Amazon Adds A/B Testing For Android Developers; Says App Downloads Grew 500 Percent In 2012

Amazon today announced a feature meant to entice more Android developers into bringing their applications to Amazon’s Appstore platform: A/B testing for Android applications. What this means is that developers can now upload apps with different variables in order to experiment with features and changes, then iterate quickly after gathering learnings from their customer base.

The move to introduce A/B testing is something of a shot across the bow of Apple, which famously reviews all apps and upgrades before allowing them to go live in its Apple App Store; it’s a process that keeps the quality high, but causes delays. Google’s Android app marketplace, Google Play, allows apps to be published immediately, but most developers still turn to third-party services for serious A/B testing efforts. Now Amazon is offering that same ability in-house.

Amazon’s release states the feature is available for “Kindle Fire HD” developers, but the actual website makes it sound like any Android developers can use the feature, saying “A/B Testing is free for developers that distibute apps through Amazon Mobile App Distribution Program.” We’ve asked Amazon to clarify this, and will update. Update: Amazon tells us that the A/B testing is for any developer making apps distributed through the Amazon Appstore, which includes the Kindle Fire HD as well as any other platforms that have the Amazon Appstore installed.

“Our A/B Testing service is essential for developers because it will help offload the overhead costs of building, maintaining and running scalable tests,” said Mike Frazzini, Director of Amazon Games, in a statement released this morning. “We’ve drawn from our years of experience conducting and refining our own A/B testing on to bring developers a testing product that will give them the capability to perfect their apps, retain customers, and grow their business.”

The feature is one of many new releases designed to compete directly with Apple and Google’s app stores head to head. In recent weeks, Amazon has also introduced GameCircle (similar to Apple’s Game Center), a new Maps API, a “Test Drive” feature on Kindle which serves as a “try before you buy” option for consumers, a Kindle Fire Emulator for testing, Unity plugins for developers, expanded localization support, developer forums, and more.

In other words, Amazon isn’t just building an app store, it’s building the complete infrastructure needed to support a thriving app ecosystem.

New Appstore Numbers (Sort Of)

Tucked away in this somewhat iterative announcement related to Amazon’s progress on that front, were some key metrics demonstrating the Appstore’s growing traction.

Amazon, as per usual, shies away from providing hard numbers, but indicates that app downloads in its Appstore have grown over 500 percent in the past year. According to store figures cited by The Verge in September, we know that it has now passed the 50,000 mark, though. As of December 1st, there are now 59,767 applications available in the Amazon Appstore, 45 percent which are free in the U.S, according to app store analytics firm Distimo. The apps are published by 15,635 developers.

The number of GameCircle-enabled games available on the Kindle Fire have more than doubled since the launch of the Kindle Fire HD, the total downloads of the SDKs for in-app purchasing and GameCircle, and the number of developers offering in-app purchased content have also more than doubled since the launch of the Kindle Fire HD and the arrival of Fire HD development resources.

Amazon says that, as of October, 23 of the top 25 grossing apps used in-app purchases. Those numbers make sense, given a report from earlier this year also from Distimo, which found that some of the top Android apps available on both Google’s marketplace and Amazon’s Appstore, were generating more revenue on Amazon’s platform.

Correction: Clarified the A/B testing process in the intro.