Here are some of the better known alternatives to the Android Market. These aren’t meant to be replacements for the AM – nothing comes close to being better – but they can and do work well alongside of it, and get you some quality applications (read: paid apps) for free from time to time. To install applications from any of these listed marketplaces, you will need to go into the options of your phone and turn on/tick the box for ‘Allow installation of non-Market apps’ – most commonly located in the Security or Developer Options settings.
Amazon App Store
Kindle Fire owners don’t need to be told about this, and I imagine very few of you out there aren’t aware of it by now, but it needs to be mentioned. Amazon has their own Android store. To sign up, simply go to this page and enter your e-mail or mobile number where it asks for it on the right of the screen – you’ll be mailed a download link for the app store.
Pros: Free paid app offered for free daily, and a fairly simple app to use to install apps – its similar to the traditional Android Market. To date, Amazon has given away apps for free that cost anywhere from 99 cents to $14.99, normally – even hits such as Plants Vs. Zombies, Documents to Go Full Version, Symphony of Eternity, and Tasks n Todos Pro.
Cons: Apps from the Amazon App Store cannot be updated through the Android Market; this is going to be true for all of the stores listed below. Sometimes if you have an app installed from the Android Market, Amazon App Store will try to update it, causing a conflict (but nothing that breaks anything really; you can tell Amazon ‘no’ so the AM continues to provide that apps’ updates); seemingly less frequent updates to the apps you do get. Simply put, get this just for the free app of the day promotions. Note: the free app of the day is seldom a gem; read the reviews!
Calling itself ‘the world’s largest free app store’, GetJar is something you should all have on your radar. Somehow, they’ve made the business of letting people download quality paid apps for free profitable and are thriving. Amazing applications such as Beautiful Widgets, Paper Camera, The Moron Test, and Sentinel 3: Homeworld are just a few of GetJar’s ‘Gold’ apps – like I said, quality paid apps for free – and legally.
Pros: Really, REALLY good apps for nothing.
Currently there is no way to get updates to apps acquired from GetJar whatsoever. EDIT: GetJar Gold Apps are now getting updates! Credit to goshdarnrootintootin on reddit for pointing this out to me.
Learning how to use GetJar can be a little tricky – happily they provide non-confusing instructions (something I’ve never quite gotten the hang of, despite years in IT).
SlideME is another alternative app store – it features a lot of niche applications, non-English applications, and stuff not suitable for the Android Market. It’s a good resource for developers to get their apps out to a wider audience around the world to places the Android Market might not reach.
Pros: Wide selection of apps, some not found on the AM; easy to use/browse app
Cons: Lots of “Engrish” to be found – the result of copy/paste from Google Translate. Not as many big-name apps. Lots of imitations and bogus apps. Watch your permissions and use at your own risk!
F-Droid is a repository for Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) for Android systems run by volunteers, and is non-profit. This is a great place to find apps that are truly off the beaten path; I find myself sating my handheld hipster here quite often – I love having an app or two that nobody else I know has. Sharing this site may end this; however, that won’t stop me from scanning M class planets for life forms. ~~>
Pros: Apps you won’t find anywhere else, always free and open source.
Cons: You never know what you’re going to get. Use at your own risk. These apps may never have been tested on your device. While the devs responsible for the apps are generally amicable and willing to help you if you contact them, I’d recommend you have backups made and a plan for if an app goofs up your phone.
To be fair, about the only thing you may have to suffer through is a battery pull. Still, USE AT YOUR OWN RISK. Also – again with the no updates.