What is an app store?
- An app store(or app marketplace) is a type of a digital distribution platform for mobile applications which enables a user to find, download and install apps on their device.
Due to its popularity, the term "app store" (first used by the Electronic AppWrapper and later popularized by Apple’s App Store for iOS devices) has frequently been used as a generic trademark to refer to other distribution platforms of a similar nature.
App stores typically organize the apps they offer based on:
- the functionality offered by the app (including games, multimedia or productivity)
- the device for which the app was designed
- and the operating system on which the app will run.
Until recently, people only knew of only the two largest digital distribution platforms – the Google Play Store for Android and the Apple App Store for iOS. In terms of content volume, Google Play is the largest app store in the world, followed by Apple’s App store. Whereas the exact number of apps may fluctuate as Apple and Google regularly remove low quality content from their app stores, the number of apps has been steadily increasing over the years.
Whereas Apple and Google dominate the conversation regarding downloads and spending, there as a few other players with various degrees of market success and relevance. App creators and consumers no longer find themselves limited to these two Big App Stores; they now have a host of new alternative app stores to choose from.
According to research, there are more than 300 app stores worldwide today and still growing. Alternative app stores use the "Unknown Sources" option of Android devices to install APK files directly via the Android Package Manager.
These new app store environments offer a number of benefits and can form an important part of an app marketing and distribution strategy.
Reasons for using alternative app stores
- Some users prefer using alternative app stores to avoid using Google services as part of their philosophy
- easier to navigate for users allowing them to quickly find specific apps
- may be used for downloading android applications due to limited availability of full google play functionality. For example, users in China are not able to purchase apps from the Google Play Store, in turn, limiting their options for app purchasing to alternative app stores, such as, AppChina and Wandoujia.
- give confidence to developers in attracting geography specific/national audience. For example - Tencent MyApp, 360 Mobile Assistant (China), and the SK T-Store (Korea) would be key channels for Western developers and publishers seeking to access those markets.
- Allow apps to be spread across categories with specific variants (for example- targeting specific games, business, education, lifestyle, utilities, etc.) – thus giving the user the advantage of targeting niche audience
- are a great place for developers for MVP testing (Minimum viable product)
- they have a more favorable revenue sharing model than the standard split offered by Apple and Google play.
- provide promotional tools – like featured placement and payment for a certain number of downloads
App Store Snapshot
- Average person uses 9-10 mobile apps per day or 30 apps a month.
- Combined global revenue of App Store and Google Play – 73bn USD (statistica)
- Number of mobile app downloads worldwide – 204 bn (statistica)
- The iOS App Store launched in 2008 with 500 apps. As of 2020, the store features around 1.8 million apps. (Wikipedia)
- Android users have 2.96 million apps available through the Google Play Store (Wikipedia).
- Amazon App Store – 450,000 Android apps worldwide with gaming, utility and educational apps leading the most popular categories list.
- As of November 2020, Tencent My App was the biggest Android app store in China, controlling a market share of 26 percent. China’s technological advancement combined its ban on Google has caused its Android market to be flooded with several competing smartphone manufacturers each with its own app store. (source - statistica)
- 360 Mobile Assistant market share – 15% of the China’s Android app market
- Xiaomi App Store market share – 11% of the China’s Android app market
In our ultimate list of app store, we will be talking about Android app stores and iOS app stores and then discuss Chinese market mobile app stores.
The Google Play Store
- The Google Play Store is the official app store for the Android and operated by Google. The store offers both free and paid apps. The Google Play store had over 50 billion app downloads in 2013 and has reached over 2.96 million apps published in 2020.
Best Android App Store Alternatives:
Amazon App Store
- Launched in 2011
- Positioned as the third largest third-party alternative app store and comes preinstalled on devices like the Fire Phone and Kindle Fire
- It has few of the coolest paid apps or games available for free – one every day
- Available across 236 countries (source – Amazon developer)
- The biggest advantage for consumers will avoid going to separate app store when they get ready app options here
- Primarily an e-com giant – with established trust and brand value – it holds a dominant position so expect downloads to increase in this space from a developer’s point of view
- It has over 2,00,000 dedicated users and has served more than 6 Billion downloads till date
- It competes with play store in each possible way, and at times with even better versions.
- provides a solution to create an app store within a website own storefront
- There are smart phone manufacturers using it as default android app store.
- looks almost like google play and is easy to navigate; you can easily download it without developer’s permission. However, Aptoide suffered a data breach in 2020.
- You can access a few apps which are restricted from google play due to geographical constraints
- Accepts crypto currency for in-store purchases
- It is a third party app store with a clean, coherent UI and has a lot of popular apps like TikTok, UC Browser, PUBG Mobile, Brawl Stars, etc.
- It offers safe download of APK files. Like APK mirror they also use cryptographic signature to verify the legitimacy of APK files.
- It offers some amazing discounts on paid games
- You will find the home page updated within 24 hours
- Access to restricted geographies is no longer a challenge with it
Samsung Galaxy Store
- the official Samsung Electronics app store for apps to run on Samsung Galaxy smartphones, Samsung Gear and Samsung featured phones.
- Galaxy store was introduced even before Google Play Store
- It is available in 125 different countries and in 12 different languages.
- It is currently working in the backend to make it more attractive for its users
- Store has amazing customization app for Samsung users like creating tailored fonts, themes etc.
- Smaller than play store so the discoverability increases for app creators
- It is reviving on giving platforms for developers to be more profitable
Huawei App Gallery
- It is primarily targeted to market the Chinese market.
- Huawei official app store hosts both games and apps, as well as offers own Cloud storage solution.
- It has over 1.3 million app options to choose
- It offers special incentives to developers who uploads APKs directly on this platform
- It offers fantastic prizes, discounts to users downloading apps or games
- It is the official Xiaomi App Store which can be accessed by Redmi, Poco and Mi smart phones.
- For Xiaomi users this Appstore offers amazing apps that there is hardly any need to seek any other app store.
- It has good security tools including Avast, Kingsoft & Tencent to ensure safe downloads
- It offers tailored homepage view based on individual preferences
- It is the official app store of LG and offers all possible apps which are well connected with LG phones, TV, and other LG devices.
- It gives reminders if there is any update required in the device through the app store
- SlideMe is a curated android application store; it has over 30000 apps. It is a long-term player in app store business even before Google Play.
- It is safe as it goes through intense quality control. It offers both free and premium apps in its listings.
- It engages with people in through developers, users and partners
- There are more than 140 OEMs following android open source (AOSP) using the SlideMe market
- It helps you to download app from Google Play, in the form of APK files, without the need of a Google account. It helps one to avoid google tracking, yet one can enjoy all the benefits of the Play store.
- It connects Google services using a built-in account
- It searches for updates, install apps and helps you search the other apps too.
Bemobi Mobile Store (Opera Mobile Store)
- Bemobi Mobile Store is a platform-independent browser-based app store for cell phone users and offers mobile app downloads via the web browser rather than a self-contained app.
- The store has a large range of supported app formats and app can be distributed to 230 countries.
- There are approx. 1 million apps downloads per day from this store (source- Wikipedia)
- it rivals Google Play in the number of apps, app descriptions, and editorial reviews.
- The fantastic part about having this app store is that user can get auto updates plus the option to rollback to any previous version. Hence one can avoid the hustle of getting into search of browsing different older version.
- All content on Uptodown is scanned in-depth. This service analyzes all of it’s content with over 50 antiviruses.
- It offers only free apps and has worldwide availability. It is available in 15 different languages, which gives it a good reach.
- It has amazing, detailed blogs with usability and functionality information, which makes it easy for users
- One of the oldest and the most trustworthy app stores.
- F-Droid is the only Android mobile app store to offer free and open-source apps in a marketplace.
- F-Droid is a community-maintained software repository for android. It allows users to create their own repository.
- For developers who are seeking for MVP test, it is an ideal choice as registration is free. It is the most popular and safe app. Best part is you can access all the apps before its release on Google Play
- It offers a weekly subscription in which one can download unlimited apps including the premium ones
- It has best forum for developers
Games Store App Market
- It is for the game lovers who wish to access all possible games. It is best alternative for gaming for the android games. It is accessible anywhere without location constraints with its beta version of games.
- It has amazing UI for quick downloads
- You can easily view the ratings, comments, downloads, reviews, etc.
- It looks a little old school version. Has over 2bn apps and 3mn apps are downloaded everyday. Its simplicity, website, and mobile app store have still held great grounds for performance and make it a great choice for both app developers and consumers.
- It is an open store for iOS, Android, Windows or any other operating system (OS).
- It accept all kinds of apps, because of its open policy. If you use this store to download apps, you must have premium antivirus software installed on your device, on a safer side.
- It offers analytics for developers
Apple’s App Store
The App Store is Apple’s official iOS application store. The store allows users to browse and download apps developed with Apple's iOS Software Development Kit. It is often the first place to look for amazing new apps. The iOS App Store launched in 2008 with 500 apps. As of 2020, the store features around 1.8 million apps. (Wikipedia)
Best iOS App Store Alternatives
- Cydia can be termed as first unofficial Appstore that lets you install app which are not available on iOS app store.
- The flipside is you can only reach users through ‘jailbroken’ gadgets. It is primarily designed for iOS devices that have jailbroken phones.
- It offers number of unofficial apps and games. Most are available for free but there are paid apps also.
- Apart from apps, it also allows to download themes, games, tweaks on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch device
- It was an alternative for Cydia family initially for iOS 11 and above version. One can download or purchase jailbreak app without smart phone security challenge.
- Tweak developers can easily place developed app here
- One can easily purchase paid jailbreak app with trusted security
- Emus4u is a third-party app installer available only for iOS.
- There are many customized apps and games available to donwload.
- This app offers ‘no jailbreaker’ need. It allows its users to download wall papers and themes too.
- The app offers installation packages that can automatically reconnect with OS version one is using
- It also allows to offer in-app customization
- #Appsvalley offers numerous features, you may call them tweaked version that offers best version that users would want to use. There are different versions of Whatsapp, Spotify, YouTube, snapchat and many others you can find here which one can access directly from browser
- It offers wide variety of interesting features to the users
- For the people who love using different and cool features except usual, it is the right alternative app. It has a few cool app features with a tweak over official app store. Best part is – it is absolutely free.
- It can be used via app or browser
- Users worldwide enjoy it without jailbreak
- Primarily created to tweak the live applications. It primarily holds topmost position because of its simplicity, easy accessibility, and utmost security.
- It allows you users to download music, movies and much more from tweaked iOS apps
- You will find YouTube and Spotify enhanced features here
- It is an alternative app store available in five different languages. It permits you to choose app in four different categories. It is also used as a Cydia alternative.
- One can track download history
- It has super quick search tools to find apps you want
- FtOS is a third-party store introduced by Vietnamese developers that allows download of thousands of utility apps, games, free and paid apps .
- You get all possible old and new version of the apps here
Chinese Market Mobile App Stores
It is the world’s second largest economy. The smartphone users market in China is expected to exceed 800 million by 2021. (Statista). Market for apps is huge in China. However, Google play is officially not available in china so many mobile app stores have been specifically created for the Chinese market. The market is distributed among various domestic shareholders with a majority controlled by the BAT trinity, that is, the internet titans Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent. (according to Statista).
Here is a list of some of the popular android app stores in China:
- MyApp (Tencent)
- 360 Mobile Assistant
- Xiaomi App Store
- Baidu Mobile Assistant
- Huawei App Market
- Oppo App Store
- PP Assistant
Operator & Country Specific App Stores
Though the market is dominated by Android and iOS operating system, many app stores are run by mobile network operators, especially in Asia, while there are a few country specific players – a big example is MTNPlay which covers a number of countries in Africa. Just to name a few:
- Airtel Srilanka (Srilanka)
- T-Store (South Korea)
- Turkcell T-Market (Turkey)
- MTNPlay (Africa)
The choice of a digital distribution platform for your app is a difficult one. At the end of the day, it is all about knowing your priorities, technologies, and preferences. Alternative app stores can deliver impressive levels of downloads and user numbers if the right strategy is applied. App owners need to study each store specifics, need to identify requirements and necessities before publishing their apps on multiple stores and then place them into a right workable plan.
Here are a few things you should figure out as a part of your app submission and marketing strategy:
- App Submission and Listings – Each mobile app store will be different when submitting apps. Some are restricted while others are focused on specific categories. Make sure you have an experienced team working on it with a sound understanding of minimum expected submission standards for listing.
- Trust – Do an in-depth analysis of Store availability and download statistics and then decide on the store operator. The user should be able to find your app through a store operator they trust.
- Monetization strategy – free vs paid. Majority of the app revenue worldwide comes from free apps. People willing to pay for downloads would be 2 to 5 % only. If your app is an extension of your business, then you should be offering free downloads.
- App performance and User engagement – Keep working on your app maintenance to stay up-to-date with all the latest OS updates, no UX flaws and you regularly come up with new feature updates and new versions of your app. You should stay up-to-date on the latest research and trends.
Not sure which platform to build for first? Continuum allows you to create iOS and android app simultaneously. So, you can launch on both stores and drive downloads from as many users as possible. #Continuum can help you out with right, cost-effective mobile app development and marketing strategy.
We all want to succeed but the point is to take the first step towards building it. Start building your app today! Drop us a line if you wish to know anything related to it.