Can Amazon redefine the free app?

Today Amazon announced the arrival of its new app called Underground, which is all about how you can download more apps. At first glance, an app about other apps ain’t all that exciting. But here’s the thing: Underground isn’t just an app. It’s an entirely new payment model for developers and publishers, and this is what gets us excited.

But let’s back up a step and review what Underground is offering to consumers first. Our excitement will make more sense after we get that out of the way.

According to a “letter” to customers posted by Amazon, Underground has “all of the functionality of our regular Amazon mobile shopping app … plus an exciting addition: over ten thousand dollars in apps, games and in-app items that are actually free.”

Yes, you read that correctly, they are claiming you will have access to more than $10,000 in Android apps and games. That’s a lot of downloads, kids.


Underground has arranged to offer “100% free versions” of many popular apps and games for Android users, including OfficeSuite Professional 8, PhotoSuite 4, Frozen Free Fall, Star Wars Rebels: Recon Missions, Angry Birds Slighshot Stella – and lots of others. And as you may have noticed, several of these titles normally include in-app purchase functionality.

But Amazon is insisting that these downloads from the Underground app/site will be free. Even the in-app purchase ones.

At this point, we expect you’re asking “But how is that possible?” We know, we asked the same thing.

This is the part that gets us excited that we mentioned before … As Amazon notes in their letter, they have worked out “a new business model with app and game developers” where they will pay them on a per minute played/usage basis. In other words, Amazon is paying the developers directly, and the consumer is getting a genuine freebie. Better still, Amazon claims this is a “long-term program” and not just a one-shot promotion.

Will this bolster interest in app downloads? Will it give developers an alternative revenue stream that isn’t locked into ads or in-app purchases? Time will tell, but we think this could be the start of a beautiful new payment model.

If you’re a developer, and you want to find out more about how to get involved with Amazon Underground, visit their developer site.

To see what else they have planned, follow the Amazon Underground Twitter handle.

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