Amazon To Stop Offering Free Android Apps, Ending 'Underground Actually Free' Program


Amazon is going to shutter its "Underground Actually Program," which offers Android users Android apps for free that would typically cost money, including apps which used a microtransaction model.

Amazon announced the shutdown on Friday, April 28. Before, it had promised that the service would receive long-term support. Now, however, Amazon says it's poised to completely discontinue the program in 2019.

Underground Actually Free Program

When it launched in 2015, the program included well-known titles, such as Angry Birds Slingshot Stella, and Frozen Free Fall, among others. Underground has over 20,000 apps at present, the site claims.

The idea behind it was for Amazon to convince users to pick up its Fire-branded tablets, where the Underground apps were available.

Since the apps were normally priced at a premium when downloaded from the official Play Store, Amazon offset the cost by using a unique compensation model. It paid the developers based on how much time a user spent on a certain app.

This kind of tradeoff, however, is no stranger to Amazon. It had previously leveraged such a system for its Kindle Unlimited subscription service, which paid writers based on how many pages users read.

At the time of its launch, Amazon stated that the Underground program wasn't going to be a one-time thing; it was going to be a long-term commitment. Yet, it appears that statement won't hold water anymore.

Why Is Amazon Shutting Down The Underground Actually Free Program?

Amazon says in a blog post that it will still pay developers for every minute customers use their apps, but it won't continue accepting app and game submissions anymore. Beyond reiterating that developers have other ways to make money off their apps, such as selling merchandise via Merch by Amazon, it didn't elaborate why it's canceling the program.

Amazon will cut off the program piecemeal, first by prohibiting new app and game submissions, as previously stated. Then, it'll restrict access to the program through its Appstore for Android this summer. The app, however, will still perform its typical functions.

"Android customers will continue to have access to the Amazon Underground app to shop for physical goods and access Prime Video content and can enjoy previously installed Underground Actually Free apps," says Amazon.

Those who own Fire tablets can keep using their apps that were downloaded through Underground, and they'll be given access to the Underground Actually Free store until 2019. Even so, newer Fire tablets won't get the same treatment.

Though new developers won't be able to submit their apps to the program, existing ones may still submit updates to their respective apps. Again, Fire tablet owners may still update and install apps from the Underground store, but that access will cease in 2019.

It's unfortunate news, to be sure, but 2019 is still pretty far ahead, so it's not entirely a shocking pullout.

Have you downloaded apps through Amazon's Underground Actually Program? What do you think about the company's decision to nix it completely? Feel free to sound off in the comments section below!

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