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On alternative Android app stores

Promoting a free application is harder than it sounds. The biggest issue is standing out among thousands of apps added daily and not much good information on the subject can be found. Almost all of the articles Google provides either state the obvious (social media integration, contacting bloggers etc) or fall into the category of “n%2 == 0 tips to marketing your free Android app” (and with second common denominator being “useless”). Rarely do the articles mention any actual figures, that’s what I’d like to change here.

Following is my experience promoting Number Game by Aplefly Games. Marketing as such is not among my favourite pastimes, but as a few man studio, we can’t just only do what we like. Developing games, that is.

Number Game was not very successful (and actually we’ve concentrated our efforts on iOS since the launch on Android Market, now known as Google play), but we still managed to get about 10 000 downloads combined on all markets in few months.

If there was only one piece of advice I could give someone diving head first into free Android app promotion it would be: do not disregard alternative markets. Alternative markets can easily bring you more downloads and users than Google Play.

Slide Me

In first week, Number Game got about 360 downloads on Google Play. By that time, Number Game on SlideMe had been downloaded about 700 times…in 3 days. SlideMe is the number 1 source for Number Game downloads adding over 100 on better days. If you also happen to update your application and get to “updated” section, you could pick up as much in few hours.

SlideMe has less applications than Google Play, but a huge user base. Also it has a decent review process (it didn’t take 2 eternities like Amazons) and the best developer interface. If I had to choose just one market to publish my apps on in the future it will be SlideMe, not Google Play.

Just don’t expect too much feedback. After 4000 downloads, Number Game only has 4 ratings (all 5 star I’m glad to say) and 0 comments. But it doesn’t matter really, people download! Having users less active commenting also decreases the amount of negative reviews. That’s another thing – you are bound to get negative reviews in time, no matter how good your application is. We managed to hold solid 5 star rating on Google Play til the last update when we introduced carrier  based in-app purchases. This added SMS permission and self proclaimed security experts trashed us with no mercy.

GetJar

Angry birds initially launched on GetJar due to its international reach, as at the time, Android Market was not available globally like now. That says a word or few about the Market. However..

Their app submission process is like going through medieval torture and asking for more. I actually stopped half way through once because it was such a pain. Later I still decided to go through with it. All that, to get 6 downloads the day we launched. We didn’t get a single more in about a month.

Things did improve over time however and now we have about 500 downloads on GetJar without holding a campaign. I’m glad I took the time to submit it there.

Amazon Marketplace

How did the infamous Amazon Marketplace do? With 8 downloads of Number Game it’s one of the worst performing markets of all. That is, if you target smartphones. Things turn around if your application is for tablets and works fine on Amazon Kindle Fire. As Kindle Fire has no Google Play, its users get all their apps from Amazon Marketplace.

We also created HD version of Number Game optimized for tablets. It has absolutely no success whatsoever on Google Play. However on Amazon App store it scores 3-20 downloads a day. Our best day on Amazon app store had more downloads for HD version than Google Play has in total!

With that said I’d like to give you a word of warning. If your applications revenue comes from ads like ours you might be in for an unpleasant surprise. As Kindle Fire has no 3G the devices are usually offline. Hence, you won’t be getting many (if any!) banner impressions. Unless you sell your application on tablets I suggest keeping away from Amazon Marketplace as it’s not worth the hassle.

Appia

Appia remains a mystery to me. As far as developers are concerned, everything that happens after submitting your application is dark and forbidden magic. I have absolutely no idea where the applications are published. They claim to be “Powering 40+ partner marketplaces” and we have close to 1000 downloads there so it just might be true.

Appia was again one of the publishers where the start was slow, we had almost no downloads til a magical point when we started getting about 500 downloads a month. The developer portal is decent (yet no detailed reporting), you can even set the applications compatibility per device. However if you are confident your app works everywhere it’s no pain to add all the devices (unlike Amazon Marketplace).

Appoke

Appoke looks very promising, however we haven’t had much success there. It gives you loads of material to analyze your user base as you can see everyone who downloaded or liked your app. If you have done well on Appoke I’d love to hear your experience.

Mobango

Mobango is also worth giving a shot at. Not much I can say about it though. With less than 300 downloads it’s not among our top distribution sources. Yet it outperforms many other markets and does add downloads – slowly, but steadily. I didn’t find link to NumberGame on frontend, which is a bit worrisome.

Opera Mobile App Store

Don’t expect SlideMe or Google Play like figures here. It’s probably because it has few users. On better weeks Numbr Game on Opera Mobile App Store adds about 1 download per day. It’s better than nothing Also the process of adding the application is simple enough and won’t make your hair gray. After 3 months we have 62 downloads on Opera Mobile app store. The decision is up to you if it’s worth it.

Soc.io

Not worth it. Even though the developer interface is decent, we’ve hit a staggering 1 download, even after multiple updates.

Insydemarket

Last and definitely least, insydemarket is an example of how not to make an App store (I’m not even going to link to them). Their developer environment is literally unusable.  The over-ajaxed interface is really slow and work only when it feels like doing so. Not often that is. Updating your application is just stupid – there is no way you can just update the binary, you have to reupload the icon and screenshots. I’ve given up on updating Number Game on insydemarket.

We have added NumberGame to few more alternative markets, but they are not worth mentioning. If you have been successful on alternative market I didn’t include and are willing to share the experience, I’d love to hear from you.

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