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When Free (as in beer) really isn't Free

The image capture above is what happened when I tried to start Angry Birds Rio today. I downloaded Angry Birds Rio from Amazon using the Amazon App Store application I installed from the Android Market. Truth be told I installed it because I heard that Amazon was offering "a paid app for free every day", and who doesn't like free?

So I installed it, logged into my regular Amazon account, and over the last month installed a number of top-drawer Android apps that happened to be free for a particular day. One of those apps was Angry Birds Rio.

I starting playing Angry Birds on my Apple iPod Touch when I purchased it through the Apple App store for 99 cents. It was a fun game, but most significantly, it had no ads and there was nothing to keep me from playing it, no matter what. That meant that if I was in an area where there was no connectivity and I needed to kill some time I could still play the app.

When I installed the Amazon app, one of the first apps it offered for free was Angry Birds Rio. So I installed it and started to play it immediately. Angry Birds Rio's play on my Android handset was smooth and the display was outstanding, far better than what I experienced with the original Angry Birds on the iPod Touch. And that's the way it was until about three weeks into playing the game, when ads started to show up between sets.

The ads that showed up were for the movie Rio. Yes, my wife and I went to see movie, but we were planning on seeing it anyway. The in-app ads did nothing to convince me one way or the other to see the movie, and only served as an annoyance. Then, today, came the surprise you see above; the Amazon login-to-play dialog.

It looks like the Amazon App Store login times out after a certain period of time, apparently measured in weeks. This is a reasonable security feature (I suppose), but it had an unintended consequence; my so-called free app would no longer run.

It's bad enough to have in-app ads for free aps. That's usually a motivation for me to either buy the app or else get rid of it. This goes one step further. When I refused to login, the app didn't just exit, it reset my phone. When my phone gets reset a lot of other data gets reset, such as the web browser. If I've left the web browser on a page, or have multiple pages open, the browser is set back to a single page and the page points to T-Mobile's Web2Go page. Fortunately, it doesn't drop a call (while on hold, for example). But the behavior is bad enough.

The Angry Birds Rio app is now deleted. I didn't pay for it so nothing's lost, except the time wasted playing it. The Amazon App Store app is gone as well. If I need apps in the future I'll either side-load them or install them from the Android Marketplace.

For this and other reasons, Amazon is no longer my first go-to online store. I've been buying from Amazon since 1996, when I started buying books on-line. After 15 years and all the changes Amazon has gone through, Amazon has evolved into this tentacled monster that's trying to insert itself into my electronic devices, and I won't abide that. If having Amazon means they're surreptitiously a part of my electronic devices, snooping on what I do and when, then I don't want to have anything to do with them. I won't give up my privacy for a free game app, or any other app for that matter. The Google Marketplace doesn't seem to do that, but Amazon surely does.

All the free apps via Amazon App Store are gone. The Amazon App Store app itself is gone. Goodbye Amazon.


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