The worst part about shopping at Amazon is its awful mobile app

Amazon app on a Pixel 4 XL
Amazon app on a Pixel 4 XL (Image credit: Joe Maring / Android Central)

Growing up in a rural town of about 1,000 people where going to a grocery or superstore required a 15-45-minute drive, online shopping has been my go-to for a good portion of my life. It's how my parents and I ordered countless things while I was growing up, and it's how my wife and I now do a lot of our shopping. When I was a kid and to this very day, Amazon is the site that gets most of my money.

Even though I now live a stone's throw away from stores like Target, Walmart, Best Buy, etc., Amazon is where I often go to buy cleaning supplies, Tim Horton's coffee, phone cases, you name it. And, I imagine that's the case for a lot of people. With two-day (and now one-day shipping in a lot of areas) for Prime subscribers, the convenience Amazon offers remains unmatched.

Source: Joe Maring / Android CentralNone of this looks good

As much as I use and rely on the company, however, that doesn't excuse my distaste for its objectively bad Android app.

Amazon app account page

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

When you're an online-based retailer, having a well-designed app is kind of important. It's the primary way a lot of your customers are going to interact with you, and if it's a bad user experience, they might not come back. In Amazon's case, however, the same rules don't necessarily apply. Its mobile app is not particularly enjoyable to use, but because there's no other company quite like it, Amazon gets away with a sub-par product.

There are two main issues I have with the Amazon app, the first of which is how much is crammed into it. At its core, the app is used for searching for and purchasing things that Amazon sells. This process does work perfectly fine, but if you tap the wrong button or find yourself in a menu you didn't mean to go to, it's easy to be overwhelmed with just how much is going on.

The Account page in the Amazon app is seriously this long. It's ridiculous.

Take the home screen, for example. Below the search bar where you'd expect to find quick links related to your shopping, Amazon's loaded it up with a shortcut to a Whole Foods QR code, a page promoting the benefits you get with Amazon Prime, and links to its Prime Video and and Amazon Music Unlimited services — both of which have their own standalone apps. Oh, and if you tap the shopping cart icon, all of these menu items completely change. Why not, right?

Then there's the Main Menu on the left-side of the app. The top portion offers easy access to your past orders, lists you've made, a way to shop by department, etc. There's a tab for Your Account on this menu, and as you'd expect, it gives you access to all of your account details. I understand that your Amazon account has a lot going on with it, but there's no way you're going to convince me that having 41 different pages of information isn't too much.

Why is the Profile page almost at the very bottom? Why does there need to be a separate page highlighting my No-Rush Rewards balance — shouldn't these just be added to my Amazon credit balance and that's it? Thank god there's three links for my payment options, gift cards, and credit card points. It'd be silly to group all of these in one streamlined page. Oh, and if you want to adjust the app's notifications, Amazon Assistant, AmazonSmile, or 1-Click settings, these are all grouped under a separate Settings section on the Main Menu.

None of this is easy to digest, and while it doesn't really impact the day-to-day experience of buying things, it's huge pain in the butt for those times when you do need to dig a bit deeper in the app for whatever reason.

Secondly, and even more annoying for myself, the overall design and appearance of the Amazon app is bland, boring, and outdated. I'm a stickler for good UI, and that's the last thing I'd use to describe the Amazon app. There's a lot here that I dislike, so I'll try to condense my thoughts as best as I can.

Something I've noticed about the app is that it feels very lifeless and doesn't have a clear direction of what it wants to look or feel like. The flat blue header color isn't visually interesting (and doesn't have any connection with Amazon's orange and navy color pallete), you get two very different (and choppy) animations when opening and closing the Main Menu, and the whole app is overly text-heavy with hardly any use of helpful or interesting icons.

There are smaller things, too, such as the old-looking buttons, Android Gingerbread-era loading indicators, and messy app navigation. The top menu below the search bar scrolls horizontally, the Main Menu is laid out vertically, and the lack of a bottom navigation bar gives it a distinctly different feel compared to most other apps.

Source: Joe Maring / Android CentralApps for Google Shopping, Target, and Jet

Back in November, Amazon actually tested a slightly-tweaked home screen that I had access to for a couple of days before it reverted back to normal.

The updated look wasn't much, but it swapped out the flat blue header for a gradiant color, rounded the corners of the search bar and camera icon, and added a subtle shadow below the search bar. Those are three really small changes, but it made the app feel considerably better and more modern. I don't know why Amazon changed it back to the old layout or if it'll ever come back, but for those few short moments, it looked like Amazon was eager to take action.

Source: Joe Maring / Android CentralA slightly redesigned version of the Amazon app (left) compared to its current from (right)

Amazon has to be careful about how and what it changes with its app considering how many millions of people use it on a daily basis, but the current implementation can't be doing any favors. Yes, I'm sure most of us have grown used to it, but we shouldn't have to settle for something this bad from a company that has virtually endless amounts of cash.

I still do most of my shopping on Amazon due to the company's ridiculous selection and often unbeatable prices, but when I do buy things through other retailers, I find the experience so much more enjoyable. Google Shopping, Jet, Target, and Walmart all offer vastly better mobile apps, and the longer Amazon's app remains stagnent, the more likely I am to check with those other companies before heading straight to Amazon.

Amazon app on a Pixel 4 XL

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

A badly-designed app isn't going to be the sole reason people turn their backs on Amazon, and chances are I'm in the minority of Amazon's customer-base with people that actually notice stuff like this. However, that shouldn't be an excuse for the multi-billion dollar company to not invest time and money into a better user experience for its shoppers.

I continue to spend money at Amazon in spite of my annoyance with its app, because while I prefer the software offered by its competitors, Amazon's fast delivery and unending inventory isn't offered on the same level anywhere else.

As such, I'll go ahead and use my soapbox here to air my grievances until something (hopefully) changes.

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Joe Maring

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

  • Recently I found out (either from here or some other tech site) about an offer through Amazon where if you buy $50 in Amazon gift cards you get a $15 credit on your account for a single purchase. I did it, sent the $50 to my wife to spend on whatever she planned on buying, and figured the $15 credit would show up eventually. They sent the email a few days later confirming the $15 gift credit on my account, but when I open the Android app, there was no way for me to see it (specifically, I wanted to see when it expired). This was the most frustrating thing, too, because there were things that came up that I would have bought, but they were under $15, so I held off until I had more than $15 worth to spend, all the while not knowing when the 15 expired or if it applied, etc. Anyway, that experience was WAY better than when I got credit during Prime Day. The app offered me up credit based on how much I spent as long as I bought through the Amazon app. I purchased enough to earn $25, then when I was ready to buy something for like $10, I contacted support to confirm the credit applied to the next $25 (instead of just one purchase). Turns out, even though the support reps assured me that it applied to the NEXT 25 I spent on Amazon-sold items, it was just the next purchase... So I lost out on $15.
  • Personally I expect all on line vendors to have poor sites or apps. Anything better than "aaaaaargh" is a plus for me. Mind I've done all my Christmas shopping on Amazon this year with no issues at all.
  • Since we reference "getting away with sub par", we could also mention the general Amazon (not app related) bit about how charges are reflected. I track and categorize everything I spend and Amazon makes that a pain. If I order $400 worth of stuff, I annotate it in YNAB as a $400 charge. Amazon then sends 8 different charges to hit my account, and it's a pain to reconcile. I can't figure out why they don't just do one $400 charge (as it was when ordering) then handle the individual vendor charges on the back end. It isn't rocket science.
  • Amazon and at least AliExpress consider themselves market places rather than vendors (even though at least Amazon also acts as a vendor itself). They may want to reflect that in their charges. Other grounds ("reasons") may include warranties and taxes. Another ground could be the fulfillment of orders from different warehouses. I seem to encounter this when buying from the webshop of Lidl here in the Netherlands.
  • I didn't realize people were still using the app. That said, it looks just like the mobile web pages.
  • Many web shops have mobile apps that seem one-site browsers. Script-kidding? Me, I tend to do my shopping in a real browser, with sometimes quite some tabs open.
  • The worst thing about shopping on Amazon is their utterly appalling search. It doesn't find things you have named specifically; it doesn't allow you to exclude terms.
    The second worst thing is the classifications which are misused and accused by sellers so that your filter is useless. For example searching for a phone and specifying 64Gb still shows cases, covers and screen savers!
  • Useless filtering is not at all limited to Amazon. I tend to filter as well as possible, then have the results sorted by price downwards in order to start with the real thing rather than the accessories. (By the way, mind you that units are case-sensitive. "Gb" means gigabit, "GB" means gigabyte.)
  • I worked for when they separated from Amazon. I agree the app is terrible, but you would be astounded by how much work it is to try to maintain product data to support search and navigation.
  • I'll use the desktop for most Amazon things, and only use the mobile app for checking status. To me the bigger deal is when you cancel an order, and the seller rushes it out the door just so they can tell you it's too late.
  • I find the mobile app to be fine. Not awesome but I've never had problems with it. But again I dont use it as much as you. You said you grew up with your parents ordering from Amazon. Guessing you're rather young, as I'm only 32 and when I was growing up, amazon didnt exist and my family didn't even own a computer. Lol. You mention using Amazon for lots of little things. I suppose this depends on what you're buying but I find amazon is a terrible place to shop for every day items (shampoo, soap, cleaning supplies etc). For example I can buy shampoo at walmart for 85 cents a bottle. Price fluctuates on Amazon but same thing is normally 4 dollars a bottle. Free shipping isn't "free" if I'm wasting hundreds of dollars a month overpaying for everyday items. It's worth the 5min trip to store.
  • There are $1 bottles of shampoo available on Amazon with free Prime shipping. I do concede that the particular brand you may use would be more expensive on Amazon though. However, doing a spot check on the brand I use shows that Amazon is actually cheaper per ounce if I buy a larger bottle.
  • I have a better idea: if you live in the US, buy from Amazon only if they offer the lowest total price. Most other stores will ship just as fast, + with Rakuten you'll get cash back too. Stop enabling a monopoly unnecessarily.
  • Amazon is not a monopoly, they're a member of an oligopoly (several, depending on the market - cloud computing, online retail etc). Just because a company is big, that doesn't mean it's a monopoly.
  • Huh, I don't think it's that bad. I find what I need fairly easily. Although I will say I often make the final order on the web using a PC. The main reason I do that is I like to look at bigger pictures of an item sometimes before I make my final decision. Really nothing the app can do about that. (At least not until we have 3D holograms projected out from our phones like in The Expanse. But I digress.) And when I check the status of an order on the app and it is out for delivery on an Amazon truck you can actually follow the location of the driver in near real time. It also tells you how many stops before yours. It helps since I have a receiving room in my high rise condo and they don't always notify right away when something arrives. I think it's kind of cool.
  • The Amazon app is easy to use only if you've used it for a long long time. I hate to say that, because it really means that the UX is terrible. The Google Shopping app is ideally what the Amazon app should strive to be. It is user focused, bubbling only the items that are relevant to the logged-in user, with recommendation engine in the background to offer options.
  • the app is not too bad, - I use it all the time for researching and purchasing. maybe I am used to it. if you want bad, try shopping with amazon alexa.
  • I use it all the time. No problems for me..
  • I find it comical that this article is featured on a website with a notoriously bad app of its own.
  • i have never done any online shopping on my phone, i use my computer, much easier