.
If you don’t care about the Appstore, the new Amazon Shopping app will give you the same experience as before.
There’s a larger discussion to be had about the “rights” that Google has over its platform – some see the ban on competing services as anti-competitive, while others highlight that Google shouldn’t be forced to host competing app stores on its own platform. Then again, the Play Store sells music, movies, and books, and Google doesn’t ban services like Netflix or Spotify.
Do you think Google is right here? Or are you siding with Amazon?