The 'ka-ching' factor driving Amazon's Live App Testing service

Shane Schick

No matter how many apps and mobile games they have in the market, developers should never use the entire world as their focus group. That's why Amazon is joining the ranks of companies to help developers create an inner circle of testers.

Earlier this month the company announced the launch of Live App Testing, a tool that will allow developers to distribute early versions of their product to a pre-determined set of users within its Appstore. Amazon's Paul Cutsinger explained the details in a blog post:

The testers will be able to sample the full suite of Amazon services -- including in-app purchasing -- against our production environment, so you can ensure your app is working as expected. This allows you to gather feedback, improve quality, increase stability and optimize the experience before you push your app live for all customers to download.

It would be easy to see this as a competitive move against major mobile platform providers, which are also very active in this space. For example, Apple acquired TestFlight early in 2014 and more recently announced its integration within the App Store at its Worldwide Developer Conference in June. Google, of course, has been offering its own A/B testing services on apps and mobile games for quite some time. In general, I suspect these foundational test services made sense for indie developers and those making consumer apps and mobile games. Larger, stand-alone testing providers, such as Applause and SOASTA, will most likely continue to provide a more comprehensive set of services for businesses creating enterprise apps.

When you consider the nature of Amazon's mission, however, its rationale behind app testing might be a little different from any of those other players'. Apple makes software and hardware products, and Google essentially exists to sell ads, but Amazon is the world's leading online retailer. Everything it does is oriented toward pushing consumers to get more out of its marketplace. This includes devices such as its recently launched Fire phone, a sort of hardware companion to its core offering that some reviewers complained was good for shopping but not much else.

All good retailers know that faulty products are a huge nightmare -- not just because of people looking for refunds or store credit, but because they contribute to an overall poor user experience, which can have a negative impact on the overall brand. Apps that crash, respond slowly to commands or contain any number of other bugs are a reflection not just on the developer but, indirectly, on Amazon itself.

Even if it's something of an afterthought to Android developers today, Amazon's Appstore is already doing pretty well in terms of generating in-app purchases and other monetization. In fact, a report from Distimo earlier this year showed that Amazon's store is second only to Apple in terms of revenue and possibly better than Google Play. A little extra quality control via Live App Testing can only further those kinds of results, as long as developers are willing to use the service. 

Amazon may never see the sheer reach that Apple's App Store or Google Play offers, but it could become something else, something possibly more important: the place developers perfect their apps in order to satisfy the customers most likely to pay.--Shane