Amazon throws its hat in the mobile ad network ring

Amazon logoAmazon today announced its Amazon Mobile Ads API service for mobile developers to monetize their apps.

Amazon is entering a crowded mobile ad network market filled with the likes of Google AdMob, Millennial Media and InMobi. Even Facebook seemed poised to get into this business at one point last year before it ended its test after a few months.

Amazon did not share what cut of ad fees it offers developers, but says its service offers a “competitive eCPM.” According to the company’s publisher agreement, the portion of the advertising fees that a developer will receive “may be adjusted depending on a variety of factors, such as the quality of your inventory or deductions for various expenses.” Ads will come with mobile-optimized display ads from Amazon itself and other “top” brands, the company says.

Amazon’s mobile ads API offers ads in two different flavors. First is the “floating ad,” which acts like a typical mobile banner ad that floats at the bottom of the screen. Second, is the “simple ad,” which is a rich media expandable banner ad such as a video ad.

Amazon simple ad example


For now, the API is in beta and only available for U.S. users and apps for the Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD and other Android smartphones and tablets. Note that for the API to work in a developer’s app, the app has to be available for download on Google Play as well as on the Amazon Appstore for Android.

Developers interested Amazon’s mobile ads API can head here for more information and to download the API.

Apple and Samsung remain top device manufacturers on Millennial Media’s platform

Millennial Media today released its 2012 year in review Mobile Mix Report, which showed Apple and Samsung remaining the top device manufacturers on its platform.Millennial Media logo

Apple remained the No. 1 OEM manufacturer on the mobile ad network’s platform in 2012, increasing its impressions share 5 percent year-over-year from 26 percent to 31 percent of the total impressions on Millennial Media’s top 15 device manufactures list. Samsung also maintained its No. 2 spot on the top 15 device manufactures list, thanks to a 5 percent growth in impressions since 2011 from 17 percent of total impressions on Millennial’s platform to 22 percent. The most notable newcomer to the ad network’s top 15 manufacturers list for 2012 was Amazon, landing at the No. 11.

Apple’s suite of iPhone devices — including the 4S, 5, etc. — also remained the top device on Millennial Media’s network in 2012, accounting for 15.59 percent of impressions, a 72 percent increase year-over-year. Impressions for Samsung’s flagship smartphone device, the Galaxy S, grew 182 percent in 2012, moving the device up five spots to the No. 2 position on Millennial Media’s top 20 mobile phones list. Tablet-wise, the Apple iPad stood pat as the No. 1 tablet on Millennial’s platform for 2012.

Based on ad impressions on Millennial’s network, smartphones were once again the leading device in 2012, increasing 7 percent for a 75 percent share of the total platform impressions. In second were non-phone connected devices — tablets, e-readers, etc. –, increasing 5 percent year-over-year to 20 of impressions in the ad network’s platform. Millennial Media attributed the majority of the growth of that category to the adoption rate increase of tablets. The feature phone category, as expected, fell from 17 percent in 2011 to 5 percent in 2012.Millennial Media Mobile Mix Report February 2013 1

Now the breakdown for the operating systems on devices was stagnant year-over-year. Android was once again the top OS on Millennial’s platform at 48 percent, which was only a 1 percent increase since 2011. iOS was the second largest OS, with 32 percent of the impression share, down one percent year-over-year. Millennial also broke down OS share for tablets, with iOS taking a 58 percent impression share among all tablet OS. Android took a 41 percent share, with Samsung as the leading Android tablet manufacture with a 45 percent share.Millennial Media Mobile Mix Report February 2013 2

Amazon Coins: good idea, awful execution

There is no better sales incentive than free money. It’s just a pity that Amazon’s new virtual currency, Amazon Coins, are not a particularly useful sales incentive.

Amazon Coins -- right, but so wrong

The company unveiled Amazon Coins on Feb. 5, explaining they could be used to purchase apps, games and in-app items on Kindle Fire tablets. Most industry watchers praised the announcement, but more than a few pundits questioned the logic of the coins.

While I’ve already made my opinion fairly clear (skip to 0:34 to get to the relevant part), Amazon’s Coins do deserve more analysis, particularly since so many people are convinced they are brilliant. The real rub is that those people are technically right. Stimulating the Kindle Fire economy is an excellent idea, more so because Amazon desperately needs to do it.

Not long after the Kindle Fire was released, many developers boasted that it monetized far better than other Android based tablets, and that its app store was much more lucrative the official Android market run by Google. As interest in the Kindle Fire has dropped off, however, so have the claims that it was the ultra-profitable Shangri-La Android developers were dreaming of. Competition from the Google’s Nexus-branded Android tablets and Apple’s new iPad Mini have squeezed the Kindle Fire’s share of the mid to low-end tablet market, and the device no longer has the “hot gift” cachet it had when it debuted just before Christmas 2011.

The Kindle Fire app store has always had a much smaller pool of apps and users than Google Play and the iTunes App Store, and as interest wanes in the device, so has the influx of excited new users ready to download apps. Amazon knows this is bad news. After all, developers aren’t interested in making apps for a platform without consumers and consumers don’t want devices with a lousy selection of apps.

Microsoft is in a similar situation; its work-around for the problem has been to incentivize development, assuming the consumers will eventually come for the apps. Meanwhile Amazon is trying the opposite approach, supplying the financial incentives to the consumers and letting developers know there will soon be a lot more liquidity in the Amazon app economy.

It’s a fair tactic that doesn’t penalize the developers that bet on the Amazon Appstore before the company started its stimulus efforts, and it’s technically giving both consumers and developers what they really want — money.

So, why not just supply money? Perhaps credit every Kindle Fire owner’s account with a few dollars via a virtual gift card? Kindle Fire owners already understand how to buy apps with real money and Amazon’s customers are already comfortable with the concept of gift cards. Even if Amazon is planning to roll out some sort of rewards program with Coins (i.e. spend $10 on Kindle Fire apps, games or in-app items and get 100 Amazon Coins), why not just use a cash-back system similar to the one many credit card companies already use?

There is also the matter of what Amazon is looking to gain by creating its own virtual currency.  Microsoft Points were designed specifically to make items look cheaper than they are (an item that costs 79 Microsoft Points actually costs $0.99). Amazon Coins meanwhile, convert one for one to real cents, so Amazon clearly isn’t hoping to target bargain hunters.

Perhaps Amazon is hoping to use Coins to convince people to spend money without having to (technically) open their wallets — after all, when Facebook introduced Credits, the idea was that a universal currency would boost conversion. Again, this is a questionable choice since in the end, Facebook Credits ended up being a mixed bag. While developers saw an increase in conversion, others reported a decrease in average revenue per paying user. In the end, Facebook eliminated Credits less than a year after they were introduced opting to use a local-currency system just like Apple, Android and yes, Amazon were already using.

Millions of people already know and trust Amazon with their credit cards, and Kindle Fire users were already using a standardized payment system with the currency they understood best — dollars. Amazon’s new virtual currency is just complicating the matter with a second payment option.

Temple Run 2 runs to 50 million downloads in two weeks, shatters previous record

Temple Run 2 ran up 50 million downloads in two weeks since it released on iOS, Android and Kindle devices, Imangi Studios says.

Imangi Studios logo

The runner game actually reached the milestone in 13 days, shattering the record for the fastest downloaded mobile game previously held by Angry Birds Space, which reached 50 million downloads in 35 days.

We recently reported that the Raleigh, N.C.-based studio’s Temple Run sequel reached 20 million downloads for iOS in four days, with six million downloads on release day alone.

Earlier this week, Temple Run 2 was No. 1 app on all three top free apps charts — iPhone, iPad and Android. According to our traffic tracking service AppData, Temple Run 2 is currently the No. 2 app on the top free iPhone apps chart, No. 1 on the top free iPad apps chart and No. 1 on the top free Android apps chart.

Amazon revamps Kindle with cheaper 7” version, $299 9” HD Model

As widely anticipated, Amazon has refreshed its popular Kindle Fire tablet, revealing a revamped 7 inch model and a new, more powerful 8.9 inch HD model.

Unveiled today at Amazon’s Los Angeles press event, the updated Kindle Fire keeps the original’s 7 inch display and boasts a new, faster processor which will boost performance by 40 percent according to Amazon, twice the RAM of the original model and a longer battery life. The new Kindle Fire will retail for $159 when it ships on September 14, strategically undercutting the price of Google’s fast-selling Nexus 7 Android tablet, which costs $199 for the 8 GB model.

Amazon’s new Kindle Fire HD is 8.9 inches with a 1920 x 1200 display. Physically, the new tablet is 8.8 mm thick and weighs in at 20 ounces. The processor is a TI OMAP 4470, which Amazon claims can process 50 percent more operations per second than the standard Kindle’s Tegra 3 chip. Amazon has also added stereo speakers and dual band Wi-Fi antennas. The Kindle Fire HD only comes in a 16 GB model. It will cost $299 and a 4G LTE model will also be available for $499. Data plans will cost $49.99 per year and will cap at 250MB of data per month. The Kindle Fire HD will ship on November 20.

Mobile app news roundup: Google Play, the iPhone 5, GREE and DeNA

Google Play gift cards are coming — Google continues to improve the monetization options on Android with gift cards on the way. Android Central reports the latest version of the Play store APK includes references to redeeming gift codes, although they are not currently active.

iPhone 5 anticipation depresses sales of all mobile phones — Gartner Research is reporting that anticipation for the upcoming iPhone 5 is so high, worldwide cellphone sales have declined 2.3 percent year-over-year as consumers hold off on planned purchases and upgrades.

Nokia and Zynga team for feature phone gaming — Draw Something and Zynga Poker are coming to Nokia’s Asha Touch line of phones, according to a Nokia blog post. The games will be free-to-play.

Trulia’s mobile visitors grow 176 percent year-over-year — Real estate search service Trulia has revealed it now receives an average of 4.3 million mobile visits a month, up 176 percent year-over-year, according to its S-1 filing.

DeNA begins disclosing gacha odds — The fallout from the kompu gacha ban continues. As part of the new regulations mobile-social game operators will have to disclose the odds of winning items through randomized gacha draws. As Japanese industry watcher Dr. Serkan Toto reports, DeNA has already begun disclosing these odds.

Android adds 13 new languages to Voice Search – Android users can now use their device’s Voice Search functionality in 13 new languages, Google announced this week. Voice search is now available in: Basque, Bulgarian, Catalan, European Portuguese, Finnish, Galician, Hungarian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Romania, Serbian, Slovak and Swedish, for 42 languages in total.

Gameloft teams with Playmobil — Gameloft signed an exclusive partnership deal with children’s toy manufacturer Playmobile to create a mobile game based on Playmobil’s Pirates line of toys. The free game, which will be called Playmobil Pirates, will be available on iOS and Android by the end of the year.

Trademob opens U.S. office — German mobile ad purchasing platform Trademob has announced it will open a U.S. office in New York. The company aggregates mobile advertisement buying for its customers, allowing them to purchase and compare ads from many different networks.

DeNA adds Twitter messaging to Mobage games – DeNA now allows its Japanese Mobage players to connect their Twitter accounts to its smartphone games. Players can log in through twitter, find their friends though the service and send one another Twitter DMs while plays Mobage games.

GREE announces two new Moshi Monsters games – GREE has announced that as part of its deal with Mind Candy, two new Moshi Monsters games will be coming to its network of games. Moshi Monsters Village and Moshi Monsters: Lost Islands are both due for release in the fall.

Olympic downloads for official app — Neowiz Internet’s official London 2012 Olympics mobile game has been downloaded over five million times since it was released on iOS and Android.

Instagram 3.0 introduces map – The most recent update to the photo sharing app allows users to have all photos tagged with a location appear in a map view.

[Rumor] Amazon to produce 10” Kindle Fire DX — The Digital Reader reports that a new,  10 inch Kindle Fire device has likely obtained FCC approval after being submitted by shell company called Harpers LLC. As the Digital Reader reports, it’s a tactic Amazon has used many times before, in order to keep its upcoming hardware plans a secret.

[Launch] GREE releases Monpla Smash — GREE’s latest english language game is Monpla Smash, a monster-battle game that features more than 100 different monsters to collect. The game is available on iOS now.

[Launch] Airport City lands on iPhone — Game Insight’s top-grossing strategy game Airport City is now available on the iPhone. It was previously available on Android devices and iPads.

[Launch] Outfit7 goes educational with Talking Ginger – Talking Friends developer Outfit7’s latest mobile app is Talking Ginger, an edutainment app designed help young children learn basic skills.

[Funding] Windows Phone voice assistant Ziggy picks up $5 million in funding — Ask Ziggy, a voice-powered virtual assistant similar to Siri for Windows Phone has picked up $5 million in funding from an undisclosed company. Ask Ziggy is using the money to bring its technology to Android and iOS, according to TechCrunch.


Amazon unveils Game Center-like GameCircle, adds leaderboards, achievement and cloud sync to Kindle Fire games

Amazon is bolstering the Kindle Fire’s gaming features, announcing today its GameCircle APIs have come out of beta, allowing all Kindle Fire developers to add social features and cloud saves to their titles.

Similar to Apple’s Game Center service, Amazon’s GameCircle API give developers the ability to add achievements and global leaderboards with percentile rankings to their games. GameCircle also supports cloud syncing, a feature that allows players to resume a game if they switch from one Kindle Fire device to another, and keep their progress and achievements even if they delete an app. Unlike Apple’s Game Center service, it seems Kindle Fire users can’t yet “friend” other users through the GameCircle service. We’ve reached out to Amazon for further clarification.

Today’s announcement confirms the rumors Bloomberg reported last month, alleging social features would be coming to the Kindle Fire imminently. Although Amazon’s move leaves Google Play developers as the only group without access to a platform-wide social gaming layer, Google is heavily rumored to be working on its own Game Center-like service. According to Business Insider’s report, Google’s version would also support leaderboards, achievements and a friend system.

Chartboost and TinyCo lure Kindle Fire devs with up to $2.50 per install

Chartboost and TinyCo want to give developers more incentive to create games for Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet. The two companies are promising to pay Kindle Fire developers who show Chartboost’s ads in their games up to $2.50 for every install they can drive to TinyCo’s titles on the platform.

The pair announced today Kindle Fire developers will receive 100 percent of the proceeds from Chartboost display ads that promote TinyCo’s games and a guaranteed payout of $2.50 per install in the U.S. and the U.K. and $2.00 elsewhere. According to Chartboost and TinyCo, the potential eCPMS from the interstitial ad campaign could range between $16 and $21.

The new Kindle Fire offer is similar to a deal Chartboost and TinyCo offered to iOS developers in November. Although the companies haven’t revealed how many new users TinyCo was able to able add from last year’s iOS campaign, Chartboost CEO Maria Alegre referred to the response as “overwhelming” in today’s press release.

The deal helps TinyCo cement its reputation and attract users on the Kindle Fire, a platform the company already sees as a big moneymaker. In April, TinyCo revealed the Kindle Fire version of its game Tiny Village generates twice the average revenue per user than the iOS version.  The $2.50 install price for U.S. and U.K. installs also shows how much monetization potential TinyCo believes on the platform in the long term. Remember that if a company pays $250 to acquire 100 users and only five percent of them monetize, excluding ad revenues, the company must generate lifetime revenues of $50 for each paying customer in order to break even. The rate is also double the current iOS user acquisition cost of $1.26 per loyal user Fiksu reported at the end of June.

The extended partnership also allows mobile app cross-promotion service Chartboost establish its footing with Kindle Fire developers — a good move considering the stiff competition in the mobile advertising space and the potential of Amazon’s platform. More information about the offer is available on TinyCo’s website.

TinyCo is backed by $18 million in Series A funding from Andreessen Horowitz, and so far Chartboost has raised $2 million from the likes of Translink Capital, SK Telecom Ventures, and XG Ventures.

Amazon to allow social features for Kindle Fire games

Amazon is rumored to release tools for game developers that will allow them to add social features to their games. The information comes from Bloomberg, who spoke to an anonymous source.

The report would make sense, as the company has been openly hiring for developers with social and mobile game development experience for over a year. According to Bloomberg’s source, developers will be able to implement features like monitoring high scores and keeping track of awards won in a game.

Allowing developers the option to add social features to their Kindle Fire games could help the device stay competitive with Apple’s iOS devices and the recently-announced Nexus 7 from Google. While the Kindle Fire had strong initial sales, Amazon hasn’t followed up any sales data, so it’s hard to tell if the device has kept up its momentum.

In order to stay competitive, Amazon needs to provide apps with similar features to those already available on the Apple App Store and Google Play (formerly the Android Marketplace), especially since Amazon’s app store only offers roughly 43,000 apps compared to the 600,000+ available by both Google and Apple.

Image source

This story originally appeared on our sister site Inside Social Games.

InMobi: Tablet impressions grow 88% in six months as the Kindle Fire pulls even further ahead in the Android tablet race

Advertising impressions on tablets are growing twice as fast as they are on smartphones, according to mobile advertising network InMobi.

Over the last six months InMobi has seen the number of tablet impressions grow by 88 percent on its network. Android devices now account for 28.9 percent of all tablet impressions the company serves, up from 18.2 percent in Q4 2011.

InMobi credits the growth in Android tablets almost entirely to the success of Amazon’s Kindle Fire, which alone accounts for 9.2 percent of impressions. The Kindle Fire is the second most popular tablet in the market, behind Apple’s iPad. The third most popular tablet is the Asus Eee Pad Transformer, which accounts for just 5.2 percent of InMobi’s tablet impressions.

Overall, InMobi’s numbers echo the results of another mobile advertising company’s latest study. Competitor Millennial Media’s latest Mobile Mix Report noted impressions on non-phone connected devices (i.e. tablets, e-readers and MP3 players) were up 33 percent quarter-over-quarter. In that category, Millennial reported the iPad was the most popular device, followed by the Samsung Galaxy Tab, with Amazon’s fast-growing Kindle Fire taking the No. 3 spot.

With two of the biggest independent mobile advertising networks both highlighting the growth of the Kindle Fire’s market share among Android tablets, it’s safe to assume if Amazon’s device can continue its momentum it will split the Android market, making Amazon App Store the best way to reach Android tablet owners.  With developers like Crowdstar and TinyCo reporting the Amazon App Store is capable of delivering higher average revenue per user that both Google Play and the iTunes App Store for iPad, it seems prudent for Android developers to begin exploring their options on Amazon if they wish to participate in the Android tablet market at all.

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