updated 09:12 pm EDT, Tue May 22, 2012
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The latest release of the Amazon Appstore allows owners of selected Android smartphones to try out some apps for free before buying them. Users can interact with select apps as though they had been downloaded, running them through Amazon's store. Amazon is planning to roll out the new feature for a wider selection of phones in the coming months.
The Test Drive feature relies on Amazon's servers, which launch a copy of the selected app on Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud as soon as a user indicates she would like to try it out. The user's interactions with the app are transmitted through the phone's Wi-Fi connection to Amazon's servers, and the servers return video and audio output from the app back to the phone in real time.
The new feature serves to further differentiate Amazon's Appstore from Google's Play Store. Amazon already offers an in-browser Android emulator, allowing users to try out apps before buying them, but the recent app upgrade is the first to bring the feature to users' phones. Currently, the Test Drive Enabled app listing for Amazon lists 16,632 apps compatible with the feature.