List of Android app stores
The functionality of mobile devices running the Android operating system, the most used mobile operating system globally, can be extended using "apps" – specialized software designed to offer users the means to use their devices for certain additional purposes. Such apps are compiled in the Android-native APK file format which allows easy redistribution of apps to end-users.
Most apps are distributed through Google's Play Store but many alternative software repositories, or app stores, exist. Alternative app stores use the "Unknown Sources" option of Android devices to install APK files directly via the Android Package Manager.
Google Play Store
The Google Play Store (originally the Android Market), operated and developed by Google, serves as the official app store for the Android, allowing users to download apps developed with the Android software development kit (SDK) and published through Google. The store offers both free and paid apps. Apps exploiting hardware capabilities of a device can be targeted to users of devices with specific hardware components, such as a motion sensor (for motion-dependent games) or a front-facing camera (for online video calling). The Google Play store had over 50 billion app downloads in 2013 and has reached over 2.7 million apps published in 2017.
Although bundled with most Android devices, the Play Store is only available on devices that are certified within the "Android Compatibility Program". As a result, manufacturers of so-called "custom ROMs", i .e. modified versions of Android, are not allowed to bundle Google apps, including the Play Store, with their software. Compatibility can be restored by installing the Google apps from another source, such as OpenGApps, or using alternative app stores.
Manufacturer app stores
In addition to some manufacturers not creating certified compatible versions of Android, some manufacturers have decided to bundle their own app stores, either in addition to the Play Store or as a replacement. Such app stores include Samsung Galaxy Apps, which is installed on Samsung mobile devices alongside the Play Store and the Amazon Appstore, which is installed instead of the Play Store on Amazon's Fire Phone and Kindle Fire. The Amazon Appstore can also be installed on other Android devices by downloading it from the Amazon website.
Third-party app stores
Such app stores are often used by developers to distribute apps that are not allowed in the Play Store, for example because they allow users more access to the system or to offer apps for niche users, such as only free and open-source software (F-Droid) or indie games (Itch.io). They might also serve to distribute "hacked" versions of paid apps for free.
Reasons to use alternative app stores
Some users prefer using alternative app stores to avoid using Google services as part of their philosophy. Alternative app stores may also be easier to navigate for users and allow them to find apps easier due to different algorithms or display of apps but users using either third-party app stores or Google Play cannot be certain that the apps they are installing have been checked for malware or computer viruses.
Another reason for alternative app stores is that full Google Play functionality is not available everywhere. For example, Chinese users cannot purchase apps on the Play Store, forcing them to use alternative app stores such as AppChina and Wandoujia.
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