Good and EVO

Shifty Jelly removes apps for HTC EVO from Amazon Appstore due to Free App of the Day contract concerns

Shiftyjellamazon From a consumer standpoint, Amazon's Appstore has been pretty great with its Free App of the Day being the biggest highlight of the service to most HTC EVO users who have downloaded apps from the store. Not having to pay anything for an app is great but most people might not think about what happens to the developer who agrees to have his/her app placed on the main Amazon Appstore page.

Shifty Jelly has taken on the duty to inform people about what really goes on when someone's app becomes the Free App of the Day. When joining Amazon, it is publicly stated that the company pays developers 20% of the asking price of an app. Shifty Jelly claims that Amazon promises to pay the same 20% even when giving away the app for free, a claim I personally could not verify. Shifty Jelly says the dirty secret is that Amazon does not want customers to know that when an app becomes the Free App of the Day, they will actually pay you absolutely no money.

When a dev's app is about to be featured, Amazon send out this email:

As you may already know, the Free App of the Day offer placement is one of the most visible and valuable spaces on the Amazon Appstore. We would like to include your app "[name removed]" in our Free App of the Day calendar. We have seen tremendous results from this promotion spot and believe it will bring you a great deal of positive reviews and traffic. It is an opportunity to build your brand especially in association with a brand like Amazon's. The current price of this placement is at 0% rev share for that one day you are placed.

The bold text is added by Amazon according to Shifty Jelly, which I think sums up exactly how the deal was going to go down. ShiftyJellySales

One item of their argument that seems to show how that exposure can be a double edge sword is their data of how sales went. As you can see in the table at right, their app was not really doing the ground breaking sales that you might expect and obviously you can see why they might have thought agreeing to the Free App of the Day would help exposure. Of note is that despite showing that they would earn $54,805.14, they actually earned $0.00 as stipulated in the email agreement, which they feel tricks customers who might think that downloading the app would help them in some way.

Shifty Jelly's featured app requires them to maintain and provide a server side presence, which actually is now costing them more since they have to support all the new people who downloaded the app while it was free.

In addition to this back and forth, there is laundry list of other complaints and Shifty Jelly is now removing its apps from the Amazon Appstore. And they are not the only ones. It seems another developer, Bithack, who created the game Apparatus is joining the cause as well.

So I leave you to make your own judgement. I feel Shifty Jelly knew what they were getting into, but that does not completely absolve Amazon of some potentially shady practices. What do you think? Will you download another Amazon Free App of the Day?

[Shifty Jelly Blog]
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Bruce Eaton

Bruce Eaton is a former contributing editor at Good and EVO, which was merged into Pocketables in 2012.

Avatar of Bruce Eaton

16 thoughts on “Shifty Jelly removes apps for HTC EVO from Amazon Appstore due to Free App of the Day contract concerns

  • I’m obviously missing something. How does Amazon make money on a free app?

  • I’m not a developer, but it seems to me that Amazon is being completely clear about how the program works.

    I would never have heard of Shifty Jelly or their Pocket Casts product without the Amazon Appstore. So I guess they don’t like exposure, which makes it easy for me to not buy any of their other apps.

    I was never under the impression that Amazon paid the developers to have their apps as the free app of the day. It seemed obvious from the beginning that it was all about brand exposure. And I mean, it’s not like Amazon’s forcing anyone to give their apps away for free. If you don’t want to do it, don’t. It seems ridiculously stupid that Shifty Jelly completely understood how the program works, knew what they were getting into, got pissed off when people downloaded their app, and then decided that it was in their best interest to stop making money from the Appstore by removing themselves from it, despite now having greater hardware costs to support all the new users.

    Something tells me these guys never really knew much about business in the first place.

  • Avatar of bluprint23

    Most free apps I got usually get uninstalled soon after. The reality is that most developers are lazy and some apps get exposed by the free market, the good ones will continue to grow.

  • They make money by luring people to their Appstore with the free apps, and hoping they’ll browse around for other apps afterwards.

  • Avatar of Sam Sarsten

    Will I still download the Free App of the Day?
    Hell yes.
    How long will the Amazon Appstore be in business if they keep screwing over smaller developer?
    Probably not that long.

    Get the free apps while you can.
    (And support the devs)

  • Update: I reviewed the Shifty Jelly blog and learned that Amazon had originally agreed to pay the developers %20 of normal cost of the free app. Now this makes more sense to me. According to this developer, Amazon reneged on its original agreement with the developer.

  • Avatar of Sam Sarsten

    Just read over the original article again. He said he thought it over with his business partner and CHOSE to do the promotion. (Know the repercussions of your actions)

    ‘Nuff said.

  • Avatar of Sam Sarsten

    I believe that if this were the case, we would have a lot more developers fuming over this policy. Obviously these two developers that are getting upset didn’t read the policy right.

  • Avatar of amaults27

    Jelly didn’t read the fine print or weren’t happy with the results/payoff of their deal. Tough titties. If their apps are good and catch on with the public, they’ll make their money sooner or later. I’m sure those Angry Birds guys and Plants vs Zombies fellas aren’t sweating the fact that their app was legally free for 24 hours. Especially since the people who are aren’t going to pay for them anyway can pirate them 365/24.

  • Everybody is sitting here trying to put the blame on the developers. As a software developer I carefully read the Amazon agreement when it came out, just in case I ever wanted to develop an app that might fall under it.

    The agreeement CLEARLY states that Amazon has the right to price the App whatever they want, but they guarantee you a minimum of 20% of your asking price in return. If Amazon is not paying the Devs the agreed-upon 20% of MSRP when they are the Free App of the Day, then they are in the wrong. That is nothing more than a bait-and-switch to benefit THEIR bottom line, and trample others along the way.

    If this turns out to be true and Amazon doesn’t correct it, I will absolutely uninstall Amazon Appstore.

  • Amazon clearly indicated in an email that it was 0% prior to making it the free app of the day. I can’t help but notice that Shifty Jelly’s chart does not include any information following the free app day. What happened the next few days? Did their app have the same anemic sales pace that it had before, or did it improve? If it improved, then I don’t know what more they expect from Amazon. They should not have participated in the program if they were concerned about server costs.

  • I’ve read the same thing and was under the impression that Amazon was paying the dev 20% of the normal price of the app.

    Do they send every dev an email listing 0% or is it only for really weak selling apps that they offer 0%? Maybe it is normally 20% unless your app has very poor sales, then they don’t feel that it is worth giving the 20% as the exposure you get is enough.

    Either way, the dev knew got the email and knew what he was agreeing to. If he had questions, he should have called someone at Amazon and asked about it.

    That’s $54k number listed is laughable though. Certainly no one is spending, paying, or making that kind of money on a free app of the day, or should they expect to.

  • I just read the Shifty Jelly Blog and it is 100% clear that their entire company KNEW what they were agreeing to. They knew that the promotion would result in thousands of downloads and new users. They knew it would mean more support calls. They knew that they wouldn’t get paid anything that day.

    Not only did they know about all this, but they actually had multiple discussions within their company and STILL decided to do it.

    Obviously they are the ones who made the mistake. Now they are going to spread a bunch of ill will and piss off their few real paying customers on the Amazon AppStore. It certainly makes me take note of their name so that I can avoid their apps in the future.

  • Right. They knew about their app’s design and that there would be higher server requirements. So then why did they agree to the promotion?

    They post on their blog that the 2nd day after they had some sales, but then it went back to 0-3 sales per day. I guess they were also pissed that Amazon changed the price of their app to $0.99 for a few days after the promotion. I guess that they were unhappy about this, but they did knowingly agree to Amazon being able to change the price of their apps when they put their app on the AppStore.

    In the end, it just appears that they are a very inexperienced developer/company without any real legal staff. They made a mistake and now they are blaming it on anyone else that they can find.

  • Avatar of davidr521

    Man…someone should have taken a basic typography class before creating that logo.

    That “f” in “Shifty” looks a *little too much* like a “t”…

    I did *not* think that said “Shifty Jelly” at first glance. o_O

  • “which they feel tricks customers who might think that downloading the app would help them in some way”

    How does Shifty Jelly think that Amazon consumers are being tricked? It’s an app offered for free, I’m not paying anything for it so how am I (the consumer) being tricked here?

    Seems to me that Shifty Jelly is having sellers remorse.


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