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:
AppBrain offers an alternative (and much cleaner) interface to the Google Play Store, which offers several advantages:
- 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’ll add that there’s a market for Adult Apps too now; and a lot of review/forum sites will link to one or more of these markets, e.g., AndroidTapp or AndroidPit AndroLib.
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)
More details on F-Droid can also be found at Wikipedia. Interesting fact: F-Droid is a fork of Aptoide3.
1 as of 06/2014
2 see also Broam’s and daithib8’s comments below – and this list
3 see Wikipedia: F-Droid History