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April 16, 2014

Mike Hines

Amazon WebView (AWV) is a Chromium-derived web runtime exclusive to Fire OS. AWV makes better performing and more powerful apps possible by providing support for a faster JavaScript engine (V8), remote debugging, and hardware optimizations for Kindle Fire devices including an accelerated 2D Canvas. Enabling your Cordova project to support AWV gives you access to HTML5 features not supported by Android’s built in WebView such as: CSS Calc, Form Validation, getUserMedia, IndexedDB, Web Workers, WebSockets and WebGL.

For developers who are not familiar with Cordova, it is an open source solution that provides tools and templates that wrap web code and assets, allowing you to publish your web code and assets as if they were native apps. Cordova is also customizable via its plugin architecture which allows developers to extend the framework in order to access OS level APIs like the built-in contact list, as well as physical hardware on the device itself like the camera.  Cordova also makes it possible for two way communication from the web app wrapper to the device’s native language.

To ensure that all core Cordova plugins will be natively supported, Amazon worked with the Apache community when adding Cordova support for the Amazon Fire OS platform. Here is how to set it up on your local computer, enable Amazon Web View and create a project from scratch.

1. Install Tools

You need to make sure you have all the required tools and libraries needed to compile and package an Android application. Download and install the following (please note these links will take you to third-party sites):

You'll need to have Java installed, and the Android SDK from developer.android.com/sdk which includes the Android Developer Toolkit (adt). You may be presented with a choice of where to install the SDK, otherwise move the downloaded adt-bundle tree to wherever you store development tools.

For Cordova command-line tools to work, you need to include the Android SDK's tools and platform-tools directories in your PATH environment:

To modify the PATH environment on Mac, Linux, etc.:

  • Use a text editor to create or modify the ~/.bash_profile file, adding a line such as the following, depending on where the SDK installs:
export PATH= $ {PATH}:/Development/adt-bundle/sdk/platform-tools:/Development/adt-bundle/sdk/tools

You will also need to enable Java, Ant and/or Node from the command line. Open a command prompt and type "java", then "ant" then "node". Reinstall, or append to the PATH whichever fail to run.

This will expose the tools in newly opened terminal windows. Otherwise run this to make them available in the current session:

$ source ~/.bash_profile

To modify the PATH environment on Windows 7:

  • Click on the Start menu in the lower-left corner of the desktop, right-click on Computer, then click Properties.
  • Click Advanced System Settings in the column on the left.
  • In the resulting dialog box, press Environment Variables.
  • Select the PATH variable and press Edit.
  • Append the following to the PATH based on where you installed the SDK, for example:
;C:\Development\adt-bundle\sdk\platform-tools;C:\Development\adt-bundle\sdk\tools
  • Save the value and close both dialog boxes.

You will also need to enable Java, Ant and/or Node from the command line. Open a command prompt and type "java", then "ant" then "node". Reinstall, or append to the PATH whichever fail to run:

;%JAVA_HOME%\bin;%ANT_HOME%\bin

2. Install Cordova

Make sure you are able to invoke npm (Node Package Manager) on your command line; it's added as a part of Node.js. (You can install Node.js from the nodejs.org homepage and type NPM in the command line to validate the installation.)

To install Cordova, open a command prompt/terminal and use:

$ npm install -g cordova

On Unix-like systems, you may need to append "sudo" to ensure it is installed correctly. See Cordova's documentation for the Command-Line Interface for more details.

3. Create Cordova Project

Create project. Open a command line/terminal in a directory where you'd like to have your project stored and run the following commands to create a project and add the files needed to build for Amazon Fire OS:

$ cordova create hello com.example.hello HelloWorld

Add Amazon Fire OS platform.  Change into the newly created project directory and add the files needed for the amazon-fireos platform target.

$ cd hello
$ cordova platform add amazon-fireos

4. Install the Amazon WebView SDK

The first time you try to add the amazon-fireos platform you will be instructed add the Amazon WebView SDK. Download and extract the Amazon WebView SDK zip file from the Amazon Developer Portal.

Copy awv_interface.jar from the unzipped folder into the amazon-fireos directory found in Cordova's global working directory. Note: You'll need to create the libs/ folder manually.

On Mac/Linux:

$ mkdir ~/.cordova/lib/amazon-fireos/cordova/3.4.0/framework/libs
$ cp awv_interface.jar ~/.cordova/lib/amazon-fireos/cordova/3.4.0/framework/libs/

On Windows:

> mkdir %USERPROFILE%\.cordova\lib\amazon-fireos\cordova\3.4.0\framework\libs
> cp awv_interface.jar %USERPROFILE%\.cordova\lib\amazon-fireos\cordova\3.4.0\framework\libs

Then you will need to remove and re-add the platform:

$ cordova platform rm amazon-fireos 
$ cordova platform add amazon-fireos

5. Build your Project

Add HTML5 assets. Your web app's assets - HTML, CSS, JavaScript, images, etc.  - should be placed in the project's www folder. You can use the sample placeholder files installed as a template, or you can replace them completely with your web apps's files.

Add support for Android devices if needed. If your app is going to be used on non-Fire OS devices running Android, you can provide a fallback to the stock Android WebView engine by adding the awv_android_factory.jar file found in the AWV SDK bundle into your Cordova project under the platform libraries folder. For example:

./hello/platforms/amazon-fireos/libs/awv_android_factory.jar

Adding the code above will allow you to submit the app to the Amazon Appstore and target non-Kindle Fire devices as well as all Kindle Fire devices.

Build and deploy your project. Make sure that USB debugging is enabled on your device as described on the Android Developer Site, and use a mini USB cable to plug it into your system. (Note: Currently, testing via an emulator is not supported for Amazon WebView based apps.)

Then you can build and deploy the app to the device with the following single command:

$ cordova run

What You Can Do Now

With Amazon Web View support enabled for Cordova, you can build higher performance apps with tools like WebGL, CSS Calc and Web Workers, debug your app remotely, and see performance gains through a faster JavaScript engine and access to accelerated hardware on Kindle Fire devices.

To learn more, follow these links (some of which will take you to third-party sites):

 

 

 

April 04, 2014

Mike Hines

Go Live when You Want To

Amazon has recently added the ability to specify the date and time you would like your app to go live on the Amazon Appstore. This gives you the ability to coordinate your app release on Amazon with releases on other stores and in conjunction with any press or social media launch events you may wish to plan.

How Does It Work?

You start by completing the new app submission or the app update submission as you normally would, but make sure that you enter the date and time you want your app to go live in the Availability & Pricing section (see image below). Times are shown in Pacific Standard Time.

Then you simply submit your app as usual.

What Happens Next?

Submitted

When you first click the ‘Submit’ button, your app will display the status “Submitted” for up to 60 minutes until we kick off testing for your app.

Under Review

Typically, within 60 minutes of submission, your app will enter testing regardless of the launch date you have chosen. This lets us notify you of any issues prior to your launch event. While your app is being tested, your app status will show as “Under Review”.

Approved

If your app passes testing, your app will be staged on our servers, waiting for the date and time you specified. During this waiting time, your app will show an “Approved” status in the Developer Portal.

Live

At the time of your launch, we complete the publishing process to make your app available in the Amazon Appstore. We work hard to complete the testing process as quickly as possible, and our goal is to publish at least 90% of apps within 60 minutes of the time specified. Once publishing is complete, your app will have the “Live” status in the developer portal.

You can edit the launch date and time any time prior to your app going “Live” in the Appstore.

What You Can Do Now

Mike Hines

@MikeFHines

 

April 02, 2014

Mike Hines

Today, Amazon announced Amazon Fire TV, a new device that makes it easy for users to stream movies, TV shows, and music as well as download apps and play games right on the HDTVs they already own. For developers, Fire TV can help you increase your customer base by putting your app in the living room, in front of people who enjoy entertainment and may not have seen your apps before. To promote rich user experiences, Fire TV enables full-featured game controllers, Dolby Digital Plus Certified surround sound and more. Android developers will find that developing for Fire TV is familiar, and optimizing their apps for the new controllers and TV display will not require learning a new language or new frameworks. Click here to learn more about how to setup your Fire TV developer environment.

Built with High Performance Gaming in Mind

A room with a large screen TV and surround sound audio is a great environment for gaming, and Fire TV has the performance to deliver a great gaming experience. From its inception, Fire TV has been designed around optimizing HDTV displays and powering demanding applications. It uses a Qualcomm Quad Core Snapdragon Krait 300 processor with Adreno 320 GPU and 2GB of RAM to support high performance game experiences. (See all the tech specs here).

Fire TV also supports a variety of controllers to let you design the best experience for your users. Fire TV supports a d-pad remote control, along with multi-function game controllers. Multi-function game controllers enable much more engaging gameplay for the TV than a typical d-pad remote can.

Second Screen via DIAL

Second Screen is a technology that allows your Amazon Fire TV app to interact with other mobile devices using DIAL, an open standard that enables customers to discover and open apps on their television right from their tablet or phone. For example, a user can sit on their couch and use their Kindle Fire HDX to control an app running on their TV screen.

It’s Time to Start Thinking About the 10-foot Experience

Running apps on a television opens up unique experiences for customers. Users are (on average) 10 feet away from the screen with different viewing habits and expectations. For example, users don’t need to stop what they are doing to view your app. Users can see the TV screen while they are making breakfast, unlike when they’re on phones or tablets. It is also easy for multiple people to have a good view of the TV at the same time, something which can be hard on PCs or mobile devices. There are several ways to use these large-screen characteristics to your advantage. One idea is to use the TV display productively during times it would otherwise be turned off. For example, you could display traffic and weather information on the TV or even show a family calendar or bulletin board app on the TV. Another idea is to use the screen size to support multi-player games in which the users can play concurrently, each able to see the screen without difficulty, each with their own game controller.

Controllers

There are two kinds of controllers available for the Amazon Fire TV. They are:

  • Amazon Fire TV Remote- Included with your Fire TV and supports a variety of apps and games.
  • Game Controllers- Bluetooth wireless game controllers, like the Amazon Fire game controller, provide all the controls you need for a richer gaming experience. (Learn more about the Amazon Fire game controller).

The Fire TV remote and game controllers trigger logical default events, so the game controller will work predictably in standard Android UI widgets. For example, the Menu button on the controller will pass through to Android and invoke the Android context menu (OptionsMenu), and the Back button on the controller will be ingested like the back button in the Android UI. Events for the remote and game controller can be customized, and trigger special events you can detect.

Fire TV remote (shown below) comes with Amazon Fire TV. The remote supports the remote input events shown here. The D-pad on the remote fires keycode events (like KEYCODE_DPAD_UP) and navigates through standard Android controls, moving UI focus up, down, left and right. In many cases, navigation around your UI will work right out of the box and won’t require any special event handling. Since the remote is the default controller that ships with Amazon Fire TV, you should test to see that your app is functional with Amazon Fire TV remote, even if you have optimized for a game controller.

The Game Controller - Multiplayer support comes to your TV

The Amazon Fire game controller offers the same level of default support for standard Android navigation controls as the remote does, but optimizing your game for the game controller offers a lot of additional options; just take a look at the game controller controls in the picture below. Up to 7 game controllers can connect via Bluetooth to an Amazon Fire TV at any one time and each controller can be associated with a player ID, so multi-player support is a real option for you.

Integrated with Amazon Payment Services

When a customer buys a Fire TV and registers with their Amazon Account, they are already set up with their verified Amazon Payment profile. Your user is ready to purchase apps or in-app items with no further effort. Amazon Fire TV supports the Amazon In-App-Purchasing API so you can offer consumable items, permanently entitled items, and even subscriptions for sale in your app.

To help you tune your gameplay and monetization implementation, Amazon offers A|B Testing and Analytics tools that can help you hone your app for maximum user retention and optimized monetization. And all of these tools work on Fire OS devices and Android devices, and most will work on iOS devices as well.

Optimizing Your App for a TV Screen

To make your app look sharp on a TV, you’ll want to make sure you have a layout for tvdpi and xhdpi to support the resolution on living room TV screens. Unlike most Android devices, Amazon Fire TV will render your app on 720p or 1080p screens of any size, so you should plan for a range of screen sizes. It is also important to remember that your user will typically be 10 feet away from the screen, and may appreciate larger controls and dialog boxes. Common tweaks to make apps look better on TV include:

  • Increasing the sizes of fonts and buttons
  • More clearly identifying the “selected” item
  • Adding additional padding between all elements on the page
  • Consider using more muted colors. Bright colors tend to over-saturate on TV screens and may appear to bleed into adjacent pixels
  • Keep away from the edges as some TV’s may clip the edge of the screen

Three Steps to Get Your Android App on Amazon Fire TV

Because you can use the Android code you’ve already written, getting started is easy.

Here are three steps you take to make your game or app available on Fire TV:

  1. Make sure your app looks good on an HDTV and is optimized for the living room setting, where the user is typically 10 feet away from the screen
  2. Check to see if the Amazon controller defaults work with you app, or add some code so that it does work with the Amazon Fire TV remote and game controllers
  3. Submit (or re-submit) your app in the Developer Portal

Once submitted and approved, depending on your app’s compatibility, a user may be able to purchase your app on Amazon Fire TV, Kindle Fire, the Amazon Appstore website, or on the Amazon Appstore of other compatible devices. This means that if your app is available for Kindle Fire devices, Android phones, and Amazon Fire TV, your user will be able to purchase your app once on any of those devices and use it across any of the other compatible devices. Not only does this expose your app to new users, it also makes your app available on more screens so it can be in front of your existing customers more often.

Get 500,000 Amazon Coins through Appstore Developer Select

When you launch your app on Fire TV, you will be considered for the Appstore Developer Select program. As part of the Appstore Developer Select program, developers who support Fire TV can receive 500,000 Amazon Coins and create campaigns where customers earn those Coins when they purchase apps and games. This is in addition to the regular program benefits that include 500,000 mobile ad impressions, enhanced merchandising, AWS credits, and additional Amazon Coins incentives. See this blog post for more details on Appstore Developer Select.

Developer Resources

While you can develop Android apps for Amazon Fire TV without an SDK, Amazon does provide an SDK you can download that includes sample code, Javadocs, two .jar files for controller support and messaging, and guidelines for fine-tuning formatting for HDTVs.

Amazon Fire TV resources

Amazon Appstore resources

Get Your App Ready Now

 

March 21, 2014

Mike Hines

Don’t send a gift, we’ll give one to you

Note: Effective 08-26-2015 Free App of the Day (FAD) has been replaced with Amazon Underground.

Yes, on our birthday this year, we’d like to offer you some gifts!  Before we get to the numbers, let’s take the wrapping off our present to you. Starting on March 16th we kicked off our birthday week with discounts on apps and in-app items along with some great Free App of the Day specials (FAD). Starting today and running through Saturday, we’ll offer a “Appstore Hits” FAD bundle, which is valued at over $50 and includes titles like Monopoly, POLARIS Office, Dr. Panda Airport, Swype Keyboard and more.  You can find this FAD bundle at www.amazon.com/FADhits.

We’re also continuing the deals and discounts we kicked off our birthday week with, where you’ll continue to find deals of up to 60% off on select apps plus amazing promotions on in-app items for titles including Wheel of Fortune from Sony Pictures, Terraria from 505 Games and Warner Bros.’ Batman: Arkham City Lockdown. As an added bonus, for a limited time, customers who buy select in-app items within great games like Asphalt 8, Animal Voyage, Kingdoms of Camelot, The Hobbit, Sonic Dash, World at Arms and Despicable Me: Minion Rush can earn up to 50% back on the purchase price in the form of Amazon Coins. 

Great deals will continue to run through March 29th, so check back to our store for the latest. We hope you enjoy these savings. Now on to the numbers.

Amazon Appstore by the numbers

The Amazon Appstore launched on March 22, 2011 with 4,084 apps available for users of Android devices. Since that day, the Kindle Fire line of devices has launched with the Amazon Appstore, and an increasing number of mobile carriers around the world are selling Android phones with the Amazon Appstore pre-installed.

We’re happy that we’ve been able to meet the needs of so many customers over that time. We thought you might like to see some of the numbers from the Amazon Appstore over the years:

Downloads

On our Birthdays, these were the most downloaded apps:

Amazon Appstore Numbers

Number of apps: Over 180,000 in the US

Number of countries: 198

Hours required for a developer to submit an app: Less than 1

Delivering value to developers and customers

Since we started three years ago, both customers and developers have seen value from programs like Free App of the Day, Amazon Coins and Appstore Developer Select. We’ve also expanded our developer services significantly and have launched services like Mobile Associates, which lets developers earn commissions on physical goods sold on Amazon.com, and A/B Testing which helps developers tweak and tune their apps in real-time. These services and others have helped developers earn more money, and we’re certainly not finished yet. Look for more innovative cross-platform programs and services in the years to come. As always at Amazon, it’s still day 1 in this business, and we’re just getting started.

What you can do

  • Keep an eye on the Free App of the Day here.
  • You can get started on the Amazon Appstore in less time than you think.  You can create a free Appstore developer account in less than 30 minutes here.
  • You can submit one of your existing apps in less than an hour (watch this video to learn how).

 

March 11, 2014

Mike Hines

If you are a developer who has had an app in our store for a while, or someone new to our platform, we encourage you to use Amazon Appstore and Kindle Fire badges and branding to help promote your app.  In this article we’ll review badges, other images, links and guidelines for their use with your app and marketing.

Badges:

There are two badges with three color-treatments each that you can use. Here are the badges that you can use to promote the availability of your app in our U.S. store:


The Amazon and Kindle Fire badges above are available in English, Spanish, German, French, Italian and Japanese. The Amazon badges are also available in Portuguese.

You can get full-size downloads of these badges on this page, along with some usage guidance.

Other Images

If you’d like to use a plain icon:

Or if you would like to use a Kindle device image:

You can find links to those resources about half way down this page.

Links to the Amazon Appstore

For web-browser based linking, please:

Use this link structure: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/ASINnumber/ref=mas_pm_app_name

Replace the bold “.com” with your country marketplace suffix. (.com for US, .de for Germany, etc)

Replace the bold “ASINnumber” with your mobile app’s ASIN (Amazon Standard Item Number) and app name. Please use an underscore (_) to separate the words in the “app_name” portion, if your title is more than one word. You can find the ASIN on the Product Details section of your mobile app on www.amazon.com/apps.

For example, this is the Air Patriots link in the German marketplace:

http://www.amazon.de/gp/product/B008KE3960/ref=mas_pm_air_patriots

For in-app advertising or mobile app-based linking:

In the US:

Use this link structure: http://www.amazon.com/gp/mas/dl/android?p=com.example.package&ref=mas_pm_app_name

Replace the bold portions with the package name of your APK, and app name respectively.

For our international stores:

Use this link structure:

amzn://android?p=com.example.package

Replace the bold portion with the package name of your APK.

NOTE: With any of these link structures, please test the links before using them to make sure that they direct to the correct page or search results.

The link instructions above are pretty much identical to the guidance near the bottom of this page.

Other Useful Guidelines

There is still more good stuff on the handy page I keep linking to. This includes guidelines for correct use of the Amazon Appstore trademark when blogging or using social media to promote your app. I would, of course, be remiss if I failed to mention the legal requirements listed at the bottom of the page. Our attorneys have done a good job of breaking the important points down into easily readable bullet points. Please do look at them, it won’t take long.

Just in case you missed the link earlier, you can read all of this information here, on our developer portal.

 

February 21, 2014

Mike Hines

Big Blue Bubble is a Canadian development studio out of Ontario.  In the last few years, they have focused on creating free-to-play games for iOS, Android, including Kindle Fire, and Windows Phone. Their latest update to their app My Singing Monsters includes catchy new tunes from Grammy winner Kristian Bush and is not only a big hit with customers, but a big hit on the Amazon Appstore. Director of Development Bryan Davis shares some general strategy and how they generated 10%-15% better average revenue per user and 25%-30% better IAP revenue in the Amazon Appstore.

In-app purchasing: Big Blue Bubble goes for volume

Davis tells us: “A very important aspect of monetization from free-to-play games is IAP (in-app purchasing). Our strategy is to go for volume, rather than chasing whales.”  While average revenue per user (ARPU) is important, Bryan tells us that a high conversion rate is more important for Big Blue Bubble.

Big Blue Bubble games also use aggressive discounts to be successful.

“Something always needs to be ‘on sale’,” says Bryan. “People like to get discounts, so constantly running the promotions is the way to go.” Bryan recommends letting the promotions run for at least 3-4 days so the majority of your players have a chance to get a discount when they use the app.  

Better ARPU and IAP revenue than other stores

How is this working for Big Blue Bubble? We asked Bryan how well this strategy monetizes on the Amazon Appstore. He stated that: “…the overall revenues per user are just about 10-15% better.” However, “In terms of IAP, Amazon Appstore constantly outperforms other stores by 25%-30%.” 

Pre-Authorized Amazon Customers a Big Help to ARPU

Were there any special tricks or tips Big Blue Bubble used to get IAP to monetize so well on the Amazon Appstore? Bryan noted that: “…the fact that most users already have a credit card on file helps a lot.”

We also asked about downloads, and Bryan said that:

“In terms of download units, Amazon Appstore is still behind Google Play or iTunes App Store. In the Amazon Appstore ARPU is better and customer engagement is about the same.  The Amazon Appstore conversion rate from downloads to installs) is by far the highest and percentage of users with technical issues is the lowest.”

So is it safe to say Big Blue Bubble is happy with their app performance on the Amazon Appstore? “We are very happy with the performance. It is obvious that the user base is growing every day, not only for our game but for the Amazon Appstore as well.”

It’s good to hear that Big Blue Bubble’s monetization strategy is working well on the Amazon Appstore. We asked for any last recommendations, and Bryan had this to say: “Don’t keep [your customers] waiting too long for new content. Keep engaged with your audience at all time.”  We couldn’t agree more.

Learn more about the tools used by Big Blue Bubble:

Amazon Appstore Developer Console

Developer Promotions

Mobile Ads

 

February 19, 2014

Mike Hines

Today, we’re extending Amazon Coins to all Android devices with the Amazon Appstore installed.  Amazon Coins is a way for Amazon Appstore customers to buy and enjoy Android apps, games, and in-app items for less. Customers can save up to 10% on apps and games by purchasing Amazon Coins, while developers continue to get their full 70% revenue share.

More Ways for More Customers to Buy Your Apps

Since the launch of Amazon Coins in the US, UK, and Germany in 2013, customers have already purchased hundreds of millions of Amazon Coins and are actively using them on Kindle Fire devices, representing real dollars to developers.

Now, users of the Amazon Appstore on Android will be able to use Amazon Coins to purchase apps, games, and a broad range of in-app items on any Android device running the Amazon Appstore in the US, UK, or Germany. If a customer is already a Kindle Fire user, he or she will automatically see their existing Coins balance on their other Android devices in addition to their Kindle devices.

How You Can Benefit from This News

We have already seen developers benefit from customers using their Amazon Coins to try out and explore new apps and games. Now that Coins are available to an even larger audience, you can take advantage of the opportunity by making sure your app is available on the largest number of devices.

Check Device Availability

Check your device availability to make sure your app is available to as many Coins-enabled customers as possible.  Checking is easy, and adding supported devices is not much harder. Follow these steps below to get started:

1.      In the Amazon Developer Portal, go to your app’s detail page.

Under the Binary File(s) tab, check the Device Support section for “All non-Amazon Android devices…” (see sample below).

2.      If your app has “All non-Amazon Android devices...” and the Kindle Fire devices listed, then you’re done!

If the entry is missing “All non-Amazon Android devices...” (as shown below), you can change that.

Change this by: a) Modifying your AndroidManifest.xml, b) Creating an ‘Upcoming Version’ in the dev portal, and then c) Submitting the .apk with the new manifest file. Here are the steps to do that:

a.       If you have verified that your .apk will run successfully on some (or most) other Android devices, make sure you reference supported devices in your AndroidManifest.xml file by using <compatible-screens /> or <supports-screens />  (please make sure to increment the version number of your app when you modify the manifest).

b.      Click Add Upcoming Version in the dev portal.

While in the new ‘Upcoming Version’ section, go to the Binary File(s) tab and check all the appropriate boxes.

c.       Upload the .apk with the new manifest.xml, make sure the other tabs are complete (and app version number is different), and re-submit your app.

3.      If your app is not available on Kinde Fire devices, you can use Amazon’s App Testing Service to get the info you need in about a minute. Just drag and drop your .apk into the tool to get your results! You can also check out common reasons for incompatibility, and check out the documentation on our dev portal.

Questions

If you have any questions about Amazon Coins or device availability, please check our dev portal, or contact one of our developer support professionals.

 

February 18, 2014

Mike Hines

We recently posted an update to the Appstore SDK here.

This update introduces two material changes. These are:

  • Unity3D plugin: Using a namespaced version MiniJSON to avoid name conflicts.
  • AdobeAir Plugin: Fixed bug in actionscript when parsing a Date object as type ‘int’ would return an incorrect time.

Please download the latest SDK to get the latest UNITY and Adobe plug-ins and remove the old plug-ins.

 

February 11, 2014

Mike Hines

There is still plenty of room for more great mobile apps. That is, if you’re thorough and obsessed with quality. Recently, I was reminded of the importance of doing a solid job of testing all aspects of an app when reviewing geography bee apps.  

For the last two years, my son has competed in his middle school geography bee, and rather than suggest that he spend his time buried in an atlas, I suggested a handful of apps designed to help students prepare for geography bees. Of the apps that we found, not one app was rated 5-star by customers.

The shortcomings of these apps generally fell into one of three categories:

  • The app was different than described
  • Poor UI/workflow impeded use
  • Deal-Breaker Bugs

Description should match the apps

Sometimes an app might be useful but just doesn’t deliver what a customer expected based on the description. Imagine an app that purports to be a Geography Bee study app, yet quizzes for dates of events and asks for definitions of sedimentary rocks. Some of the apps we tried were like this, being better suited to geology or history quizzes than to a geography bee.

What can you do?

Make sure the product title and app description accurately reflects what the app actually does. The apps that I was disappointed in were not bad apps, just a bad fit for my needs.

Streamlined User Experience

Sometimes an app had solid content, but the navigation was too confusing or it took too many steps. I’m in the business of apps, so I’ll give any app a thorough review. But many users won’t bother to enter their name and age every single time the app launches. And if a customer loses their user state in the middle of a series of questions, you can bet they’ll be frustrated. 

What can you do?

Think more like a user. For example, when a student uses a geography bee app, more than likely they’ll be interrupted. The app not only needs to go from start to finish cleanly, but it also needs to tolerate interruptions, be fast to re-enter, and avoid re-doing completed work. Have someone else try the app and see what he or she tries to do. If they seem frustrated, then it’s probably worth considering whether the experience needs to be re-designed in some way.

Squash the Bugs

Strangely enough, some bugs were easier to live with than problems with UX or failure to deliver on value. Bugs, like truncated buttons, pixelated graphics or having to tap twice on an answer, might cost a star in the rating, but they still leave the app usable. Other bugs, like text entry boxes hidden under keyboards, were considerably more problematic. The app whose UX I liked the best contained outstanding educational content, but it didn’t get much use because it kept crashing on both iOS and Android tablets.

What can you do?

Be maniacal about your QA. If your resources are constrained, there are solid testing services out there. The services have apps that they can refer you to, so you can get a sense of how well the testing works. Check out the referral apps, and if the quality seems top notch, consider using them to help with your QA. This attention to detail can go a long way to help you get the app rating you’re looking for.

 

January 29, 2014

Mike Hines

Last week, I wrote to tell you about the new Dolby SDK that makes it easy for you to optimize the sound on the device to match the different kinds of audio you use in the course of your app. This week, we have some feedback from a developer who has implemented the Dolby Plug-In for their app on Kindle Fire.

Luxurious Animals is a game developer in New York. They wrote the casual game Lux Ahoy!, a netmagazine.com Top-10 game. Before working with Dolby Digital Pro, they didn’t consider audio to be a key component.  However after using the Dolby Plug-in, Luxurious Animals had this to say: “The API created a much richer and more immersive experience, making the game feel more exciting and absorbing.  It really took our game to the next level.”

Overall, Luxurious Animals found the Dolby Plug-in to be easy to work with and required no changes to the overall workflow:

“Adding the Dolby magic to our app was as easy as linking a JAR file with our project and calling Dolby-specific methods from our app. We used the Game audio profile inside the API, which creates a ‘live’ space to best bring out the effect of fast-moving objects in the audio. The API also offers Music, Movie and Voice profile options.  We had Dolby capabilities in the game up and running in less than 15 minutes. The API package comes with a Javadocs and a quick-start guide along with a sample application showing how Dolby APIs should be invoked.

Today, we have a fun casual game that not only has great-looking graphics, but also a rich soundtrack that pulls users in and holds their attention. We are confident these enhancements have increased the overall experience for our customers on the Kindle Fire HD.”

I’m thrilled that Luxurious Animals has been able to improve the customer experience for relatively little effort; it speaks well to the smart API design by the Dolby development team.  

To learn more about the Dolby Digital Plus SDK, please read the previous blog post on the topic here, or get the SDK directly from Dolby here.

 

January 22, 2014

Mike Hines

Note: Effective 08-26-2015 Free App of the Day (FAD) has been replaced with Amazon Underground.

Getting the right exposure for your app is a key ingredient to making it successful. Amazon already has several programs which developers can leverage to help drive visibility to their apps, and developers who want even more visibility think outside the box to tailor their customer experiences to increase engagement with their apps. Tribeplay is one of those game publishers who did just that, by issuing a price discount promotion that drastically increased their revenue.

The team which is based out of China has been building apps since 2012 and created the series of games under the title Dr. Panda that first appeared on iOS and Android. According to Tribeplay, making their Android Apps available on the Amazon Appstore required “little to no extra tweaking.” Tribeplay added that “one of the best things about the Amazon Appstore is that there wasn’t much work to get our apps on there. We already develop for Android, so getting our games on the Amazon Appstore was a real breeze.”

 

 

 

 

The games are available worldwide, but the team wanted to increase sales in Europe so they discounted the price of their apps by more than 50% in select countries. By doing so, Tribeplay saw their gross revenue more than double in UK, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain.

So how did the team accomplish this? Tribeplay ran banners highlighting their price promotion, which caught the attention of customers in the Amazon Appstore. When the Amazon Appstore recognized that their app was trending in customer popularity, Amazon assisted by providing more visibility for the app. “The suite of tools for promotions and sales [that Amazon provides] to help market our apps on the Amazon Appstore more effectively are very valuable.” said Tribeplay, the creators of Dr. Panda. The team saw the app’s sales more than double during the time period, when they increased the visibility of their app. 

Aside from the sales uplift, Dr. Panda was also able to reach a new and unique developer audience on Amazon. “Amazon Appstore is a fantastic platform for us and continues to get better. Through Amazon we’ve been able to reach a whole new demographic and really succeed with them. The fact that the Kindle Fire device line is so integrated to the store has also been a great benefit for both developing and marketing our apps with Amazon customers in mind.” The teams recently joined the Appstore Developer Select program and integrated the Mobile Ads API and are excited to see how the results will turn out. By participating in these programs, the team will receive additional impressions for their app, home page placements, and customized ads for their app in the US.

So how can you increase visibility? Besides having your app perform well, you can ensure your app qualifies for the Appstore Developer Select program, or get your app featured in the Free App of the Day program. If you’re looking for something similar to what Tribeplay did with their promotion, check out the Developer Promotions Console, which allows you to easily discount your apps. Getting your app onto these programs only requires a couple pre-requisites and they all aim at providing visibility for your app. For example, for your app to qualify for the Appstore Developer Select program, it must utilize relevant API’s such as Amazon In-App Purchasing, Amazon Mobile Ads, and Game Circle that all contribute to enhancing the user’s experience in your app. If you need help with these requirements we have a lot of resources available as well. “The Amazon team has always been amazing with their help and advice. Questions we ask are always answered promptly and accurately, and any problems we’ve had have been solved super quickly.” says Tribeplay.

 

January 17, 2014

Mike Hines

Dolby has just released a new Dolby Audio Plug-In for Kindle Fire HD and HDX that helps developers deliver even better audio to their users. Developers can now select an audio profile to optimize the sound based on the kind of audio being delivered. This means optimized audio setting for voice during your app’s dialog, and optimized settings for broad-range sound during your app’s action sequences. All with just a few lines of code you can insert into your app, no re-architecting required!

This isn’t the first time Amazon and Dolby have collaborated. Amazon and Dolby worked together on hardware and software enhancements for the Kindle Fire HD and HDX line of tablets for their launch, delivering Dolby Digital post-processing for native apps. But now Dolby has raised the bar again with Dolby Digital Plus, and the new Dolby Audio APIs for Kindle Fire. (Fear not, Unity fans. There is a Unity plug-in for you too.)

When you use the Dolby Audio Plug-in APIs, you can choose from four audio profiles to tune your sound profile to match the audio use in your app. For example, you can tune your app to use the Voice profile for dialog-heavy parts of your app, and the Game profile for first-person-shooter action. Here are the profiles you can choose from:

-Music: Applies equalization and dynamic range control to enrich instrumental and vocal quality in recorded music

-Movie: Clarifies the dialogue while providing the best representation of the full dynamic range of the program

-Game: Creates a ‘live’ space to best bring out the effect of fast-moving objects in the audio

-Voice: Customized for the reproduction of speech patterns and the tonal range of the human voice

This lets you deliver an optimized audio experience to your users, and it takes very little time to do so. Here are the high level steps to implement this API:

1.      Load the Dolby JAR file and import the DolbyAudioProcessing libraries

2.      Create a OnDolbyAudioProcessingEvent listener

3.      Call getDolbyAudioProcessing to get an instance of the Class (only done once for lifetime of the app)

4.      Wait for the app to connect to the DolbyAudioProcessing handler

5.      Instantiate the audio profiles as needed to in your app (Voice for dialog heavy parts, Game for FPS parts, etc…)

6.      Restore default audio behavior if your app is in the background

7.      Restore default audio behavior by releasing the Dolby instance on destroy

Setting the sound profile to use at different points in your app is pretty easy (see below).

    

You can set profile to Music, Movie, Game or Voice as appropriate at that location in your app.

Overall, integrating the API takes about an hour and does not require re-designing any logic or workflow. It’s a small investment for a big win.

You can download the free sample apk right away so you can hear for yourself how nice this is. To download the API, you need to sign up for a free developer account with Dolby (which took me less than 30 seconds).

Dolby has done a good job of making this easy to deploy. When you download the API package, you’ll get everything you need to get started, including javadocs, a quick start guide, and sample code showing exactly how to invoke Dolby APIs. You can download the free Dolby Audio Plug-in on this page, and learn more about Dolby Developer Services on their developer home page here.

 

January 09, 2014

Mike Hines

Today, we released the new developer portal that improves the look and feel of the site and helps you save time when planning, building, and submitting applications to the Amazon Appstore. 

The portal refresh is designed to make it easy for you to:

1. Get Started: If you have an Android app, you can simply drop your APK in our updated testing widget to get Appstore compatibility test results in just seconds. Once your app is ready, you can create a free developer account and submit it using the Developer Console.

2. Access the Latest Amazon APIs: Download the free Amazon Mobile App SDK for access to APIs and services that can enhance your apps and games, help you monetize them, and engage your audience across Android and iOS platforms.

3. Find the Content that Matters: The new site includes a wide variety of support resources to help you through the development process including documentation, development tools, marketing tips, promotional tools, videos, case studies, blog posts and one of my favorites, a schedule of upcoming training events.

 

 

Top Enhancements

There are many improvements in the new portal, and here are a few stand-outs:

    1. Streamlined App Submission

One thing that you’ll notice right away is how easy it is to check an existing Android .apk for compatibility with the Amazon Appstore. Just drag your .apk to the updated testing widget on the Home page and get results in seconds. If your app is ready to go (as most are), you can start the app submission process directly from the results page.

    2. Site-wide Search

The site-wide search tool in the top navigation bar can quickly get you to the page you are looking for. Just submit the term you are looking for and it will search the site for results.

    3. Complete list of APIs (with cross-platform compatibility notation)

There is now a page where you can find all of the Amazon Appstore APIs, and see their compatible platforms. In the case of the Analytics API for example, you can see that it is compatible with apps sold on iOS, the Google Play Store, and the Amazon App Store.

Also, behind each pretty icon is a page full of documentation, sample code and plug-in information for each service. (I spend a lot of time on these pages when I code.)

    4. Dedicated page for Game Developers

We introduced a page dedicated to the tools and services that Game developers will find most helpful, including game engine plug-ins and cross-platform APIs that can help you maximize revenue from In App Purchasing. (you can still use these even if you’re not a game dev.)

    5. Dedicated pages for HTML5 and iOS developers

Speaking of cross-platform, If you’re not an Android developer we made some changes to become more relevant to you, such as giving HTML5/web app developers their own resources page as well as building a page specifically for iOS developers who may want to take advantage of some of our Analytics tools, A|B Testing tools, or game services.  

    6. Resources for PC and Mac game developers

Even if you don’t program for mobile devices, we still have some great promotion programs.  These are detailed on the Mac and PC page to help you submit your game to Amazon and get noticed in our Digital Games and Software store, Indie Games store and Free-to-Play Store.

    7. Community resources and a calendar of events

We created a Community space, which provides you with access to our Developer Blog and Forums, and lists upcoming events and webinars, and lets you catch up on the latest tech news gathered from periodicals and blogs around the world. Check out the list of events and webinars here.

    8. A Resources section (including how-to videos)

This section contains links to development tools, marketing tips, and promotional programs. Also in this section are and learning resources, which include two of my favorite resources in the site: First is the one-stop-shop for all of the how-to videos, webinar videos, and case-study videos we’ve produced. The second is the Documentation page, which contains easy links to API documentation, Kindle Fire info, dev environment setup help, app submission tips, and even marketing tips.  

      

What hasn’t changed?

The Developer Console (the interface you use to work on app submission forms) has not changed its functionality; it has just been re-skinned. So you can add A|B Experiments, enter new IAP items and other dev console tasks just like you always have.

Take a look at our new developer portal as you build and distribute your apps with Amazon.

December 12, 2013

Mike Hines

On 11/13/2013, Amazon launched a Limited Preview of Amazon AppStream, a service that lets developers run all or parts of their applications from the cloud. The allocated beta slots are filling quickly, and developers have been providing great feedback to the service.

One of the most interesting observations I’ve had so far is the diversity of use cases using Amazon AppStream. There are games using the service, but an equal number of utilities, productivity apps, and entertainment titles as well.  And while my focus is on mobile devices, I found that Amazon AppStream developers target Macs and PCs just as much as they do mobile devices.

Perhaps one of the biggest “ah-ha!” moments I’ve heard about is when participants realize that they can build a hybrid app; one that partly runs in native code on device, and partly runs in the cloud. I asked the AppStream team when this might be a good idea for developers. Here’s what they had to say:

“If you typically write native apps, you might think about using Amazon AppStream to beef up key graphics and scenes when the user is on a lower powered computer by using the richer graphics that a powerful server can generate. Another benefit of having a blended solution is that you can take advantage of any native features or APIs you might want to use.”

While writing blended apps sounds intriguing, one of the valuable aspects of Amazon AppStream is that it lets developers deliver rich experiences on more screens more quickly than re-writing applications in native code.

Certainly other streaming and virtualization technologies exist, but many have suffered from issues with high latency and low resolution. Amazon has managed to mitigate those issues by using the proprietary Amazon AppStream STX protocol, which streams H.264 encoded video and audio over the UDP transport layer, as well as capturing input from the user.  Using this technology, Amazon AppStream is able to produce 720p video at 30 frames per second under a variety of different network conditions (very cool!).

While it’s not as simple as pressing a button, optimizing for Amazon AppStream requires much less work than rebuilding you app for different platforms. To see design considerations for an Amazon AppStream app, see this page

 

December 10, 2013

Mike Hines

We are working to redesign our developer portal to make it easier for you to get started, get the resources you need and distribute your app in the Amazon Appstore. Today, we’d like to invite you try out the re-designed version of the site.

If you’d like to try this test site and provide us feedback, follow the ‘Try our Beta site’ link at the top of the current site to check out the beta. Please provide us with feedback by filling this form or emailing us at new-site-support@amazon.com.

 

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