Amazon to stop offering new 'Actually Free' apps as it shutters Underground service

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Amazon’s App Store has long been a destination for savvy Android users to find popular apps for free or at a reduced cost compared to Google’s Play Store. In its early days, Amazon’s marketplace would offer up a different free app every day. In 2015, the company discontinued that promotion, but in its place launched Amazon Underground — a separate app where developers could give away their software, and Amazon would reimburse them depending on the amount of time people spent using it.

Some of these apps were even listed as “actually free,” meaning everything from the initial download cost to in-app purchases was slashed — something you don’t often see in Google’s or Apple’s mobile storefront. Unfortunately, however, it appears Underground’s days are numbered. On Monday, the company announced plans to shutter the program.

If you’re a developer, May 31 will be the last day to submit your app or game to Underground. Amazon says that Underground will stay around exclusively for these apps until 2019, meaning you’ll still be able to snag them for free, updates will continue, and developers will keep receiving reimbursements for quite some time. However, new apps will stop appearing on the service after this month — so although Underground won’t completely end for another year and a half, it could lose its appeal much sooner than that.

If you’ve been accessing Underground via the regular Amazon App Store, that will no longer be possible after this summer. You’ll have to download the dedicated Underground app.

The loss of Underground is a significant blow to Amazon’s store, which doesn’t offer the breadth of content of Google’s platform and also needs to be sideloaded on devices other than the company’s own Fire tablets. Without it, there isn’t much to entice shoppers, and Amazon hasn’t mentioned any new program to take its place.

Thankfully, if you’re on the hunt for a new third-party storefront to get your apps for a reduced cost, Android has several alternatives, like GetJar and Slide Me. These may not offer the polish of Google’s or Amazon’s offerings, but they have their own perks — like higher developer revenues, in the case of Slide Me. You can read about our favorite alternative Android shopping destinations here.

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