When people talk about app stores, they are mostly referring to Apple’s App Store or Play Store by Google. These two stores account for over 90% of all app downloads in the world. However, there are more than 400 app stores in the world, and there is a good case for their existence, both from a developer’s perspective and the users.
One of the main arguments for the existence of alternative app stores is to wrestle control away from two companies. Apple and Google wield a lot of control in the mobile app market as it exists currently. Apps can always be removed from Play Store or Apple’s App Store for violating community guidelines. At the same time, the review process before publishing new apps or updates may prove frustrating for some developers.
Google and Apple take up to 30% of all paid app purchases and in-app purchases from apps downloaded on their store. Some stores exist to offer a fairer revenue split for app creators.
For app users, alternative app stores are an attraction because they offer access to content, they currently cannot access on the official Android or iOS stores. Some apps may be geo-locked for political reasons and therefore delisted from official stores. In other cases, a user may wish to access an app in a language different from what’s available in their regions.
Staggered rolling out of apps, features, and updates is quite common in app marketing. For this reason, users use alternative stores to experience early releases before they officially hit their market. Such users are often tech savvy early adopters or simply product enthusiasts. Offering your app on alternative app stores serves this market.
10% of all mobile downloads is a significant number that can translate to billions of dollars in revenue. Listing apps on alternative stores is a legitimate search engine optimization opportunity. Whether your app is free or paid, there is a case to explore viable alternative platforms to publish your app. Here are 10 alternative stores to start with.
Amazon App Store
The Amazon App Store is the biggest app store after Apple and Google’s stores. Amazon sells hardware devices, and their App Store comes installed as the default place to download apps from. This gives it a significant edge over most other alternative app stores.
In addition, Amazon has a large selection of apps published already in the gaming and education categories. According to Statista’s estimates, there were 480,000 apps published on Amazon’s app store in late 2022. More impressively, the store is available in more than 200 countries, which means that publishers can optimize their apps for a global market.
To publish on Amazon’s store, one would need to open a developer account that attracts a $99 annual fee, similar to what Apple charges. Amazon charges a 30% commission for all paid apps sold on the platform as well as on all in-app purchases processed through its payment systems. Amazon’s one-click purchase process for apps is said to be better compared to Google Play Store’s due to fewer abandoned carts on the former.
Other interesting features on Amazon’s App Store include the ability to offer paid apps for free as part of a promo-campaign. This is not possible on Google’s Play Store. It is worth mentioning that the average revenue per active user on apps downloaded from the Amazon store is much higher than on Play Store according to Flurry Analytics. In fact, it is much closer to Apple’s App Store. In conclusion, Amazon app store’s reach and average revenue per active user are enough reasons to publish your app there.
APKPure is a platform that publishes apps that are already available on Google’s Play Store. By doing so, it removes restrictions such as the geo-locking of apps from users in certain countries. The platform claims to use cryptography to ensure that the app versions published are the same as those published on the official Android store. They use the SHA-1 algorithm for this security assurance.
One notable thing about APKPure is that they keep previous versions of apps, allowing users to experience legacy versions of applications.
The platform has a section for collecting feedback from users. In fact, creators can submit DMCA takedown requests if they feel that there is a copyright infringement by any of the apps published on the platform. APKPure’s website has an active blog section that runs app reviews and ‘How-to’ articles. Getting you app featured on one of these posts is a sure way to gain more traction, especially if the app provides clear utility for intended users.
China is quite an interesting market when it comes to app stores. Google Play Store is not available in mainland China, thus paving the way for other players to lay claim to the market with over 1 billion mobile devices. One of the main app stores in China is 360 Market. The store has over 250 active mobile users and over 600,000 apps listed. By 2022, the store had recorded over 30 billion app downloads on both mobile and desktop devices. 360 Market’s share of the Chinese Android market is currently 15%.
360 Market uses the MD5 detection algorithm to ensure that apps published on their platform are not pirated versions of other apps.
MyApp by Tencent
The biggest app download platform in China is MyApp, popularly known as Tencent, the name of its parent company. It holds 25% of the Android market in China.
Given the size of the Chinese market and the unavailability of Google Play Store, app creators and publishers must cater to this market, through such platforms. China’s economic rise over the last few decades means that the population has considerable spending power. In fact, revenue from paid apps and in-app purchases in China has now surpassed the US meaning that numbers in fact do matter as much as revenue per user also does.
9Apps is an alternative store that hosts Android apps. But the platform offers music, wallpapers, and videos beyond just the apps, making it more than just a basic app. 9Apps is popular in India, Brazil, and Russia, which can collectively be termed as large emerging markets. One key differentiator between 9Apps and Play Store is that the former offers content in regional languages thus enabling users in a country such as India to pick their language of choice to use the store.
9Apps also compresses apps so that they are easier to download. The size of apps is an important factor in countries where internet bundle prices are high relative to average income levels. This dynamic is seen in the fact that major social media platforms have ‘lite’ versions to cater to such market segments. 9Apps offers all apps for download only in APK format, meaning that they download rather fast without hogging user data bundles.
9Apps is also a good alternative for users who may not be comfortable with Google’s tracking of users’ apps. Google keeps this information to make it easier for users to switch between devices while keeping all of their apps.
APKMirror is a platform that allows developers to upload their APK files for free. The founder, Artem Russakovskii is also the founder of a popular blog called Android Police. The platform is very popular and more than 500,000 different apps are listed. Their submission process is quite straightforward, taking only a few clicks on their website. APKMirror does not host paid apps.
APKMirror uses cryptographic signatures to ensure that newly uploaded versions of apps have the same signatures as existing ones to prevent the uploads of fake apps by hackers. If this is not possible, APKMirror does a comparison of the new upload with versions available on verified platforms such as Play Store. The platform has a strict no-piracy policy.
APKMirror categorizes apps into dozens of categories, which makes it easier for users to search for what they need. Users have the option to download two different versions of the same app, which can be helpful for those who require to roll back on an older version. Over time, the recommendation algorithm learns a user’s preferences, and suggestions on the homepage are more personalized.
F-Droid is an alternative to the Play Store for savvy users who have privacy concerns with Google’s tracking of user activity. The platform is non-commercial and therefore does not charge developers to host their apps. They rely mostly on donations from enthusiasts. F-Droid does not require users to create accounts like Play Store does.
Just like the Play Store, F-Droid allows the updates of apps when such updates are available. This means that using F-Droid instead of Play Store can end up feeling like a seamless switch. Users on the same network can exchange APK files from F-Droid easily over the network, meaning you can transfer apps from one device to another.
Samsung Galaxy Store
The Samsung Store is the default app store that ships with all Samsung devices. The store has more than 100 million monthly users and 100 million monthly downloads. Therefore, publishing on the Samsung Galaxy Store is a big deal in terms of visibility.
The Samsung store requires users to have a Samsung account in order to be able to make purchases and have a smooth experience across all their Samsung devices. Users can use Samsung Pay or debit and credit cards to make purchases on the store. Perhaps the main advantage of publishing an app on the Samsung store is the credibility that comes with being in a major store.
This platform accepts upload or Android apps and iOS apps. Getjar does not charge creators to publish on the platform and the scrutiny of apps is not as strict as on other platforms mentioned above. The platform has around 35 million active users. The platform has its own virtual currency called Getjar Gold, which users can earn or buy and use to buy apps or make in-app purchases. In fact, you can use the currency to make purchases on Play Store and Amazon too.
Reasons to Use Alternative App Stores
The fact that these alternative app stores have tens and hundreds of millions of users justifies their existence. Regardless of the purpose they serve users, they are a genuine way to increase the distribution of apps. There are stores that exist to reach markets that the Google Play Store and Apple App Store do not reach.
For app creators, alternative app stores offer a way to reach niche audiences. For instance, there are stores that do not require users to create accounts before downloading apps. Audiences who prefer such anonymity are more likely to use such platforms to download their apps.
Niche audiences are also useful when you want to soft-launch your app. By introducing an app on an unofficial store, you can allow early adopters to test a beta version and provide feedback. This can help fine-tune the final version of your app before it becomes available in other stores.
App download statistics show that certain stores are doing well in specific markets, perhaps due to their language optimization. Such stores are great when attempting to introduce an app in new markets.
Picking the Right Stores
Having your app as widely available is a good thing on the face of it. However, there are a few other considerations to have in mind when picking platforms on which to publish your app.
It is important to scrutinize the credibility of an app, including the reviews of users and the publishers who are currently using the platform. It is a good sign when the platform has strict standards on the quality of apps published as well as a serious anti-piracy policy.
Pricing and Revenue Split
The price you pay to get a developer account on a platform should be justifiable based on the size of the existing active users on the platform. The revenue split should be equally reasonable.
A good developer community as well as the existence of learning resources for developers are likely to help you make the best of a platform.
To learn more on app stores, app store optimization, and the best mobile development practices, reach out to NS804. Our team is well-versed in the development of mobile apps from ideation to distribution on multiple platforms. Schedule a call with us today.