The process of developing a mobile Android application culminates when one starts to distribute it to the public.

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Although in a way distributing your application to the wide world has never been so easy, choosing a sound distribution strategy is not as simple as it seems. Many different factors came into account, and knowing your options, and start planning ahead of time will increase your changes of a successful deployment.

Going beyond Google Play

When it comes to distribute your app, you have a wide array of choices; to simplify we can classify the options in two groups:

  • Use a market such as Google Play, or any alternative third party app store.
  • Make the app available to download from a website (or just email it to the client)

Both alternatives have upsides, and downsides, and the adequacy of either one of them to your particular case will depend on various factors: target audience , costs associated, business model, etc

Google Play: the good , and the not so good

Google Play is the number one market for android applications. It is still the largest market for Android apps, and the number one stop (or only stop) for many users to get their apps, and just for this reason an option you should take it into account..

As direct consequence of this store popularity, though, your app may find difficult to stand out among the millions of application already on display.
Cost: $25 USD one-time registration fee + 30% fee of the price of every transaction you make.

Alternative markets for apps

If you do not wish to/ cannot use Google Play, or if you want to increase your potential audience you can turn to alternative markets.

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To name a few:

  • Amazon app store
  • F-Droid
  • GetJar

Opera Mobile Store, Mobango, SlideMe, … and the list goes on and on.

Amazon app store

A very interesting feature from the Amazon app store for mobile apps it is that your app will show up in the search results from Amazon.com. Given the customer base of Amazon.com this translates into additional visibility for your app.

Cost: 30% fee of sale

GetJar

GetJar is another alternative to Google Play with global reach, and a high number of downloads: 3 million of downloads per day, according to their site.

Cost: Free

F-Droid

F-Droid it is an app store dedicated to distribute FOSS applications. Therefore you must publish the code of your application (through a Version Control System such as git, svn, etc), and distributed under a FLOSS license. It accepts (although not encourages) the inclusion of ads in the applications.

Cost: Free

Distributing from a website

This is a simple one: you can offer your app to download from your website, if you have one, or send it to your customers/testers as an email attachment, share it in Dropbox, etc. Unlike iOS apps, the options are near infinite.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that to be able to install a downloaded APK in an Android device, one must enable the allowed to install third-party Android app option.

Evaluating your options

At the end of the day how you should distribute your app depends greatly on your particular circumstances: is obvious, for example, than deploying your app privately for testing purposes, it differs form deploying a commercial app to the public.

Some factors you should consider are the following:

  • Costs

You should read carefully the terms, and conditions, and take into account not just any sign up cost, but recurring cost associated with sales of an app, this are the ones that are going to impact on your revenue in the long run.

Also when you evaluate the costs associated to a concrete app store, check what is offering that store in terms of promotion of your product, global market reach, potential customer base, monetizing options, etc. In other words know why are you distributing your app through that store, and not any other: what are you getting in exchange for what you are paying?

For beginner developers wishing to test the waters, there are various app stores that allow developers to upload their application at zero cost.

  • Business model

If you are deploying a commercial app, you need to check if the monetizing options of the selected market store are compatible with your commercial strategy: are ads allowed, it offers the possibility to apply promos, special offers, discounts, etc?

  • Global reach

Publishing into a certain store will allow you to reach a bigger community, or make your app available in different countries?

  • Conditions for uploading your app

You will have to check the terms and conditions to make sure that your app complies: markets may put restrictions on allowed content, or bundled third party libraries.

So what do you think? Any distribution channel you favor over the others? What do you take into account before choosing to distribute your applications through a determined market?

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