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Amazon Appstore melts over Android 12 ‘Snow Cone’

Shortly after Android 12 launched in October, users updating to the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system found that the Amazon Appstore – and apps downloaded from it – no longer worked.

Since then, Amazon Appstore customers have been complaining that updating their devices to Android 12 broke their apps – they won’t run – and the problem remains unresolved despite ongoing objections.

One complaint thread on the Amazon forum has been viewed about 4,460 times and currently stretches over 100 responses – including several from Amazon personnel acknowledging the issue over the past few weeks.

A month ago, Amazon’s message was: “Our technical team is aware of this issue and they are currently working on a resolution.”

And it was the same two weeks ago. There was a slight variation three days ago, when an Amazon staffer wrote “Our technical team is still investigating the issue. I will update the thread as soon as we have receive [sic] more information regarding the same.”

On Wednesday, Amazon offered more of the same.

“We are aware and working to resolve an issue impacting app performance and launches for the small number of Amazon Appstore users that have upgraded to Android 12 on their mobile devices,” an Amazon spokesperson told The Register via email. “This issue does not impact Amazon Fire Tablets or Fire TV devices.”

The Register asked whether the issue arises from the Digital Restriction/Rights Management (DRM) system Amazon applies, at the request of developers, to Android apps it distributes through its Appstore. That question has gone unanswered.

Amazon strips Android APKs of developer-signed digital signatures and applies a wrapper to submitted code that includes metadata and its own developer-specific application signature. The metadata is supposed to improve app compatibility with Amazon devices, support analytics, enable policy enforcement, and modify the app to allow DRM if the developer chooses to activate it.

It’s unclear whether Amazon’s APK handling process is connected to the Appstore’s Android 12 allergy. But an individual posting under the name “Eduardo S.” claims there’s a workaround that involves undoing the wrapper.

This requires downloading the APK for a non-functional Appstore-acquired app using another Android device running Android 11 or earlier, decompiling the code, commenting out the bytecode lines associated with Amazon DRM, then recompiling the app and signing it with a self-signed certificate. In theory, this de-Appstored app should run under Android 12, though we’ve not verified it.

Unlike Apple’s self-congratulatory control of iOS app distribution, Google allows third-party app stores to distribute Android applications. Google’s app store, Google Play, offers significantly more apps than Amazon Appstore (~3.5M compared to ~460,000), but at least Amazon provides some competition. And Amazon’s share of the Android app market may see further improvement thanks to Microsoft’s decision to support Android apps in Windows 11 through the Amazon Appstore.

Now all Amazon needs is a store that actually works with the latest version of Android. ®


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