Ultimate Guide to Mobile App Stores for Developers
If you’re launching a mobile app, app stores are generally the best way to acquire new users.
There are many other acquisition channels, such as paid marketing campaigns, marketing to existing customers on your website, influencer marketing and more. But you almost always find better results with mobile app stores.
App stores are cost effective, as it's usually free (or close to it) to list your app, and people who find you on an app store are much more likely to download your app. This makes the cost/benefit ratio of publishing to app stores incredibly attractive.
In this post, we’re going to share a full list of the different app stores you need to know about, from the two market leaders to lesser-known alternative app stores. Keep reading for everything you need to know about the best app stores in 2023.
The Top App Stores: Apple App Store vs Google Play Store
Everyone knows the two biggest app stores: the iOS/Android App Store and the Google Play Store.
There are more than 3.7 million apps on the Google Play Store, and over 4.8 million on the Apple App Store. Despite this, there are many more downloads on Google Play than the Apple App Store - the Google Play Store is responsible for 77% of all mobile app downloads worldwide.
Of course, it’s not really a competition between the two. Google Play is the top app store for Android apps, while the Apple App Store is the top (and essentially the only) app store for iOS apps. If you’re launching an app today, your plan should be to launch on both of these app stores, to capture as much of the market as possible.
The point of this post, however, is not to discuss these two app stores in-depth. They’re already the first names anyone thinks about when it comes to mobile app stores. We want to share a wider list of app stores, including alternative app stores you can launch on instead of, or alongside, the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
Learn More: everything you need to know about App Store Optimization
Are Alternative App Stores Worth It?
With how popular the two market leading app stores are, you might be skeptical that it’s worth publishing your app anywhere else.
Yet there are certainly benefits to publishing on alternative app stores, such as:
- Wider reach (even if it’s just a small percentage of the potential reach on Google Play/Apple).
- Getting in front of more niche audiences for some of these app stores.
- Better revenue models.
- Faster access to users of certain devices (e.g. Huawei/Samsung) with their own app store.
- The ability to reach users in countries where Google Play is not available (i.e. China).
- Lower competition than in the big two, which may give you the opportunity to own the market on a lower-tier or niche app store).
For Android apps, you don’t need to choose between Google Play and alternative app stores. You can launch on many app stores, often without much additional work. You don’t need to rebuild anything, and you can reuse a lot of the same assets you use for your other app store listings.
It’s a more difficult question to answer if launching on an alternative app store requires you to rebuild your app for another platform (such as the Windows App Store). This is obviously a lot more development effort, so it’s up to you to decide whether the extra investment is worth the potential increase in users.
For one more point, we’ll mention that there are no third-party app stores out there for iOS apps, which is why the majority of this list are either app stores for Android apps, or official app stores for other platforms. So if you’re building an app for iOS alone, it may not be worth investigating any other options, unless you plan to launch on Android as well (which, as we’ve established, you should).
Up to Date List of App Stores for Android and iOS (2023)
Here is a full list of app stores that are worth knowing about in 2023 - from the Apple and Google Play App Stores, to other app stores for Android apps and other operating systems.
Apple App Store
The Apple App Store is the place to go to install iOS apps. Established in 2008, Apple’s App Store offers millions of apps specifically designed for iPhones and iPads, from productivity tools to gaming apps, as well as books, movies, music and more.
The App Store is an integral part of the Apple ecosystem, allowing users to easily purchase and download content on their devices with just a few taps. And due to the way Apple exerts control over their ecosystem, it has little to no competition (the only possible contender for iOS apps being Cydia, which we’ll discuss later).
Google Play Store
The Google Play Store is the official app store for the Android market, as the Apple App Store is for iOS.
The difference is that Android devices allow users to download Android apps from other app stores, unlike Apple devices.
Again, there’s not much introduction needed for Google Play. We all know it’s the place to go for entertainment, productivity and educational apps, along with digital books, music, movies, television shows and more.
If there’s one negative about the Google Play Store, it’s Google’s hardline stance on apps having to give a cut of all in-app purchases and billing. Their crackdown on this in 2022 caused massive names like Audible and Kindle to remove the ability for users to make purchases within their app.
Samsung Galaxy Store
The Samsung Galaxy Store, formerly known as the Galaxy Apps Store, is the dedicated app store for Samsung devices. It offers a wide selection of apps and games designed specifically for Samsung smartphones and tablets, from popular titles to specialized tools.
In addition to apps and games, it also offers themes, wallpapers, fonts and sound effects to customize your device's look and feel. The Galaxy Store’s collection of content is growing, but it’s still significantly less crowded than Google Play, which means less competition for app owners (yet fewer users to get in front of, as you’re limited to Samsung device owners).
The Amazon Appstore is another great source of apps and games for Android devices. Established in 2011 and offering more than 480,000 apps, the Amazon Appstore is one of the top app stores for Android devices today.
The advantage it has is that it comes pre-installed on Amazon devices (i.e. the Fire Phone and Kindle Fire), instead of Google Play. If Amazon starts to invest more in their own devices in the future, we’ll likely see the Amazon App store rise up the list of the top Android app stores.
The Microsoft Store is the top choice for apps and games specifically made for Windows devices. Formerly known as the Windows Store, there are currently over 800,000 apps on the Microsoft Store, making it the third most popular app store in the world.
Though still far behind the top players, and unlikely to ever overtake Android and iOS as the top mobile operating systems, the Microsoft Store offers an intriguing option for app developers wishing to reach more potential users.
The Huawei AppGallery is the Huawei official app store, and is one of the top app stores today. Its value is largely derived from Chinese users, who are unable to access the Google Play Store.
As of 2022, the Huawei AppGallery has more than 580 million monthly active users. If your potential audience includes users in China, it’s well worth launching your app on this app store.
Xiaomi GetApps is another Google Play alternative for Chinese smartphone users. It comes pre-installed on Xiaomi phones, and is believed to be more secure, with a feature that scans apps for viruses before allowing the user to download.
Like the AppGallery on Huawei, Xiaomi GetApps is one of the top Android app stores for Chinese users, who can't access Google Play. There are currently 200 million monthly active users of this app store, with significant coverage in India, Indonesia and Russia (alongside China).
Baidu Mobile Assistant
The Baidu Mobile Assistant is another of China’s biggest app stores. It’s run by Chinese tech giant Baidu, which is essentially the Google of China. So it makes sense perhaps that Baidu also offers an alternative to Google Play for Chinese mobile users.
As of 2018, the Baidu Mobile Assistant had just under 10% market share in the Chinese market.
From another Chinese tech giant, the Tencent Appstore (aka Tencent MyApp) is arguably the market leader in terms of Android app stores in the Chinese market.
It has a little under 100,000 apps available for download, from more than 50,000 publishers, with 200,000 active users. It’s particularly popular for mobile games (a huge industry in China), with more than 30,000 mobile games available on its app store.
OPPO App Market
The OPPO App Market is another player similar to Huawei and Xiaomi, who also have their own app stores. App Market is pre-installed on OPPO devices and a top option for mobile users in China, holding a little under 20% market share in the region.
VIVO App Store
The VIVO App Store holds around 17% of the Chinese app store market, putting it right around OPPO in terms of Chinese Google Play competitors.
Aptoide is one of the top app stores out there today as a general-purpose competitor to Google Play, unlike many of the manufacturer-built app stores mentioned above.
Aptoide currently has over 430 million users, and more than 1 million apps. Its main value proposition is that it’s open-source and decentralized, rather than being controlled by a specific company, like many other app stores. That makes it a great option if you’re struggling to get by Google’s demanding publisher guidelines, particularly for free apps who want to enable in-app purchases without getting hosed on app store fees.
Though GetJar’s interface looks a decade plus old, it’s still one of the top cross-platform app stores today outside of the big names. Its value proposition is one of an “open” app store, not controlled by any specific guidelines for publishers.
This means freedom for publishers, but it does mean it’s somewhat vulnerable to bad actors too, making security a bit of a concern for end users on this app store.
F-Droid is an alternative app store specifically for free, open-source apps. It’s not really for commercially-developed or paid apps as with such app stores as Google Play, Amazon, etc. Think of it as an option better suited for technical users (both in terms of developers and end users).
Cydia is different from most of the app stores in this article. Instead of an alternative Android app store, it’s probably the only alternative to the Apple App Store. It’s made for jailbroken iOS devices (which means the user has “hacked” their device to bypass Apple’s software restrictions).
In that sense, you would not exactly design apps specifically for the Cydia “app store” (in quotes because it’s not technically an app store), unless your target users are actually owners of jailbroken devices.
ACMarket is similar to Cydia, in the sense that it’s not for traditional apps and traditional users.
It’s an app store specifically for modified, tweaked, hacked and cracked Android apps, games and themes. Like above, it’s not something you’d consider if you’re launching a commercial app. However, it bears mentioning as one of the top alternative Android App Stores on the market today.
CodeNGo is a little different to other Android app stores on this list. It's not actually an app store itself. Instead, it's a tool for bulk Android app submission to multiple app stores at once.
Instead of launching individually on Amazon, Aptoide, GetJar, etc, you can use CodeNGo to get on almost all the app stores you need to be on by filling in just a single form.
Choosing the Best App Stores for Your Mobile App
Now you know all the significant names in the app store market, let’s help you decide which app stores you should consider launching on.
It’s been said already, but we’ll say it again, the bare minimum is launching on Google Play and the iOS Store. If you want to reach as many users as possible, these two app stores are non-negotiable.
People may complain about these app stores’ oppressive and frustrating publisher guidelines, but it’s worth it when you consider the amount of users you can reach by getting your app listed.
Plus, if you create an app with MobiLoud, we handle the app store submission process for you. With our experience of building and publishing over 2000 apps, we can ensure that submitting your app store listings will not be a pain point.
Still, there are advantages to launching on additional app stores, such as those that come pre-installed on certain devices (Huawei, Xiaomi, OPPO, etc). This is particularly important if you want to reach Chinese users.
Be aware that many alternative app stores launch to great fanfare, but burn out and shut down when it becomes clear that they can’t compete with the Apple App Store and Google Play. The Opera Mobile Store (also known as Bemodi), for example, once had over 100 million monthly visitors and 45 million downloads each month. However, it has since been discontinued.
At the end of the day, focus on building a valuable and user-friendly app and getting on Google Play and Apple before anything else.
Final Thoughts: How to Launch Your App and Get on the App Stores
Want to get in on the action and publish an app on the app stores? Great idea.
MobiLoud is a tech-enabled service that converts web platforms to mobile apps. You don’t need to write any code, and in as little as 2-4 weeks, you can have high-quality Android and iOS apps built, published and already getting users.
If you’ve got an existing website you want to convert to an app, MobiLoud is the perfect solution. And if you don’t, you might find that building your app idea for the web first, then using MobiLoud to convert it to an app, is easier than trying to build for mobile from scratch.
If you’re curious about how MobiLoud can help you launch your app, or just want to get a preview of what your site will look like as an app, get on a free discovery call with one of our app experts. You’ll be surprised how easy it is, and how fast you’ll be able to get your brand in the world’s most prestigious app stores.