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Amazon Appstore for Android Test Drive hands on: surprisingly cool, but still US-only

Amazon Appstore for Android Test Drive
When Amazon Appstore for Android launched last week, one of its primary features -- Test Drive -- was disabled just a few minutes after it opened. With no try-before-you-buy, no refund process, and 1-Click purchasing ready to strike at any moment, this caused some problems. Anyway, don't despair: Test Drive is now enabled.

Before you get your hopes up, Test Drive doesn't work with every app. The IMDb app works fine -- you can even watch movie trailers on it! -- but the Angry Birds games are sadly not enabled. Some games work surprisingly well, though, like Bubble Buster. There's very little latency, and the framerate is really rather good. The Test Drive experience is so true to life that you even get ads; how cool is that?

Amazon Appstore for Android Test Drive

As for how Test Drive works, it goes something like this: Test Drive launches a virtualized instance of Android in the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). The virtual phone seems to be running a customized -- but fairly standard -- version of Android 2.2.1, and you can actually escape from apps to the home screen. You can even open up the Web browser and surf the Amazon website -- but keyboard input seems to be disabled, so you can't navigate to custom websites.
There is a 30 minute limit on each app Test Drive, but beyond that there are very few limitations. The camera doesn't work, of course, and neither does GPS -- but sound works just fine; you can even turn the volume up and down with the 'hardware' buttons. Also worth noting is that you can also use Test Drive without logging in to your Amazon account.

Test Drive is, without a doubt, very, very cool. If you've played with the Android SDK, you'll be amazed at how fast Test Drive pops up, and the minimal latency is almost miraculous. The only real problem -- and you've probably seen this one coming -- is that the Test Drive is currently restricted to the U.S.

We circumvented the geo restriction by using the Cocoon add-on for Firefox, but any other proxy or VPN should work just fine.

Tags: amazon, amazon appstore, amazon ec2, AmazonAppstore, AmazonEc2, android, apps, ec2, elastic compute cloud, ElasticComputeCloud, hands-on, test drive, TestDrive, virtualization, web