There are well over a million apps in the Play Store, covering just about every topic imaginable. But there are others that haven’t made it into Google’s app store for one reason or another, and some of them are well worth investigating.
These apps are easy to install, so long as you know where to find them. Remember that in most cases you won’t be alerted when they are updated, so it’s a good idea to check back with the download location from time to time to ensure you’re always running the latest version.
Now, let’s take a look at the best apps you won’t find in the Play Store.
The official Amazon app is one of the most popular shopping apps on the Play Store, with tens of millions of downloads. But if you’re still using it instead of the Amazon Underground app, you’re missing out.
Download Amazon Underground direct from Amazon instead, and you’ll get the real deal. This app gives you all the usual shopping features along with access to the Amazon Appstore. More importantly, it includes Underground Apps, a selection of $20,000 worth of apps, games, and in-app purchases available for free.
With choice picks ranging from some of the best Android games like Monument Valley, Threes!, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, to powerful productivity suites like Office Suite Professional (normally $14.99), Amazon Underground is essential for all Android users.
Once you’ve got Amazon Underground installed, you can also download Amazon Video.
This enables you to watch your Amazon Prime Instant Video subscription on any Android phone or tablet. Without it, access to the streaming service is limited to Amazon’s own Fire tablets and Apple’s iPhone and iPad.
Another way to get paid games on the cheap, Humble Bundle offers regular bundles of games at a price that you set yourself.
Each bundle consists of ten games. You get three if you pay more than a dollar; seven if you pay more than the average price across all users; an eighth for paying more than $6; and two more get unlocked once the total revenue for the bundle reaches a certain level.
When you make a purchase, you also get to choose how your money is used — you can split it between the game developers, a charity of your choice, and Humble Bundle itself.
You can download the Humble Bundle app direct to your device, which you can use to download and update your purchased games, but you must buy them through the website first.
Real Money Poker Apps
If poker’s your thing, you won’t find it on the Play Store. Or, at least, none of the official apps from real money services. While they’re prevalent on Apple’s App Store, Android users need to sideload them.
Virtually all popular poker services have mobile apps, including PokerStars.
They’re not always easily found on their respective websites, but a simple Google search will help you locate the Android app for your chosen service. Just be sure to only download it from the official site, and not anywhere else.
Xposed Framework Installer
The Xposed Framework Installer is the must-have app for rooted Android phones. It gives apps — or modules, as they’re called — the ability to make system-level changes to your device, of the kind you would have previously needed to flash a custom ROM to achieve.
Xposed Modules customize, tweak, and enhance your phone in pretty much every way imaginable. Some of the best Xposed Modules, including the permissions manager XPrivacy, can be downloaded through the Play Store. Others, such as the awesome GravityBox, need to be installed separately.
Tasker is one of the most powerful apps available for Android, and it is available through the Play Store. However, this automation tool has a very steep learning curve and isn’t something you can properly evaluate within Google’s 2-hour refund window.
So, before you choose to buy it, head over to the Tasker website and grab the trial version. It lasts for seven days, and you can even uninstall and reinstall it to extend your trial period further.
For a head start, check out our guide to using Tasker.
MiXPlorer is a true hidden Android gem.
It is as comprehensive a file explorer as you can get, with a powerful search function, support for compressed file formats, integration with 19 cloud providers, built-in image and media players. Plus it has a text editor, full root capabilities, and lots more — all wrapped up in a customizable, Material-inspired design.
It’s completely free, and must be downloaded from the official support thread at xda-developers. The app continues to get updated on a regular basis too.
If you struggle to get a good night’s sleep, there’s a chance your smartphone use is to blame. Phone and tablet screens emit blue light at a frequency that tricks our brains into thinking it’s still daytime.
Short of not using your phone after sunset, the solution can be to use an app that filters the harmful blue light. It should help you sleep better and will reduce eyestrain as well.
The best blue-light filtering app for Android is CF.lumen, as it works in both root and non-root modes. You can download the app from the Play Store, through which you can unlock the advanced features via an in-app purchase. But if you download it straight from the source you can activate the Freeload mode, which enables you to unlock the Pro features without paying. Of course, if you like it, you should probably pay for it to support the developer.
That link also has versions that work on older devices — the Play Store one is Android 5.0 and later only.
Viper4Android is a very powerful audio equalizer app for rooted devices. You can use it to create and customize audio profiles for your phone’s internal speakers, as well as your headphones and Bluetooth audio devices.
It isn’t the easiest to use, but if you’re willing to invest the time to learn it, it can produce great results. The official version of this open source app can be downloaded from here, while a thread with more information can be found over at xda-developers.com.
The version of V4A found in the Play Store is not the official one, by the way.
It’s common for Android device manufacturers to install exclusive extra software on their phones. A lot of the time, this is a bad thing — it’s annoying bloatware that you’d rather remove — but occasionally, the apps are worthwhile and even desirable to users of other devices.
In these cases, you can trust the developers at Android enthusiast site XDA-Developers to pull the apps and make them more widely available.
The best recent example is the rather splendid keyboard app for the BlackBerry Priv. It’s fast and intelligent, very cleanly designed, and comes packed with the kind of shortcuts and tricks that were the hallmarks of classic BlackBerry devices.
Remember, this is all very unofficial, so it’s liable to disappear, and you may encounter bugs with the software. Download from here.
Many of the apps that aren’t in the Play Store are absent for a reason. This usually means that they breach the Store’s terms of service in some way.
Sometimes this can be for innocuous reasons, such as the ban on third party app stores. Other times, it can be because they sit in a legal gray area. There are plenty of apps like this, some of which are pretty good. Videoder is a YouTube downloader that clearly breaches YouTube’s ToS, but may be legal under “fair use” laws. Transdroid is a stylish torrent management client, and Mobdro is a video-streaming app that works along similar lines to the controversial Popcorn Time.
Just remember that downloading from unofficial sources doesn’t give you the protections you get when when getting apps from the Play Store, and if you venture too far from the mainstream, you should be sure you know exactly what you’re downloading and where it came from.
Have you tried any of the apps we’ve listed here? Or do you have any other favorites that aren’t in the Play Store? Let us know in the comments.