New Amazon Appstore Incentive Program Encourages Developers To Build For Amazon, Will Give Consumers “Cash Back” On Apps

Amazon today is announcing a major push designed to encourage developers to build apps optimized for its Amazon Appstore app marketplace, and its Fire OS mobile operating system which currently powers Kindle Fire devices. With a new program called Appstore Developer Select, app developers will receive a variety of marketing and promotional benefits as well as discounts on Amazon services, like Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is already used to power a number of mobile applications on the market today.

The program’s overall goal is to be mutually beneficial to both Android app developers and Amazon, which would gain by increasing the number of quality applications meeting specific requirements on its platform. To qualify for program benefits, developers’ apps have to render in high definition (meaning using the entire screen without distortion or pixelation on Kindle Fire), and they must be available on both Kindle Fire and the Amazon Appstore, where they’re able to run on Amazon and non-Amazon Android devices alike.

Most importantly, the apps have to use Amazon’s APIs where relevant. That means games will have to implement the GameCircle API; those with in-app purchases need to use Amazon’s In-App Purchasing API; and those running ads will need to include the Amazon Mobile Ad SDK. And no, developers cannot pick and choose which API they’ll throw in there to meet the qualifications – it has to use the whole lot of them, depending on what makes sense given the application’s features and functions.

So why might some developers go for this? Amazon gives them several reasons to choose from. For starters, qualifying apps will receive “premium placement” in the Appstore and on Kindle Fire, explains Amazon Appstore director Aaron Rubenson. This placement includes spots on the various curated app lists, the slots where apps are featured on the Appstore homepage, and even the ads running on the Kindle Fire’s lockscreen, for example.

Developers will also receive 25% off the first $2,000 they spend AWS services each year, which for those already using the AWS platform is a bit like free money if they’ve already optimized their Android app for Amazon’s platform.

Additionally, the program will tie into two previously announced Amazon initiatives: Amazon’s mobile ad network and Amazon Coins. Launched into beta earlier this year, Amazon’s advertising API allows developers to reach app users on Android using display ads. Qualifying apps will now receive 500,000 ad impressions on the ad network.

Cashback For Buying Apps

Meanwhile, all qualified apps will also be a part of a new Appstore category called “Appstore Coins Rewards.” These selected apps will return Amazon Coins to consumers who buy paid apps or make in-app purchases.

Amazon Coins, as you may recall, was announced in February as a virtual currency for consumers that allowed them make purchases on the Amazon Appstore instead of using a credit card directly. One coin equals just one cent (U.S.), which makes any Coins giveaway seem like a bigger deal than it really is. Case in point: consumers will get 250 Amazon Coins for free the first time they download an Appstore Developer Select paid app or make an in-app purchase from a qualified app. From then on, the Coin amounts consumers receive for subsequent purchases will vary.

Rubenson says these amounts will be set by Amazon, but he declined to share what they may be or their general range, saying only that they’ll be “enough to be exciting” and more than just one or two Coins, for example. (Update: Amazon’s PR says now that it will be “up to 30% back.”)

This is an interesting incentive program to encourage consumers to spend on mobile apps – it’s similar in spirit to the “cashback” offered with various credit cards, for example. To date, it has been challenging for developers targeting the Android platform to monetize their apps as they do on iTunes. However, not surprisingly, Amazon has in the past generated more revenue per daily user than the general Android app store, Google Play.

Kindle Fire owners already receive 500 Amazon Coins as a “thank you” gift to get them into the habit of making purchases, and now they’ll have another 250 to gain from buying these selected apps. Plus, users can also buy Coins in bulk on at discounted rates when they need re-up.

The Appstore Developers Select program is only being announced today, but it has not yet launched to consumers. It will be offered to any publishers with qualifying apps, and developers don’t have to do anything if they already meet the requirements – they’ll simply start earning the rewards. However, existing developers Alt 12 and Fluik Entertainment are already committing to the program.

Amazon currently has over 100,000 apps on its Appstore, which includes the HTML5 web apps it turns into native apps on the behalf of developers via another newly launched program. These apps can also qualify for Appstore Developer Select, we’re told.

“Developers often tell us that, across all app stores, one of the biggest challenges they face is getting their new app or game discovered by the right customers,” says Rubenson. “This program is designed to tackle exactly that challenge.”