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In-App Purchasing Overview

Introduction

The In-App Purchasing (IAP) API allows your app to present, process, and fulfill purchases of digital content and subscriptions within your app. Amazon supports an IAP API for Android Apps and Web Apps. This page gives a high-level introduction to the IAP API.

What is In-App Purchasing (IAP)?

With In-App Purchasing (IAP), your app’s users can purchase various types of digital items within your app, such as extra lives for a game or a subscription to premium content.

The following scenarios describe potential use cases for IAP:

  • Create a “freemium” model for your app where the app itself is free but you charge a premium for advanced services or functionality.
  • Allow your customers to purchase items to enhance their gaming experience, such as currency, extra moves, or lives.
  • Unlock bonus levels or mini-games by allowing users to purchase access to this content.
  • Enable customers to subscribe to content available within your app.

The IAP API handles details about purchase flow, payment processing, providing a receipt to your app, and managing rights to the purchasable content, so that you do not have to code these things yourself.

Amazon’s Role in IAP

The Amazon Appstore plays an integral part of the IAP API workflow. Amazon executes the purchase workflow, starting when the customer decides to purchase an item and ending when Amazon provides the app either a receipt for the purchase or a status code, in the case of a failed purchase. You do not need to provide purchase dialogs, transaction timeout logic, or “Thank You” dialogs. The Amazon Appstore provides all of these pieces of a transaction.

Once a user initiates a purchase, the Amazon Appstore client app surfaces and presents an Amazon-branded user interface to complete the transaction. This app presents the user interface for all aspects of the purchase workflow:

  • Logic to display the purchasable item.
  • Perform the purchase.
  • Handle any preconditions or error scenarios.

If a purchase is unsuccessful, the Amazon Appstore presents the relevant messaging to the customer; your app should not message the customer. For example, if the customer does not have a valid credit card on file, the Amazon Appstore redirects the customer to a page where they can update their payment information. Do not provide a confirmation or other interstitial dialog to the customer regarding the purchase flow.

The following table summarizes the separation of responsibility between your app and the Amazon Appstore when implementing IAP:

Responsibility
Your App
Amazon
Presents the catalog of in-app items to the customer for purchase.
Unlocks purchasable functionality.
Manages the purchase flow.
Performs payment processing.
Handles secure communication with the Amazon platform, including payment security.
Verifies entitlements and validates purchase receipts.
Manages billing for auto-renewing subscriptions.
Manages billing for revoking of entitlements.
Verifies receipts for subscriptions and entitlements before providing content to user.
Downloads remotely delivered content.
Displays and uses downloaded digital goods.
Tracks customer purchases and consumable inventory.

IAP Components

If you are new to working with IAP, familiarize yourself with the following components, which are all involved in implementing this feature:

Name Description Documentation (Android App) Documentation (Web App)
IAP SDK Your app uses IAP SDK to execute and fulfill in-app purchases. Get Started with IAP Overview of IAP API for Web Apps
IAP SDK reference In-App Purchasing API 2.0 Reference Web App API Reference
Amazon Appstore Handles payment processing, alerts, fulfillment, and other back-end functionality. Not applicable Not applicable
App Tester Test your app locally before publishing to the Amazon Appstore. Testing IAP IAP SDK Tester for Web Apps
Receipt Verification Service (RVS) Verify the validity of transaction receipts. RVS supports a sandbox environment and a production environment. RVS for Android IAP Apps RVS for Web Apps
Live App Testing Service Beta test your app with a select group of users in a production environment. Live App Testing Live App Testing

Types of Purchases

As you plan your IAP implementation, you will need to define what types of items your app will make available to its users. You will also need to determine how you want to deliver those purchased items. This section gives a brief introduction to the types of purchases supported by IAP.

Refer to the Distribution Agreement for information on what can and cannot be a purchasable item.

Types of Purchasable Items

IAP includes three different categories of purchasable items:

  • Consumables: Purchase that is made, then consumed within the app, such as extra lives, extra moves, or in-game currency. May be purchased multiple times.
  • Entitlements: One-time purchase to unlock access to features or content within an app or game.
  • Subscriptions: Offers access to a premium set of content or features for a limited period of time.

Content Type and Delivery Flows

IAP supports two basic delivery flows: Instantly available content and deliverable content:

  • Instantly Available Content
  • Deliverable content

Instantly Available Content

Instantly available content is unlocked or otherwise made available to the customer upon purchase. Under this model, your app already has everything it needs for the customer to use the purchasable item immediately upon purchase. You can use all three types of purchasable items with this model.

Your app should contain the unique identifiers for each purchasable item (SKUs), the ability to present a catalog to the customer, and logic within the app to unlock the purchasable item upon successful transaction.

Deliverable content

Deliverable content allows you to make new content available to the customer. Under this model, your app will download the new content from your servers and make it available to the customer. Deliverable items typically are subscription items.

Your app should contain the unique identifiers for each purchasable item (SKUs), the ability to present a catalog to the customer, and logic within the app to download, persist, and make available the downloaded content upon successful transaction.

SKUs

A SKU (technically a stock-keeping unit) is a unique identifier for each distinct purchasable item. It is unique to you (specifically your developer account registered on the developer portal), and is a (up to) 150-character length string of arbitrary structure that can contain the characters a-z, A-Z, 0-9, underscores, periods, and dashes, and is case sensitive. Purchasable items and SKUs have a 1:1 mapping. Your app will pass the SKU value via the PurchasingManager helper class to the client. The SKU is how the client knows what the customer is trying to purchase, and will manage the purchase flow accordingly.

You need to ensure that every purchasable item you define has a unique SKU. The SKUs are unique across your developer account. When you submit SKUs for multiple apps you need to ensure that there is no overlap.

Before a SKU can be used, it must be configured via the developer portal. Refer to the developer portal section of the [Frequently Asked Questions][iap-faqs] for information on how to configure SKUs.

App Submission Process

When you are ready to submit your app to the Amazon Appstore, you will also need to create your purchasable items. Use the Developer Console to create and manage the app’s catalog of purchasable items.

If you decide to add or edit your purchasable items after submitting your app, you will need to re-submit both the new/changed items and the app itself to the Amazon Appstore.