The Google Play Store is the default app store for most Android phones and tablets. It’s fast, convenient, and usually comes pre-installed.
It’s so ubiquitous, most users probably don’t even realize alternatives are available. But there are alternatives — the most well-known and widely-used of which is the Amazon Appstore.
So, how does the Amazon offering compare with the default Google Play Store? Is it worth installing? What unique features does it offer?
Keep reading to find out which of the two stores is better.
What is the Amazon Appstore?
Before diving into the specifics, let’s take a moment to clarify what the Amazon Appstore is.
The store launched in 2011 and is Amazon’s primary way of distributing apps for the Kindle Fire tablet, phone, and streaming box. It comes pre-loaded on those devices.
Because Amazon’s gadgets rely on the Android operating system, the Amazon Appstore also works on Android-based phones and tablets from other manufacturers. It’s not available through the Google Play Store (more on that later), though if you’ve bought an Android phone on the Verizon network in the United States, you might find the Amazon Appstore pre-installed.
Number of Apps
The first thing to consider when comparing any two stores is the number of apps available. You can have the best user experience in the world, but it’s no good if you can’t download the content you want.
The Google Play Store is the clear winner. Estimates suggest the number of apps in the Amazon Appstore hovers around 600,000. In comparison, the Google store has nearly three million potential downloads.
Of course, a huge amount of those three million apps are junk that you’d never want to download, but on raw numbers alone, there’s no contest.
Verdict: An easy and indisputable victory for Google.
Which Apps Are Available?
Many of the most common apps are accessible on both platforms. These include Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Evernote, LastPass, Trello, Netflix, Spotify, VLC, and countless more. Sadly, YouTube and most other Google apps are not available in the Amazon Appstore.
However, the biggest drawback of the Amazon Appstore is the lack of Google Play Services. For those who aren’t aware, Play Services underpins everything from user authentication and data syncing to privacy settings and location services.
Because the Amazon Appstore doesn’t have access to it, most users will not be able to solely rely on the Amazon Appstore on standard Android devices. If you’re using an Amazon Fire device, the problem isn’t as significant; Amazon offers several of its own APIs that provide similar functionality.
Verdict: A narrow victory for the Google Play Store. If you’re happy to leave the Play Store installed on your device merely for access to Play Services, you could argue it’s a draw.
The Google Play Store is about more than just apps. It also offers an extensive book, movie, and music library.
You can buy the books, music, and movies from directly within the Play Store. No additional memberships are required, and in a few clicks you can be enjoying your new media on your device. The Amazon Appstore has a link to the Amazon Video store, but you need a Prime membership to be able to watch the content.
Verdict: If you want a one-stop app for all your entertainment needs, Google trumps Amazon — but Amazon has a vast array of content for Prime subscribers.
Ease of Installation
As mentioned at the start of the article, the Google Play Store comes pre-installed on most non-Amazon devices. The Amazon Appstore is pre-installed on the company’s own hardware.
If you want to install the Amazon Appstore on a standard Android device, there’s a fiddly process to work through.
How to Install the Amazon Appstore
To access the Amazon Appstore on an Android phone, you need to install the Amazon Underground app. To do this, you can either have a link emailed to you, or you can download it directly to your device.
If you would like to have it emailed to your device, visit this page and enter your email address. You’ll be sent a download link.
Now download the app’s APK file using the link in the email.
Now that you have the APK file, you’ll need to make some changes on your device before you can install it. Go to Settings > Security and make sure the toggle next to Allow Installation of Apps from Unknown Sources is turned on.
You’ll find the file in your phone’s Downloads folder (which you can find using a file manager). Tap on the file to begin the installation process, confirming your choices where appropriate.
When the installation is finished, launch the newly installed app and sign in using your Amazon account.
Verdict: Another win for Google. While the installation process for the Appstore isn’t complicated for technically-savvy users, less experienced people might find the steps daunting.
The Appstore gives its users more than $20,000 of apps, games, and in-app items for free. The promotion replaced the previously popular “App of the Day” where Amazon would offer a different paid app for free every day.
The free content isn’t just niche stuff that nobody wants. It includes heavily downloaded apps such as Office Suite Pro 8, Monument Valley, DuckTales, and Castle of Illusion. For apps that are already free — like Angry Birds or Star Wars Rebels — all the in-app purchases are free.
On its website, Amazon uses the example of the Jetpack Joyride Game to illustrate this. The company claims the entire game would cost you $41.15 on Google Play. You can see the breakdown of the comparison below:
The free content is easy to spot — just look for the “Actually Free” banner in the top left-hand corner of the app’s thumbnail. The free content is available in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and France.
Verdict: An overwhelming win for Amazon. The free content alone makes the Appstore worth installing on your device.
Although the Appstore doesn’t quite provide a one-stop shop for all your entertainment needs, it does offer voice-activated commands for the main Amazon catalog.
For example, you can tap the microphone icon in the app and say “track my last order” or “where is my camera?” to get a status update on your pending orders. You can even say something simple like “reorder paper towels” or “buy more batteries,” and the item will show up at your door the next day.
This feature is a key selling point of Amazon Alexa on the Echo, possibly paving the way for more Alexa features to come to Android in the future.
Verdict: Using your voice means fewer taps and less time, both of which are good things. A win for Amazon.
Things to Consider
If you’ve decided you want to start downloading all your apps from the Amazon Appstore, there are two final points you need to consider.
Firstly, smaller developers don’t have the capacity to push updates to all the various app stores at the same time. Some might favor the Play Store, others might favor Amazon. From a user standpoint, it means on some occasions you might be waiting longer for bug fixes and security patches if you use the Amazon service to download your apps.
Secondly, it can become confusing to manage multiple apps from multiple sources on your device. It’s not easy to remember which store you downloaded an app from several months after installing it. If you switch to a new device, it can be a pain to work through two different libraries to get yourself up and running.
The Final Verdict
I’m going to give a narrow win to the Google Play Store. While Amazon offers some cool features and can save you some money, the sheer convenience of the Play Store trumps everything else. My best advice, however, is to have both app stores installed on your device.
Kindle Fire users, you can install Google Play on your Fire tablet without rooting your device.
Originally written on June 14th, 2013 by Chris Hoffman.
Image credit: Denys Koltovskyi via Shutterstock.com