How many competing Android markets (other than the Play Store itself) are there and are they any good? Which ones do you use and why?
I use AppBrain because it provides a nice site, and it makes it really easy to install apps onto my phone. Additionally, I'm finding that many bloggers that are reviewing apps are putting links to the AppBrain page for the app in their posts. This makes it really easy to mark something for install while I'm at my computer reading the blog posts, and then install it when I get a chance.
Edit by Izzy:
- search results are much less limited (30 pages à 10 apps = 300 results, much more than Play offers)
- search results "gray out" possible spam, offensive, and otherwise harmful apps. You still can see them, though – but it's quite clear what to skip
- app details page gives the most important details at a glance. It's easy to see what permissions are requested. And if those form "potential dangerous combinations" (called "concerns" at AppBrain), that's automatically pointed out by a warning sign on the permissions tab
- Their app (an alternative to the Playstore app) enables you to skip single (or all) updates on a per-app-base, which keeps your list of "pending updates" quite clean.
For installation, you will be redirected to Google Play. In the past, AppBrain had a separate app for this called the "Fast Web Installer", but unfortunately this app was banned by Google. So even for batch updates, the Playstore app will now be opened for each app separately (not AppBrains fault).
AppBrain App Market (source: AppBrain; click images for larger variants)
Still, I count their Website as a much better alternative to the Google Play website – and the same is to be said for their app, though for installations it has to redirect you as described above.
There are actually several alternatives to the 'official' Google Android market (aka Play Store).
I personally like to search for new apps from my PC browser, and a bit less from my phone. Most (all?) of the markets nowadays offer both, via a dedicated phone-app that you'll have to install, except from the official one which is already there.
Until, well, yesterday, the 'official' market would not have been available from your PC (meaning: on a PC web browser). Now it is, with a neat push-to-your-phone one click installation that is taking away one of the advantages of the competition (see AppBrain). The alternative markets, though, have still their peculiarities. I'll make a short summary but don't expect it to highlight all of the differences. Some markets (e.g. AndSpot) do not offer very specific features to users, but try to gather developers by offering advanced features such as easy stats.
- Amazon AppStore: latest big entry. countries limitations; catalog looking very promising with some (exclusive?) good pay-for apps; also features special offers and daily freebies. Def worth checking out
- AppBrain: born to let you install Android Market applications directly from your PC web browser, also allows you to discover new apps based on the ones you have. It's a meta-store (my favourite before the official market update)
- APKPure: don't need any registration to use it
- SlideME: they provide applications to niche markets, based on geographic location, payment method or even types of applications that users can't find in traditional channels
- Samsung Apps (must be installed on Samsung Galaxy devices, or else you can't use this): Samsung app store, which of course requires you to own a Samsung Android device
- F-Droid they distribute FOSS open source packages that pass audit and verification to ensure that code have no malicious parts.
- GetJar: my latest discovery. Quite a lot of apps, and they have specials ("GOLD") commercial apps for free. Extremely interesting platform for developers, since they seem to offer above-the-average marketing and PS activities!
- TorrApk: it's free and it distributes only free Android apps through their apk files. If you are a developer you can get your account and publish your apps. (NB. Not sure how legit the apps there are, though)
- appsfire: used to be yet another app for discovering official market applications (iOS/Android), now an app advertising agency
I suggest you click on some of these links and see for yourself if the look/applications suit your style!
Thanks to various sources, in particular this thenextweb.com article, and a lot of other stackexchange editing!
For neverending memory, the following are no longer available:
AndSpot: focused around an app for sharing and discovering apps Handango by appia.com: a huge, cross-platform (Symbian/Android/Java/Winmobile...) market aproov: a quite different web look. Register to download via a specific phone app. MobiHand OnlyAndroid: more focused on (expensive) pay apps, but offers discounts and free deals
I've been using F-Droid, which is a smallish repository focused on free and open source tools. Not all encompassing by any means but one of the few that is explicit about showing you the license before you download an app.
Edit by Izzy:
F-Droid is a small, but superb alternative to Google Play. Though it offers only about 1.200 apps1 in its main repository, they are mostly high quality. In comparision, these are some advantages it has over the Playstore:
- Apps are OpenSource, which means they are all free (to support the devs, there are donation buttons on each apps page)
- F-Droid compiles the packages from the sources. This adds a level of security, as it makes sure nothing was "sneaked into". The draw-back is, you cannot simply cross-update apps between the F-Droid main repo and other sources.
- Compiling the sources themselves, they also often throw out "binary blobs" and other unfree material (i.e. included modules from proprietary sources). In many cases, this means the advertisement stuff being removed. This again increases security (and privacy). But in some cases it has the draw-back of some functionality being broken, if the removed part was e.g. stuff enabling specific Google services, such as maps.
- Next to its main repository, F-Droid offers several others2. Developers can provide their own "channel", e.g. for Beta versions. A nice way also for companies or organizations to keep together groups of apps their members are supposed to use.
F-Droid is very clear when it comes to "anti-features" such as ads. If an app in any way deviates from the OpenSource idea, that's pointed out straight in colored boxes you can't miss when browsing the apps pages. Quoting bgvaughan from the comments:
f-droid's Preferences allow you to screen apps by various traits: whether they contain advertising, track your activity, or promote non-free add-ons, among others. While I miss the lack of user ratings on f-droid, and f-droid app versions sometimes trail behind those on Google Play, the fact that I can be sure that anything on f-droid is free, open-source, and not a freaking PITA, is more than enough to recommend its use.
I can also only approve what Nicolas says about F-Droid in his comment:
F-Droid apps are guaranteed open source, ad-free, tracking-free. That means smaller apps that don't waste your bandwidth for anti-features.
F-Droid also offers its own Android client, the F-Droid Application Manager:
F-Droid App (source: AndroidNext; click for larger variant)
SlideME, this is very handy when you want to buy stuff in countries without paid Market. (actually you mention it in your question. I posted this answer just for the sake of completeness)
Don't forget about GetJAR. :-) This market got its first big break when Rovio announced Angry Birds would be exclusive to them when it first launched.
AppsZoom is browsable from your desktop, and gives you downloads, ratings, and reviews. Download via QR barcode, links emailed to you mobile, or instructions to find in the Android Market. Has daily/weekly leaderboards of highest downloaded/rated apps.
Aptoide serves a bunch of repositories in APT style (which some of you might know from Debian and its derivates). They also have their own Android client used to access (search and install apps from) them. For checking available apps, any web browser can be used as well – simply point it to m.aptoide.com. According to Wikipedia, they serve more than 900,000 different apps with over 3.6 billion downloads in over 250,000 stores (as of 5/2017).
Aptoide App for Android (source: Aptoide; click images for larger variants)
Often associated with black markets and other "unsafe sources", that's not what it is by default (like peer-to-peer exchanges are not, and like Youtube isn't – though you easily can find "pirated content" there). Paulo Trezentos, co-founder of Aptoide, kindly pointed out several details behind Aptoide in his answer on How safe is it to use Aptoide? And even more in a mail he sent to me. Some core-points:
- Like Google Play, Aptoide actively scans its repositories for malware. They're using 3 different malware scanners, doing signature checks, and having implemented a chain-of-trust based in the signature of the developers.
- They work with several universities and research centers to make and keep the environment as safe as possible.
- They use a "trust stamp" to mark apps they've thoroughly checked (see the now archived 1000contest). If you see that on the page for an app, you can consider it 99.9% safe (according to Paulo).1
- Privacy is considered a high value. Aptoide is very cautious about the way they internally handle the user’s private information.
- Their “Apps” store is manually curated. So when looking for a way to stay as safe as possible with all those hundred-thousands of repositories, this would be the place (all the app links in this post point there). But even towards all the other repos, Paulo states:
we have a responsibility to assure that the apps in those stores do not harm the end user.
In his mail to me, Paulo concluded: Believe we still can do better. Which to me indicates they don't settle on what they have achieved, but try to continually improve. If you additionally consider there's a company behind the "stores" which recently even filed an antitrust complaint against Google, that should be sufficient to deviate from associating Aptoide with "black markets" and "piracy" any more than Youtube – but rather consider it a good alternative (or supplement) to other Android app markets.
There are some more advantages worth mentioning:
- you can have your own repository there – whether private or public. Their Aptoide Uploader helps you upload your apps there.
- you can use a private repository to automatically backup your apps. Their Aptoide Backup Apps is your helper for that.
- you can schedule installs/updates. Comes in handy when you're e.g. on mobile data, and just found a bigger app you'd prefer installing on WiFi. Just mark it, and when on WiFi toggle the "scheduled installs" (see third screenshot above).
Try that with Google Play :)
1 Example of untrusted app detection:
A couple of things to see here:
- The little yellow exclamation mark with the red "Warning" title is visible immediately; details below are displayed when "show" was clicked
- 3 anti-malware-checks have been run against this package, one of them the Aptoide specific malware guard
- the signature was found suspicious for multiple reasons:
- it is not known to Aptoide as a "trusted signature" (Aptoide maintains a "chain of trust" for signatures, comparable to PGP/GPG)
- it was used elsewhere to sign another developers package (and moreover, that developers signature was known to Aptoide, so that was a "re-sign" possibly introducing a hack of some kind)
- some information on the Anti-Malware checks is included at the end of the box
The Samsung app store is installed on every Samsung mobile device (which is lot). They are ultra helpful unlike every other app store I have submitted to.
It can take over a week to get a new app past their quality control but it's worth the wait. They are so good at reviewing apps that I now submit to Samsung before Google Play.
It can be a little confusing at first to understand what they call their seller office is all about but hey, we are developers so are used to learning curves.
Among other things they review content to ensure that there are no copyright issues (something that can get you banned from Google Play) and they review every option VERY thoroughly on ALL the devices you have selected.
If anything goes wrong and Quality control fails you get a complete breakdown of exactly what went wrong (including log cat) and even a video replicating the issue and they provide details on what is expected from you to fix it and re submit.
What really impresses me is that they are so constructive with their criticisms.
Once an app has been approved by Samsung I am more than happy that I have a very solid app that functions the way I want it to.
I just get a comfortable feeling when Samsung approves one of my apps. They don't tell you off or slap you on the wrists or, in any other way treat you like a naughty school kid if you get something wrong. They just help you to understand what to put right. Google Play will just pull your app and suspend you with no help whatsoever to put things right.
I recently discovered 1mobile.com, which appears to focus on free apps only. Their unique feature are app recommendations organized by topic as "app lists". Also, while they do offer an app for accessing their market, they also have direct APK download links on their website. I find them most useful when Google Play comes to the (wrong) conclusion that for unspecified reasons my device is not deemed compatible with some app.
Caveat: I have no idea where they get their content from; I haven't found much in terms of developer support or an upload interface. They seem to carry pretty much every free app that's available on Google Play. Are they simply scraping Google's website? Are they legit?
Soc.io Mall describes itself as more than just an App Store. It is a mall where you can have apps, games and e-books. Soon it will be enriched with audio books and music!
- Tailored Android Mall based on your preferences
- Many new options not available with other Android stores
- Unique user experience
Antiroid is an excellent website that will provide you with the corresponding free alternative to the paid app (that you may well could have purchased had you been unaware of this website).
The Opera (as in web browser) mobile store has many Android Applications that are arranged by category.
Providing another alternative for Android Users.
Just came across Yandex.Store
Missing in previous answers is AndroidPIT which is running a separate market. Sure, almost all apps found there are also in the Playstore (but not necessarily vice-versa: so for missing apps there are links to the playstore provided). Developers need to actively maintain their apps on this platform (i.e. upload new versions), and for paid apps AndroidPIT provides its own license API.
So what is the plus of this platform? It has an active community (in the forums and the news blogs), and one can use alternative payment methods (e.g. Paypal) in addition to credit cards. Moreover, reviews for apps can be found there as well. So with the playstore comments, local comments, and the reviews, one can get a better idea of what an app is like -- before downloading it. Furthermore, the German branch even has an App Reviews section in their forum, including overviews for apps on a kind of "per-category" base -- which makes it easier to find a suiting app, as similar apps are grouped together.
So if you like that idea, but do not want another "source of apps" (it's a good idea to stick to one market platform, especially for paid apps -- so you don't lose track which app you installed from what source, and get into trouble on a re-install for a new (or factory-reset) device), you can still go there for information.
UPDATE: AndroidPIT has closed its independent app market on 2014-12-31.
Yalp Store allows the download of apps directly from Google Play Store.
By default Yalp Store connects to Google services using a built-in account, so you do not have to own a Google account to use it . The only reason to use a live Google account is to access the paid apps you own or leave reviews.
It has an option to know the number of trackers found in an app and view the app's report via Exodus Privacy
Now Google is focusing on the educational side, offering a special version of its app store called Google Play for Education. (Initially applicable to USA only I believe).
It makes it easier for educators to find apps, books, videos, and other content appropriate for K-12 students, enables bulk purchasing and the ability to distribute apps to a group of students’ tablets wirelessly.
At launch, Google is offering Play for Education bundled with Google Nexus 7 tablets. In early 2014 the company plans to offer Asus Transformer Pad and HP Slate 8 Pro tablets as well.
Teachers can find apps by grade level, subject, or other criteria, and content can be paid for using a purchase order.
Though it's rather a "link only answer", in this case there's no way around as the given source is (hopefully) maintained and the content subject to change: Here's a list of available markets in the DMOZ Mozilla directory, also giving users the possibility to report issues with them (if any). In addition to those already mentioned in answers here, it also names e.g. Aptoide, AOpenSource – altogether at the moment of this writing 25 Android markets.
AppsLib claims to be the application marketplace specifically for Android Tablets.
Aurora Store is an UnOfficial FOSS client to Google's Play Store, with an elegant design, using Aurora you can download apps, update existing apps, search for apps, get details about in-app trackers and much more.
You can also Spoof your Device Information, Language and Region to get access to the apps that are not yet available or restricted in your Country | Device.
Aurora Store does not require Google's Proprietary Framework to operate, it works perfectly fine with or without GooglePlayService or MicroG. Thereby avoiding the various privacy issues.