When Amazon launched its Appstore for Android last week, one of the features I was most interested in checking out was the “Test Drive” option which lets you launch apps in a browser window to try before you buy (or download). Unfortunately, at the time I couldn’t for the life of me find a single app to test drive. Even the Bubble Blaster game that was featured on Techcrunch didn’t show me a test drive button.
But this weekend Engadget ran another article on the Test Drive feature, and it looks like Amazon has seriously stepped up the number of apps that you can check out in your web browser, because I’d say that more than half of the apps I clicked on today offer a demo mode.
Basically what’s happening behind the scenes is that Amazon is loading a cloud-based Android emulator to run the application. You can test an app for up to 30 minutes at a time using the web demo. It can be a bit tricky to play a touch-based game using only a mouse pointer, but the service should give you a good idea of whether or not you want to devote precious disk space (and money) to an app before downloading it.
In fact, now that Google has reduced the refund window for Android Market purchases to 15 minutes, the Appstore for Android actually gives you more time to decide whether you really want an App than the official Android marketplace.
What’s more, you can actually exit most games and just use the Android emulator — although you won’t be able to install other apps or surf the web in the browser, since keyboard input is disabled.
The Amazon Appstore is only available for US customers at the moment, so the test drive feature won’t work outside of the US.