Why You Should Replace Google Play With an Alternative App Store

Bertel King 16-11-2018

Most Android devices come with Google Play, also known as the Play Store. This is a one-stop-shop for apps, games, music, and movies. It’s Android’s answer to Apple’s App Store.


Unlike on iOS, it’s relatively easy to swap out the Play Store for a different app store. But should you? There are quite a few reasons to answer with an emphatic “yes.”

1. No Company Should Have All That Power

Google Play in web browser

App stores make finding and downloading software an easy task, as they host everything you need. As a user, the experience is much more pleasant than hunting the web for desktop installers.

But there’s a downside. This approach provides the company that runs the app store with a great deal of power over the software we use. Google decides what apps get into the store. It also has the authority to take apps down. Software you value dearly can go away at a moment’s notice, against your (or the developer’s) objections.

Google gets a cut of every sale made via the Play Store, as reimbursement for providing and maintaining the infrastructure. But Google also use the Play Store as a way to encourage Android phone manufacturers to do what it wants. Google has faced hefty fines Why Google Was Fined: Antitrust and Technology Explored Google was fined $5 billion from the EU for anticompetitive practices. Why did this happen, and how is it similar to past cases? Let's find out. Read More in the past due to such monopolistic practices.


2. Google Play Isn’t Very Private

App library in the Play Store

You need a Google account to access the Play Store. With it, Google logs every app you install.

You can go through your library and see a long list of all the apps you’ve installed on every Android device you’ve ever owned. Apps appear on this list even if you only kept them installed for a few seconds. You have to manually remove the ones you don’t want tied to your account.

Part of this is a requirement for the way mobile app stores work. In order to make your apps automatically download when you switch to a new device, or to track your purchases, Google has to tie this information to an account.


Unfortunately, if you don’t care about these features, there’s no provided way to access the Play Store with this functionality disabled. To use Google Play, you have to let Google keep tabs on what you’re doing.

3. You’ve Decided to Ditch Google

Google Play sign in required

This need for a Google account means that if you’ve decided to ditch Google Goodbye Google: The 15 Best Alternatives to Search, News, Docs, and More Do you want to switch away from Google for good? These are the best alternatives for all the major Google apps and services. Read More , then the Play Store isn’t an option for you. Unlike Google Maps or YouTube, you can’t dip in and out without signing in.

That means you need to find a new way to download apps to your Android device. Or you can settle for the apps that came pre-installed. If you want to keep it simple, a smartphone without Play Store access still does a lot more than a dumbphone I Used a Dumbphone for a Year: Here Are 8 Lessons I've Learned A year ago, I got rid of my smartphone and used only a basic dumbphone. Here's what I've learned from the experience. Read More while placing some limits on how distracting your phone can become.


4. Not All Apps Are in the Google Play Store

Humble Bundle android app not in Play Store

The Play Store may be the biggest place to find Android apps, but that doesn’t mean it has all of them. Frankly, some great apps aren’t in Google’s store 10 Best Android Apps Not in the Play Store The Play Store isn't the end-all-be-all of Android apps. If you've never ventured outside of it, you're really missing out. Read More .

Some apps aren’t there because they only work on custom ROMs or rooted devices. Others disappear from the Play Store because they run afoul of Google’s terms and conditions. Alternative app stores, for example, are not welcome in the Play Store.

In other cases, it’s a regional issue. An app may be on Google Play, but not available in your area or for your device.


By definition, this means you’ll have to look somewhere other than the Play Store. In some cases, an alternative app store will have what you’re looking for. Other times you will have to download and install the APK manually How to Manually Install or Sideload Apps on Android Want to sideload apps on your Android phone? Installing APKs manually on Android opens up a whole new world of apps, and it's easy to do. Read More .

But Don’t Ditch the Google Play Store Just Yet

While there are valid reasons to seek out a Google Play Store alternative, that doesn’t mean everyone will want to make that choice. There are risks and downsides that come with leaving Google’s walled garden behind.

1. Dealing With Unknown Sources

Android unknown sources message

To use an app store other than the Play Store on older versions of Android, you have to enable the ability to allow software from unknown sources Is It Safe to Install Android Apps from Unknown Sources? The Google Play Store isn't your only source of apps, but is it safe to search elsewhere? Read More . This can open you up to various forms of malicious software. Out of the box, Android does not let you install APKs directly.

Starting with Android 8 Oreo, Google changed this setting. Now, you can permit only certain apps to install APKs. This way your phone would block a rouge APK from an email attachment, but accept game downloads via sources like the Humble Bundle app.

2. Other App Stores Aren’t Necessarily Safe

Aptoide Android app store

While sketchy apps do occasionally slip through Google’s checks, the Play Store is a relatively safe place to download software. Risks come primarily in the form of tracking and apps requesting more permissions than they need. You’re less likely to encounter overt malware.

Alternative app stores come from organizations with fewer resources. Some, like the Amazon Appstore, may come from well-established names, but that doesn’t mean a store is safe; the Amazon Appstore can pose a security risk Why the Amazon App Store Is an Android Security Threat Third-party app stores can be enticing, but installing them can seriously compromise the security of your Android device. Read More .

You have to do a bit of research and decide which sources are trustworthy. You might decide you prefer to stick with Google.

3. There Aren’t Enough Apps

F-Droid app categories

At the end of the day, the Play Store has more Android apps than any other app store. Some may offer more enticing deals or provide more curated software, but Google’s shop is most likely to have what you want. Video game companion apps, apps for wearables, and modern car apps are all only found on Google Play.

If you tend to use a wide range of apps, then you may quickly tire of the limited options available elsewhere. That said, there’s nothing stopping you from using alternative app stores for some software and the Play Store for others. Well, almost nothing…

4. You Might Have Conflicting Updates

Alternative app stores don’t always offer the same app version that appears in Google Play. Sometimes the version numbers don’t match, especially when the secondary app store lags behind the Play Store. In other cases, software might possess features that aren’t supported in the Play Store-friendly version. You may also run into issues if you have multiple app stores installed that all try to deliver updates.

One convenience of smartphones is that you really don’t have to think much about where to find apps and how to keep them up-to-date. Once you start installing alternate app stores, this becomes an issue again.

Do You Have an Issue With Google?

If you don’t trust Google, then swapping out the Google Play Store is really only a starting point. Do you use Gmail? Google Docs? Google Assistant? If you have misgivings about the software giant, then you’re going to need to go further.

Can you use Android without Google How to Use Android Without Google: Everything You Need to Know Want to use Android without Google? No Google, no problem. Here's a guide to going Google-free on your Android device to regain privacy. Read More ? Absolutely, but like using an app store other than Google Play, your heart has to be in it.

Related topics: Android Apps, Google, Google Play, Google Play Store, Sideloading.

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  1. Jay Coventry
    November 19, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    "You can go through your library and see a long list of all the apps you’ve installed on every Android device you’ve ever owned."

    Untrue. What the library stores, are apps you have deleted, so that if you change your mind and want to reinstall any of them, they're simple to find and reinstall.

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      November 19, 2018 at 3:02 pm

      Technically, due to the way the Play Store organizes things, you're correct. I can see how this sentence is unclear, especially when combined with the screenshot I provided.

      I think the sentence is more clear if you go with the common understanding that all of the apps Google (or another company providing a similar service) associates with your account are the apps in your "library." What I meant to highlight was that there is a list of all of the apps you have *ever* installed (to delete an app, you must have first installed it).

      Back when I started using Android, I knew Google associated every app I had currently installed with my account, but I was surprised when I found out Google had kept a record of all the ones I had deleted as well.

  2. Armakuni
    November 18, 2018 at 7:23 pm

    This is a very difficult thing. There is no really good alternative out there for Google Play. You could use something other if you aren't a power user. Maybe you could stick to the preinstalled apps which come with your Huawei or Samsung device, for example.
    If you don't plan to buy apps, you could stick to websites providing APKs. But really, you don't want this. This is not an option. Actually, it is nearly impossible to get an Android device without connecting it to Google. Maybe you have look for getting a good and stable custom ROM for your device, without Google apps. But for the average user, this is impossible.
    It is right to think about companies which get to big, get all your data and how to avoid this. But really: it's to late, and there is no real alternative. Maybe you should stick to an iOS device? Ehm, ok, ... maybe not...