Amazon Prime Instant Video comes to Android tablets with a catch

After bringing Prime Instant Video to Android phones, Amazon sets it free for tablets. Here's how to get it and why you need to jump through so many hoops to do so.

Check the Amazon Instant Video splash page and you'll see the news: You can officially stream videos from Amazon to your Google Android tablet. I say "officially" because tech savvy folks may have already sideloaded, or manually installed, the phone version some time ago. But for the mainstream masses who typically get their apps from the Google Play Store -- a smart move for security reasons -- this is new.

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Unfortunately, the process to get Amazon's video content on your tablet isn't quite cut-and-dry. And there's a method to Amazon's madness here. First the process.

You'll need to install Amazon's Appstore on your tablet. To do that, you'll actually need to disable a security setting, at least temporarily. In your tablet's Settings screen, look under Applications or Security to find the option to allow app installs from unknown sources. Check the box to allow this and then visit Amazon's Appstore installation page for additional instructions and the download.

Once you have Amazon's Appstore app installed on your tablet and you've signed in to your Amazon account, search the store for Prime Instant Video and install it. That's it; now you can watch Amazon Instant Video content on your tablet. Note: I'd recommend most people go back and uncheck the option to allow application installs from unknown sources.

So why all of the jumping through hoops to get this?

The main reason is that Amazon uses the AOSP version, or Android Open Source Project, to power its own line of Fire tablets and the Fire Phone. The company doesn't license Google's version of Android services and apps. As a result, it created its own Amazon Appstore to offer Android-compatible software.

Image: Amazon

That's great if you have an Amazon device, which is a small sub-set of Android devices, but not so good if you have an Android device and want certain Amazon apps; Prime Instant Video being the main one.

For several years, Amazon held back the Prime Instant Video app from Android devices; odd since you can use just about every other Amazon app on them. Aside from the main Amazon shopping app, I've been a long time user of the Amazon MP3 software, for example.

Amazon tried to keep the video app on its own phones and tablets to provide some differentiation but that hasn't significantly boosted device sales. Now the best thing the company can do is provide Prime Instant Video to all Android devices but with the caveat of requiring the Amazon Appstore first. That gives the company user data and the potential for app store revenues -- Amazon shares those with its developers -- from the overall Android community.

I say good luck with that. Most Android users will likely do what I've done: Install the Appstore to get the Prime Instant Video app and then forget the Appstore is even on the device.

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