Amazon's App Store Makes Me Feel Like an iOS Developer

I've been building Android apps for the past year and a half.  After recently joining the Amazon app store I understand the pain of an iOS developer.  It stinks.

Getting Started
I launched my first app on in late December 2009.  It was a simple utility I created for my brother so that he could silence his email notifications at night.  On a whim I decided to publish it in the market and set the price at $0.99 with (remote) hopes of recouping my $25 developer fee.

I woke amazed to discover that I had earned $2.10 (!) over night.  I also had an email from a user with a feature request.  I was hooked.

Since that fateful night I've written and published ten apps.  Some free, some paid, it's been an excellent learning experience.

I receive many solicitations to publish my apps in alternative Android app stores.  None of them have much traction and I didn't think they were worth the effort until Amazon entered the foray.

Amazon Enters the Game
Amazon has the brand cache, e-commerce experience and consumer reach to mount a bonafide challenge to Google Android market.

I'm a huge Amazon fan.  Stockholder, Amazon Prime subscriber, I buy nearly everything from them.

So I was pretty psyched when when the developer interface launched.

I submitted my first application in February shortly after the app store announcement and it was reviewed/approved within a day or so.

During February and March I continued to improve my application based on user feedback (thanks users!) and I fixed a major bug and released a new version to Google's Android market.

Amazon Users Live
When Amazon launched the consumer facing app market on 3/22/2011, I created a new build of the app (features & fixes included) and submitted it to the app store.

I waited for the new version to be approved.  And waited, and waited.

I know that patience is par for the course with iOS development, but I was used to near-instant publishing in the Google market.  15 days seemed like an eternity.  Meanwhile I discovered that after uploaded a new version my app was "frozen" and I was unable to remove the unpatched version.

Rejection Therapy
Finally on 4/5/2011 I received a notice that my app had been rejected.

I emailed Amazon support to find out what was going on and they responded that my app had failed two approval checks:

  1. Application goes to the android market
  2. Sensitive information like device ID is echoed in clear text
"That's odd" I thought, I link users to Amazon's app store for reviews and I don't use the Android device ID anywhere in my app.

Confused, I emailed back for more information.  

They responded with helpful screenshots of the violations:

The screenshots reference a third party ad network, Greystripe, that I use to monetize the free app.  Greystripe is used by many, many Android devs including (I think) Angry Birds to monetize free apps.

In my case it looks like Greystripe presented an ad for an Android app and the advertiser's link pointed to Google's Android market.  That flagged me for violating Amazon TOS: all links must point to the Amazon app store.

Secondly, Greystripe appears to be sending the Android device identifier with the ad request.  The Android device id is a piece of "sensitive information" that cannot be echoed in clear text.

What's Next?
So what is a developer to do?

This is a very common use case for free apps.  Ad networks like Greystripe, Admob (Google), Millennial Media, and others serve ads for Android apps.  The action links defined by advertisers usually point to Google's Android market and app developers can't filter ads to just those that point to Amazon.

I bet there are other devs out there with the same problem.

I sent a second email to Amazon with an explanation of the problem.  They've been responsive so far and the fix is simple--ignore ad network links that point to Google's Android market during the approval process.

Any Amazon employees out there who can help?


Emilian Bold said...

So why is this an Amazon problem and not a Greystripe/Admob/etc problem?

The way I see it if these ad providers want to keep a foothold in the Amazon market they'll fix this pretty soon.

Loren Donelson said...

IMHO advertisers should be able to send their potential customers to where ever it best suits them. Especially since the advertisers aren't beholden to Amazon's T&Cs.

Mattias said...

Did you ever solve this? I'm in the exact same situation. I'm using admob/millenialmedia but I guess they are sending the information too.

From rejection email:
The application does not use an encrypted connection when communicating sensitive information. While monitoring network traffic, the tester observed that the device MEID was sent over an unencrypted connection.

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