Oct 25, 2017 by airpushAccording to Statista, there are over 3,300,000 apps available on the Google Play store. However, although Google Play i...
Navigating Alternative App Stores: What They Are and How to Monetize Them
There are now dozens upon dozens of alternative Android apps stores, providing users of Google’s open-source operating system with a choice when it comes to downloading new apps.
But what are alternative apps stores, and how can you use them to your advantage?
What are alternative app stores?
As their name suggests, alternative app stores are app stores other than the big three (Google Play, the Apple App Store, and the Windows Store), and in this context specifically those for Android apps.
As Android is an open-source operating system that does not demand distribution exclusivity, alternative Android app stores are freely permitted by Google (although it cannot be said that all of them are as well-made and regulated as Google Play).
Alternative app stores are also not solely the domain of small, independent companies, and this has helped in lending them some legitimacy.
Some common types of alternative app stores include:
- Phone manufacturer app stores (e.g. LG App Store and Samsung Galaxy Apps)
- Online app stores (e.g. Amazon Appstore)
- Browser app stores (e.g. Opera Mobile Store)
- Region-specific app stores (e.g. Baidu App Store and Xiaomi’s Mi app store in China, and Yandex in Russia)
What are the pros of alternative app stores?
For users, many alternative apps stores offer a variety of perks and bonuses in order to entice them away from Google Play.
Perhaps the most attractive of these is their frequent promotions, which include discounts as well as the opportunity to get premium apps for free as part of free app days and similar schemes.
Some alternative apps stores also offer curated lists as well as more specific content categories than Google Play, making it easier for users to find what they’re looking for even if it’s part of a more unusual niche.
For developers, alternative app stores offers opportunities that they might not get on Google Play.
As part of a third-party app store’s much smaller lineup, a newly released app has a much better chance of being seen by users. Indeed, even if an app is on Google Play, it certainly doesn’t hurt to also release it on a third-party app store in order to increase exposure.
Furthermore, in some countries the use of Google and its services are restricted or even banned completely, meaning third-party app stores are the only options if developers want to breach these markets.
The majority of third-party app stores also don’t follow Google Play’s strict advertising rules, meaning both developers and ad networks have a much greater amount of freedom when choosing how to most effectively monetize their apps.
Are there any risks in using alternative app stores?
Users who wish to install apps from alternative app stores need to enable downloads from unknown sources in order to do so. This can put them at risk of viruses and malware, but by exercising caution when choosing what to download and using a robust antivirus app these risks can be largely mitigated.
Developers face different concerns when using alternative app stores, which can include having to participate in forced promotions, a lack of transparency when it comes to the portals themselves, and a longer delay in getting updates to app users.
However, the rapidly increasing popularity of third-party app stores means they can offer developers valuable new opportunities to reach new users and markets across the world.
Top alternative app stores
Some of the biggest contemporary alternative Android app stores include:
- Amazon Appstore – Perhaps the highest profile alternative to Google Play, the Amazon Appstore has a much smaller selection of apps but all of them are checked against Amazon’s stringent quality standards. Polished, easy to use, and the default place for users of Amazon’s Kindle line of tablets to find apps, the Amazon Appstore offers users free apps of the day as well as the Test Drive feature, which lets you try an app before you buy it. It’s also possible to publish HTML5 and web apps to the Amazon Appstore, although tablet-optimized apps generally do better than smartphone ones in general due to Kindle users being the store’s primary user base.
- Samsung Galaxy Apps – As the biggest and most successful Android device manufacturer, it’s no surprise that Samsung has its own app store. Coming preinstalled on all Samsung devices, it has an immediate and large customer base, and offers users tailored recommendations thanks to a special algorithm. Getting your app on Samsung Galaxy Apps involves a formal submission process, with income split 70% to the developer and 30% to Samsung. However, with Samsung being the world’s number one smartphone manufacturer and app distribution across over 125 countries, it’s definitely worth looking into.
- Opera Mobile Store – The Opera Mobile Store has a direct link to Yandex, and as a result has access to almost the entire Russian app market due to all its apps being present in the Yandex App Store. Boasting over 100 million visits every month and a million downloads a day, it’s also free to submit your app to the Opera Mobile Store and get a slice of this massive audience. Opera does take a 30% cut of any sales, but it’s definitely worth it for the amount of possible exposure available.
- GetJar – GetJar offers a huge selection of free apps for a variety if platforms including Android. Although fairly basic, GetJar is well categorized, has over 30 million users, and includes a nifty recommendation service that allows for the quick discovery of news apps. GetJar also has some great monetization methods baked in, and its virtual currency GetJar Gold is one of the largest virtual currencies in use. Developers can take advantage of virtual currency tie-ins and the ability to target new users with various different kinds of promotions. However, the submission process can take a little while.
- Slide ME – Slide ME has a global reach and a substantial user base, with a large number of both free and premium (all of which have passed a quality control process) available. This global availability is supported by a wide variety of payment options, including PayPal, and it has great search filter options, meaning that it’s easier for users to find what they’re looking for as well as for new apps to be discovered. Slide ME also has its own ad network, giving you the opportunity to get a greater percentage of revenue generated by your app and potentially more than the standard 70% offered by most app stores.
- F-Droid – F-Droid specifically focuses on free and open-source software (FOSS) for Android. Volunteer-run and reliant on donations, all of the apps on F-Droid are free, and must have no tracking, no ads, and no paid add-ons. Obviously this means F-Droid will not be a huge target for developers if they want to make a profit, but it has a strong user base and it’s free to submit an app, making a good way to assess popularity if nothing else.
- Mobogenie Market – Mobogenie offers a large collection of curated apps backed up by an intelligent recommendation engine, and is available globally and without registration. Mobogenie also acts as a file manager, and its handy PC client lets you move and back up content, apps, and settings with ease. For developers, Mobogenie has an app review process with a fast 24-hour turnaround time, with an impressive 80% of the revenue going to the developer. Although originally developed in India and with a large user base there, Mobogenie supports multiple languages and can prove useful for targeting markets where Google Play isn’t so popular.
- Mobango – Mobango has millions of users who rack up thousands of downloads a day, and is fast growing in popularity. Uploading apps is free, no percentage of your profits is taken, and with a relatively small amount of apps it’s not hard to become one of its top downloaded titles.
- AppsLib – Created by Archos, AppsLib is the app store for Android devices (primarily tablets) that couldn’t get Google certification. AppsLib comes preinstalled on a number of devices from smaller manufacturers, and each of its over 400,000 apps have been certified as compatible with specific devices. Users can search by category and even pay using PayPal, while developers will benefit from the standard 70% share of their app’s revenue.
- 1Mobile Market – 1Mobile Market only features free apps and it costs nothing to submit them. However, all apps do still have to go through an approval process which includes malware checks and general quality assessment. A robust recommendation system means apps can often become very popular very quickly, and there are already hundreds of thousands of apps available that have been installed over 100 million times.
- Mobile9 – Mobile9 is similar to a social network as well as being an app store, and has millions of active users. It is free to submit apps, and users can share theirs as well as comment on other people’s. With its huge user base and a relatively small number of developers, it can be fairly easy to get your app noticed in Mobile9.
Monetizing alternative app stores
Monetizing apps that are distributed in alternative app stores may actually provide a better opportunity for developers to maximize their revenue. The majority of third-party app stores don’t have the strict limitations on ad formats and on-app advertising tactics that Google Play does. This means developers have the opportunity to leverage high-performing ad formats like push notifications, icon ads, and others – particularly those that perform outside the app.
Both push notification and icon ads usually offer much higher CPMs than traditional in-app banners as users can engage with the ads even after they’ve left the app. Once an ad has been pushed to the notification tray or an icon has been dropped on the user’s home screen, the ad persists until it’s clicked on or removed. This results in a much higher probability of conversion when compared with traditional formats.
Protecting your apps and earnings
One of the pitfalls when leveraging alternative app stores is the risk of piracy. There are many ways pirates can hijack your app and replace your monetization strategies with their own. As such, taking steps to protect your app’s integrity – as well as your hard-earned ad revenue – is extremely important when monetizing in alternative marketplaces.
Solutions like Tapcore can not only help you identify if and when your app has been pirated, but also monetize the pirated installs to help you recoup any lost earnings and even steer the pirated user back to a legitimate app download.
While the user bases of most alternative apps stores are still relatively small, they can be a great way for developers to get their apps further afield. However, make sure to do your research before submitting – you don’t want to waste time and effort getting your app onto an app store that won’t help you achieve the results you’re after.
While none of these alternative app stores are in a position to replace Google Play just yet, they certainly present themselves as excellent opportunities for both greater app exposure and monetization