The Play Store isn’t great for discovery, but Android users should have better control over their app experiences, which is why alternative app sources are so vital to a well-rounded ecosystem. So if you’re looking for a Play Store alternative to dig up more apps that appeal to your personal interests, whether that be open-source apps like on F-Droid or a library of APKs like what’s found on APKMirror, there are some incredible options out there the Play Store simply can’t compete with. So we’ve rounded up the most commonly known Play Store alternatives that may help you find the best apps to add to your trusty Android phone. Let’s dig in.
APKMirror is one of the most trusted sources to sideload apps onto your Android device. You can easily grab an APK (source file) for most apps, but you’ll want to be careful where you find these APKs, which is why we turn to APKMirror, as each listing is vetted by the owner. Please note, APKs may slowly get phased out in favor of split APKs or app bundling because app developers aim to save on bandwidth and storage space. But thankfully, APKMirror supports this new structure, so there are ways to acquire and sideload bundled apps the same as you would an APK. So if you’re looking for ways to grab apps directly or are in need of a particular version no longer published on the Play Store, APKMirror has got you covered.
Samsung Galaxy Store
Now, if you’re looking for a traditional app store experience, the Samsung Galaxy Store brings precisely that. Unfortunately, however, not all devices can access the Galaxy Store. You can only use the app with Samsung Galaxy-powered devices, which should be part of your app library by default. The store offers fewer apps than Google, but it only needs to connect to your Samsung account, and it still holds exclusives, such as the mobile version of Fortnite, something the Play Store doesn’t offer. While the Galaxy Store may not fully replace the Play Store for everyone, it still makes for a healthy alternative for Samsung users.
A genuine alternative to the Google Play Store’s many games, TapTap is an app store exclusively for games. Exclusives aren’t unheard of on TapTap, so you’ll notice some titles unseen on the Play Store are already available for pre-registrations as exclusives on TapTap. This indicates the store is growing to compete against Google, which is why some of the spicier titles, like Valorant mobile, are only available for pre-registration on TapTap. The store offers many titles you can also get on the Play Store, and you can find others sorted by personal tastes and preferences. The key difference is discoverability is much easier on TapTap since it focuses on games. So if you want to give TapTap on your Android device, go for the full version (APK file) rather than the lite version found on the Play Store.
Amazon App Store
Similar to the Samsung Galaxy Store, the Amazon App Store functions traditionally as an app store where you’ll find a variety of Android games and apps. To access the store app, you must install the APK linked on Amazon; you’ll also need to create an Amazon account (if you don’t already have one). Overall, the interface is clean, and you no longer have to jump between menus to navigate to your library; all downloaded apps are located under “My apps” in the app store, which you can filter by latest, alphabetical order, and not installed. We praise Amazon App Store’s design for being simple and easy to navigate, making it an excellent alternative to the Play Store, which is congested with repetitive recommendations.
F-Droid is your go-to for free and open-source software on Android; in other words, this is an app haven for devs (and app acquirers like ourselves). So if you’re looking for complete freedom from Google, F-Droid is also the best place to get started. F-Droid is free, and the app catalog is noncommercialized (very much unlike Google), though you’re welcome to donate to the developers on your own accord. The only downside is that this app store style takes some learning and adjusting since the design isn’t tailored for the everyday user. But that’s similar to how powerful a photo editing program like GIMP performs (even if complicated to use at first), just as well as the best commercially available program, Adobe Photoshop. So it’ll be challenging to return once you’ve adapted to F-Droid.
For a third-party app store, SlideMe is a practical alternative to the Play Store; it finds both paid and free apps for your Android device. However, you’ll notice a diverse selection of non-gaming apps and simple arcade-like games but nothing on the triple AAA scale for gaming, so gamers may need to opt into other options on this list. On the other hand, SlideMe excels with simple everyday-to-use apps, providing a less cluttered and intrusive experience than Google Play Store; if you’re looking to download OfficeSuite or a PDF reader, you can turn to the SlideMe marketplace to set you up.
AppBrain makes it easy to curate apps, and you can use it alongside other app store sources (note that Amazon App Store doesn’t work). You can turn to AppBrain to network apps and put forth recommendations and suggestions based on apps you like. To use AppBrain, you don’t necessarily need a Google account; you can sign in with Facebook and Twitter. What’s nice about using AppBrain is how the recommended app feature is optional (not forced); you have to navigate to “Recommended Apps” and select “Update recommendations” to see a list. You can browse AppBrain, and it’ll reveal the app’s score, the number of downloads, and favorited number in a single column. So while AppBrain isn’t a store, per se, it highlights the data you need to make educated decisions on what apps and games to install, filling a gaping hole on the Play Store and its lack of competent discovery.
Itch.io is the best avenue for indie games, where developers have complete control over how their games are distributed and sold. No longer have to worry about adhering to the Play Store’s 15% tax on the first $1 million and 30% cut for money made after. Itch.io uses an open revenue-sharing mode, where developers pay what they want instead of a fixed/forced rate, and providing a more fair and flexible model makes it so developers don’t have to worry about distribution fees as much, which is precisely the support indie developers need. Note that there is no native Android app/APK for Itch.io, but you can browse the website through your mobile browser or pin the web page to your home screen.
Finding the best Google Play Store alternatives
You have to decide for yourself what it is about the Play Store that doesn’t mesh with your app downloading habits. If it’s the restricted access to apps, we have plenty on our list that zeroes in on expanding app categories; and if it’s the cluttered UI and intrusive app listing experience, we also have some helpful apps that ease navigating through lists. After all, just because Google Play Store is on our Android devices by default doesn’t mean we are obligated to use it!