Amazon this week shipped a Universal Windows Platform (UWP) app version of its core store experience, delighting users who had previously mourned the death of its previous Windows 8 and Windows phone apps. But this app is really just the Amazon web site in an app wrapper. Does that matter?
As it turns out, we can’t quite answer that yet. For now, let’s just say it’s nuanced.
When Amazon announced in July that it was retiring its long-abandoned Windows phone app, many fans took it as yet another sign of the platform’s apocalypse. And while I included a mention of it in my article, The Great Windows Phone App Exodus of 2016, I also noted the incongruity of Amazon’s support of Windows in general. Its core Kindle app hasn’t seen a meaningful update on Windows phone (or Windows 8/10) in years. But Amazon has been surprisingly good about keeping its Audible app up-to-date. Why? Who the frick knows.
Anyway, Amazon has shipped a new UWP app for its web store. Given Amazon’s history with Windows, this announcement is correctly met with cautious optimism. And the cautious part of that is justified: It only takes a few seconds of looking at the app to understand that Amazon simply wrapped its web site in a UWP container and shipped it as an app. Or perhaps we should call such a thing an “app”.
What that means, of course, is that you have to be online to access the app. But then you would have to be online to access an online store, right? I mean, who cares?
But the issues with this new app are many. For starters, because Amazon is simply transmitting the web site, it does nothing to accommodate certain realities of the Windows phone user base. So we get Amazon Prime Video ads right up front, but these videos won’t play on a Windows phone, either through the web site, this “app,” or otherwise. That’s a bit insulting.
As bad, about 15-20 percent of the on-screen real estate is taken up by an empty gutter (on the left) that contains a single Settings (gear) icon. Tap it and you’ll see this little wonder of uselessness. Why the heck does this need to be on-screen all the time? (It’s only slightly less objectionable if you hold the phone in landscape mode.)
OK, I think I’ve explained why Windows phone fans should be cautious about anything Amazon does. But what about the optimism bit? Do we have any reason to believe that things could get better?
Leaving aside the obvious—things could only get better, after all—it’s important to understand that once you have a UWP app, no matter how you get there, it’s possible to update it to support native Windows 10 features. These include such things as a live tile, Cortana integration, support for notifications, and more. So it is possible—notlikely but possible—that Amazon could use this new app as a base for a more native experience on both PCs and Mobile.
Will Amazon do any of that? Honestly, I doubt it. And getting Prime Videos on the platform would be far more important than that stuff anyway. But it’s something to watch for, either way.