Amazon’s new app lets you get paid apps for free

Amazon is launching a new app for Android users that offers usually paid-for apps for free, with the U.S. e-commerce giant footing the bill.

The app, called Amazon Underground, offers its usual shopping features and is effectively a shopping site as well as an app store. But the big hook is that the Amazon is offering users popular apps that would normally have to be paid for on the rival Google Play store.

"Many apps and games that are marked as 'free' turn out not to be completely free. They use in-app payments to charge you for special items or to unlock features or levels," Amazon wrote on its website Thursday.


"In Underground, you will find 100 percent free versions of popular premium titles."

The U.S. e-commerce player already has games such as "Fruit Ninja", "Star Wars Rebels: Recon Missions", and "Angry Birds" signed up.

Amazon has been able to make these apps free by paying game developers a "certain amount on a per-minute played basis in exchange for them waiving their normal in-app fees." Those games will be marked with an "actually free" banner within Amazon's app.

But users aren't able to download Underground from the Google Play store – the most popular Android app store – because the U.S. search giant does not let rival app stores list on its platform. Instead users have to make a change to their security settings on their device, follow a link, then finally download the app. Also, Underground is not pre-installed on devices except Amazon's Fire devices.

The install process could hinder the potential success of the app.

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"You can't do it through Google Play as you have to go through several stages and that is enough to put off users," Jack Kent, senior mobile analyst at IHS, told CNBC by phone.

Amazon has been focusing heavily on pushing its app store and games. The Underground app – combining apps and its usual shopping features – is an attempt to keep users in its "ecosystem," Kent added.

"By paying for the apps, Amazon is showing that the app store's role is part of a bigger strategy to drive users into its ecosystem," Kent said.