The alternative app store for Android is now live—however much Apple doesn't like others using the term "app store,"—where US Android owners can download the new Angry Birds Rio game for free, along with 3,799 other apps. It's been years wandering the desert, but Android users finally have an app oasis of their own.
Amazon's got all the big developers names on there, including Gameloft, Glu Mobile and Rovio, offering up apps either for free or a few dollars and cents. Don't want to waste valuable money on an app that turns out to be... well, rubbish? No problemo says Amazon, who will let you "Test Drive" an app for 30 minutes—within a browser. If you like what you see, you can download and pay for it with one click if you have your payment details already on file with Amazon. They'll also be offering one paid app for free every day for the foreseeable future.
As expected, Amazon's using its web store recommendation algorithm to suggest similar apps for download. You know when you buy a camera on Amazon, and they instantly suggest a camera case or photography book? Same thing. Recommendations are of the "people who bought X also bought Y" variety, which means that, just a few hours into the store's existence, you'll mostly see staples like Evernote and Kindle. As Amazon gains traction in the app biz, though, the recs will become more and more targeted. At its most helpful, the service may even show free (or cheaper) apps that do the same thing as the one you were about to pony up for.
There may only be a relatively small number of apps at the moment, but that will only increase over time, as Google found. And, importantly, the apps that are there are the ones you want. Or at least, ones that won't fry your phone: Amazon will go one step further than Google in ensuring quality stays high, by reviewing each and every app before they go on sale. Don't expect too many stories of Amazon banning booby apps though—Amazon claims they'll only stop them going on sale if they don't function correctly, or if they have security issues.
It wasn't until February that Google offered a viable web-based Android Market. That's not much of a head start, especially given that Amazon's version is already more navigable and user-friendly. Yes, there are some serious apps that are MIA: Facebook, MLB.com at Bat, Words With Friends, The Weather Channel Dropbox, Pandora, MenuPages... you get the idea. But Amazon should still be your first stop on an Android app shopping spree. And once it fills up its shelves a bit more, it'll also be your last.
UPDATE: Amazon's video spells out how to download the app store...but it's a heck of a lot of rigamarole to get the same free apps you can get already through the Android store.