In July of 2013 Google announced that the Google Play Store had broken the 1 million app barrier. You would imagine that might be enough for most people. As the default location, it is obviously the most popular place to go for Android apps. The 50 billion download mark was surpassed at the end of the summer, but there are actually a lot of alternative Android app stores out there. We decided to take a look.
Updated on 12/5/2013 by Simon: Added Samsung Apps, AppsLib, and a number of entries to the list at the end. Removed Appoke as it went out of business. Added section on app discovery with apps in Play Store.
Why use another Android app store?
There are actually quite a few 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: You might enjoy a free app of the day, a discounted premium app, or some other money-saving offer.
- App recommendations: You might want to uncover some recommended apps that don’t pop up in the Google Play top ten charts.
- Curated list: You might want a smaller selection of app choices that have been filtered for quality or for a specific age group or purpose.
- Localized portal: You might want an app store that specifically caters to your country.
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, 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 are a surprising number of Android app stores, but we can safely say that many of them don’t offer much in the way of enticement. We’ll run through some of the top options here that actually offer specific benefits to draw you in and then list out some others at the end.
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, 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. The free app of the day promotion has featured some great premium apps. You can also use the Test Drive feature to try out apps in your browser before you buy.
It is limited to the U.S. and a smattering of European nations right now (UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain).
For developers it could be a good source of extra income, but there have been rumblings about Amazon’s right to choose when to do promotions. Some developers have reported huge download numbers off the back of the free app of the day promotion, but no resulting increase in sales. You are also likely to do better with tablet optimized apps than smartphone apps in general.
You’ll find a huge repository of free apps here for various platforms including Android. It’s fairly basic, but apps are divided into categories and sub-categories to make it easier to find what you want. You’ll also find likes or dislikes and comments on each app from users. It can also connect with Facebook. On the downside, you will encounter sponsored recommendations, but they are clearly marked.
Through the GetJar Gold system and the GetJar Rewards app, you can discover apps tailored for your requirements and you can earn rewards that will give you premium apps and upgrades to your favorites for free.
GetJar’s clever draw is to offer premium apps to users for free to generate traffic and then monetize that traffic with advertising dollars. Developers might be tempted by the virtual currency tie-ins and the option to target new users with different kinds of promotions. It is possible to integrate GetJar Gold into your apps, and it has 50 million users. 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 more likely to stand out because the choice is more refined. Developers can set prices and choose to offer their apps for free. There is also a Slide ME ad network. It is even possible to get a greater percentage of the revenue generated by your app with Slide ME, than the standard 70 percent you’ll get in most places.
The very specific focus of F-Droid is free and open source software (FOSS) Android apps. It’s pretty basic, but there is some categorization and the list is searchable. You’ll find a big selection of free apps here and they all 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.
Most manufacturers try to entice people to use their own 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, but it has been replaced by S Suggest on all its Android devices. There is also a website that you can sign into and it enables you to browse apps and send them directly to your device.
S Suggest is supposed to draw on a special algorithm to assess a bunch of data and throw up intelligent tailored recommendations for you. On the surface it appears to recommend the same old suspects. There are a lot of categories, and it’s a slightly different view of the mass of Android apps on offer, so it could help you find something new, but the search function is terrible.
For developers there is a submission process that allows you 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.
This Android app market is for Android devices that couldn’t get Google certification, mainly tablets. It comes pre-installed on a number of devices from smaller manufacturers and it was created by Archos. 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.
The list goes on
There are a lot more alternative Android app stores out there, but many 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 are going to represent a pretty poor return for your time and effort. For users seeking apps, if a store doesn’t offer some unique hook to pull you in then it’s tough to see why you’d bother.
If you’re still looking for more Android app distribution options or sources then here’s a quick list:
1Mobile, Appia, App Brain, AppsFire, AppsZoom, Android Pit, Brophone, CNET, Handango, Handster, Insyde Market, Mobango, Mobile9, Nexva,Opera Mobile App Store, Soc.io, and there’s also the Baidu 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, it 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 a 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.
Article originally published on 11/15/2012.