The Google Play Store has more than a million apps on it and billions of downloads each month, but it’s not the only place to get apps. There are many alternative Android app stores out there that you can use anytime you want. We decided to take a look at what’s out there.
Why use another Android app store?
There are a number of reasons that you might venture beyond Google Play. Most of the alternative Android app markets out there offer something to set themselves apart. Here’s a quick rundown of the main incentives:
- Free apps and promotions: Many app stores feature a free app of the day, a discounted premium app, or some other money-saving offer, making discovering new and useful apps simple.
- App recommendations: Similarly, these stores might offer recommended apps that don’t pop up in the Google Play top ten charts.
- Curated list: Some apps stores have a specific focus and a smaller selection of app choices that have been filtered for quality, age group, or purpose.
- Localized portal: There are app stores that specifically cater to different countries, and may offer localized apps you wouldn’t find otherwise.
If you are an Android developer, you’ll also want to consider alternative Android app stores in order to maximize your exposure and ultimately your income.
What are the risks and problems?
The big risk is malware. In our Android app security basics article, we recommended sticking to Google Play and avoiding third-party app stores. The security policy on different Android app stores will vary; some will perform similar safety checks to Google, while others won’t. If you are going to take the risk, then consider installing one of the top Android security apps first.
You will need to go into your Settings > Security menu, and tick Unknown sources to allow downloads of non-Play Store apps.
Other problems you may encounter relate to a poor user experience. There are also app stores that carry pirated versions of apps and games.
For developers, the problems are more complicated. The terms and conditions may result in enforced promotions, the developer portal might be less than transparent, and updates can take longer to push out.
Best alternative Android app stores
There is a surprising number of alternative Android app stores, but many of them don’t offer much. However, there are a handful of app stores that offer experiences or fulfill certain niche use-cases that make them worthwhile secondary choices.
The highest profile alternative to Google Play is definitely the Amazon Appstore, and it’s the default location for Amazon’s Kindle line of tablets. It offers a much smaller selection of apps and games than Google Play, but everything has passed Amazon’s quality control standards. It is polished and easy to use.
For consumers, there are two obvious advantages to using the Amazon Appstore, most notably the free app of the day promotion, which features great premium apps. You can also use the Test Drive feature to try out apps in your browser before you buy.
For developers, it could be a good source of extra income. That said, some developers have reported huge download numbers off the back of the free app of the day promotion, but no resulting increase in sales once the promotion is over. You are also likely to do better with tablet optimized apps than smartphone apps in general, as Kindle users are the primary customers.
You’ll find a huge repository of free apps here for various platforms including Android. GetJar is fairly basic, but apps are divided into categories and sub-categories within the store to make it easier to find what you want. You’ll also find likes or dislikes and comments on each app from users. GetJar can also connect with Facebook. On the downside, you will encounter sponsored recommendations, but they are clearly marked.
GetJar’s clever draw is to offer premium apps to users for free to generate traffic, and then monetize that traffic with advertising dollars. App developers considering GetJar might be tempted by the virtual currency tie-ins, and the option to target new users with different kinds of promotions. Be warned, though, the submission process might take a while.
This alternative Android app store has a global reach and a decent user base. It offers free and premium apps in various categories and they all pass through a quality control process. One of the attractions for users is availability globally and support for various payment options, including PayPal. It’s also easy to filter your searches, and you’ll find good app descriptions.
There is probably a greater enticement for developers because Slide ME offers the chance to target a wider international audience. Apps are also more likely to be discovered, thanks to the search filter options. Developers can set prices and choose to offer their apps for free. There is also a Slide ME ad network, and it is even possible to get a greater percentage of the revenue generated by your app with Slide ME — potentially more than the standard 70 percent you’ll get through most other app stores.
The very specific focus of F-Droid is to offer free and open source software (FOSS) Android apps. It’s basic, but apps on the store are categorized, and the list is searchable. You’ll find a big selection of free apps here, all of which promise no tracking, no ads, and no dependencies. It’s worth checking out for free apps, especially if you support the open source movement.
Obviously, developers will only want to venture here if they intend to release their creations with no expectation of profit.
Four more alternative Android app stores
Most manufacturers try to entice people to use their apps and services. Some companies, like Sony, with fingers in a lot of pies, want you to commit to their ecosystem of content. As the biggest and most successful Android device manufacturer around, Samsung has been offering a range of its own services and content on all of its devices, and that includes apps. The old app was Samsung Apps, then it became S Suggest, and it was finally re-branded as Galaxy Apps in July 2014. There’s also a website that you can sign into, enabling you to browse apps and send them directly to your device.
Galaxy Apps is supposed to draw on a special algorithm to assess a bunch of data and offer intelligently tailored recommendations for you. On the surface, however, it appears to recommend the same old suspects. Furthermore, the search options aren’t great.
If you want to get your app on Galaxy Apps, there is a submission process to get your app certified. The income split is a standard 70/30, with 70 percent going to the developer and 30 percent for Samsung. As the number one smartphone manufacturer, with app distribution across 125 countries, it’s probably worth considering.
AppsLib was created by Archos, and is the app marketplace for Android devices that couldn’t get Google certification, mainly tablets. It comes pre-installed on a number of devices from smaller manufacturers. There are almost 40,000 apps on offer, and each one has been certified as compatible with specific devices. They are categorized, and there’s even an adult section, which is PIN protected. You can also pay for apps using PayPal.
Developers can target devices beyond the reach of the Play Store with AppsLib and they can choose which devices they want their wares to appear on. The money is split is the standard 70/30 deal again.
Here’s an interesting alternative app store that offers a large collection of curated apps. Mobogenie boasts an intelligent recommendation engine that’s supposed to analyze your preferences and make sensible suggestions. The interface is good, access is offered globally, and there’s no registration. Mobogenie also works as a file manager, and it allows you to download other content beyond apps such as wallpapers, ringtones, books, and YouTube videos.
Mobogenie has some interesting features, such as a PC client, meaning you can easily transfer files back and forth between your phone, tablet, and computer. The toolkit offers all sorts of phone or tablet management options from your computer, most usefully the option to backup your device content including contacts, messages, apps, music, images, and videos. You can also batch install apps, copy/paste files, and more.
Developers may find Mobogenie to be a great option for selling their apps. There’s an app review process with a snappy 24 hour turnaround, and the revenue split is an attractive 80/20. Mobogenie was originally developed in India and has a large user base there, but also supports multiple languages and could provide inroads into some markets where the Play Store isn’t so popular.
Itch.io is a Web-based games marketplace where indie developers can offer up their games for download. The store is normally accessed via the Web on a PC, but there is an Android-specific area of the the storefront where you can a purchase and download many interesting games, and search filters to find exactly the type of game you’re after.
You won’t find in-app purchases here — These titles are more experimental than the typical games one would find on an app store. Many of itch.io’s games come out of game jams — community game development events where game makers create a small game in a short time frame, usually within a theme or concept (like “cyberpunk” or “wizard”). Ranging from free, to just a few dollars, and with everything from puzzle games, to adventure games, first-person shooters, hardcore RPGs, and even dating sims, itch.io’s Android store is great for gamers on the go.
Game developers can get a lot out of itch.io as well. Not only can developers upload their games easily, they also get to control exactly how much money itch.io gets on purchases. Not only that, but there is a dedicated itch.io Android app that gives an overview of purchases, downloads, page views, and other useful metrics.
The list goes on
There are many more alternative Android app stores out there, but most of them have small user bases. For developers, it’s always worth trying to widen the net and offer your apps in as many places as possible, but some of the smaller options might not be worth the time and effort. For users seeking apps, the apps available on the stores beyond those discussed above are limited. If a store doesn’t offer some unique hook to pull you in, then it’s tough to see why you’d bother.
With all that in mind, if you’re still looking for more Android app distribution options or sources, then here’s a quick list:
1Mobile, App Brain, AppsZoom, Andaponline, Aptoide, Brophone, Mobango, Mobile9, Nexva, Opera Mobile App Store, Pandaapp, Soc.io, Softonic, and there’s also the Baidu App Store and Xiaomi’s Mi App store in China, and Yandex in Russia.
Finding the gold in the Play Store
If you are seeking an alternative app store because you find the Play Store overwhelming and difficult to search, then we have another solution to suggest. You could try an app that’s designed to improve the app discovery process and aid you in finding the content you want, but that still ultimately plugs into the Play Store to download and install apps and games.
We use Best Apps Market because it highlights trending content, has a huge range of categories, and many of the apps are reviewed and tested. If you are focusing on games, you won’t find a better app than Fetch because it allows you to search by multiple traits. For example, you can filter the results down to search for something as specific as, “3D horror shooter with great music where you have to defend and use resources.” There are over 100 traits to help you find the right title.
If you have experiences, good or bad, with any of the alternative Android app stores mentioned, or even if you want to mention another one, please post a comment.