Amazon Kills TestDrive

Amazon announced in a blog post Thursday that it had officially ended its Android app store “TestDrive” feature, which allowed customers to try an app out before buying it, as per an article in The Register. Amazon officially – and quietly – killed functionality on Wednesday, Amazon having “decommissioned” the service a day before it was officially announced.

Amazon’s Corey Badcock noted that more than 16,000 apps had been launched via TestDrive, which, according to Amazon, had 330,000+ apps as of February, 2015. Badcock cited the trend toward freemium apps as the main factor in Amazon TestDrive’s lowered use.

“With the increasing use of ‘free to play’ business models, we have seen a significant decline in customers using TestDrive, and effective 15th April 2015, we will decommission the TestDrive service.”

As TechCrunch notes, most of the apps available through Amazon’s TestDrive were mobile games, and it is hard to find an Android game these days that doesn’t allow for free play. Long gone from mobile (or perhaps never really present at all) are the days when consumers had to pay up front for a game and hope that the purchase would be worthwhile, mobile developers having emulated the successful model of Facebook gaming, making their profits through in-app microtransactions. As previously reported in the Inquisitr even major gaming companies like Blizzard are beginning to rely on microtransactions, with Blizzard’s Hearthstone (a digital card game) landing on iTunes, Google Play and the Amazon App Store last week, a completely free-to-play game that had over 25 million users as of January this year.

While Amazon’s TestDrive numbers tell a compelling story of why the company felt its time had passed, it is unfortunate to see the passing of another implementation of how cloud computing can benefit mobile users. Amazon TestDrive, rather than download anything directly to the user’s device (and potentially open the “free-to-try” model to abuse) worked by opening the app in an emulated Android instance in the Amazon cloud, and then streaming it to the user through their browser. While this didn’t really allow users to see how the app would perform on their own device, it helped maintain security on Amazon’s side.

That isn’t to say that Amazon is giving up on offering trials and other ways to stand out from the default app stores; in March, Amazon announced Amazon Unlocked, which they say will be similar to their Amazon Prime service and will give away paid apps for free. Amazon also recently gave away $105 in apps for free on the Amazon App Store to encourage adoption of the service.

[Photo Illustration by Matt Cardy/Getty Images]