Android app discovery: How to find the best Android apps

by: Simon HillMarch 13, 2013

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The Android platform launched in October 2008. There were around 50 apps in the Android Market. Four years later, in October 2012, Google reported there were 700,000 apps in the rebranded Google Play Store. That’s quite a jump and the app explosion is far from over – the total has already climbed past 800,000 apps today.

Having such a wide choice of apps and games on the platform is great for us, but it does present a bit of a challenge – how do you find the best Android apps? The original Android Market was far from user friendly. App discovery was a real challenge before Google overhauled it. Remember when you couldn’t just browse the apps online? There was no filtering by device and only a small subset of the charts you can find today. Independent app reviews on other websites were few and far between. Tools for app discovery were yet to be invented.

Unearthing gems

Things have come a long way since then, but it is still a challenge to find great Android apps. When apps were a novelty, perhaps people were willing to browse and take a chance on something, but nowadays most of us want to cut to the chase. Localytics research on multiple mobile platforms from 2010 revealed that 26 percent of apps that were downloaded were only used once. Nuance suggested that only 5 percent of free apps are still being used 30 days after download.

Most people use a small set of apps frequently and only dip their toes in the ocean of possibilities on occasion. Let’s face it; if you cast your net into the murky depths of the app store indiscriminately then you’re pretty likely to dredge up a disappointing haul. The truth is that the majority of apps in the Play Store are not worth your time.

If you want to avoid wasting time on the dross then there are a few techniques worth adopting and some handy apps and services that can help you. Let’s take a look at Android app discovery done right.

The majority can’t be wrong

An obvious place to start is with the Play Store charts. You can find out what the top premium and free apps are, what the most successful new apps are, which apps Google staff recommend, trending apps, apps recommended for you (if you’re logged in), and there’s even a section for tablet optimized apps now. You also have the option of filtering by category and if you log into your account you can just queue up your choices from any browser and have them download automatically to your smartphone. The whole experience is much improved and it’s getting better all the time.


When you find an individual app you are considering, the reviews, aggregated user score, and the download chart on its Play Store page will give you a nice rounded snapshot of how popular it is. You’ll never find a dud with high review scores and high download numbers.

There’s really no need to go outside the Play Store to find great apps, but you might consider using alternative app stores to help you identify new apps and games worth downloading. Check out what’s popular in the charts at the Amazon App Store, GetJar, SlideME, AppBrain, or Handango and then find it at the Play Store to download. You’ll tend to see the same top apps pop up in the Play charts, but there are lots of other app stores out there with charts, ratings and reviews and they can help you to turn up some alternative quality apps.

App discovery apps

There are two apps that have really stood out over the last few months as great tools for finding new apps and games worth downloading.

The first is Best Apps Market and it’s a curated selection of the cream of the crop, fully categorized and easy to search or browse. The developer recently released a new and improved app called Fetch which takes the same formula and wraps it in a more attractive package. It’s good for finding apps, it can make decent suggestions based on what you have used in the past, it is well categorized, and it’s very easy to search. The trick is that it attaches traits to individual apps and games and so you can dig deeper than the typical categories you find in app store charts. It works best for games, which is unsurprising because it is powered by the Game Genome Project, and it allows you to layer up traits that you want in your game in order to create a very specific filter.


The second is for tablet owners and it’s called Tablified Market. It’s a straight selection of apps and games that have been optimized for Android tablets and organized into categories. It also includes occasional offers for free apps, and it gives you an idea of what’s popular and what’s trending.


Reviews and aggregation

Android is so big now that you can find detailed reviews and roundups of great apps and games on a number of websites. Naturally you should start right here in the apps section of Android Authority. You’ll find a lot of other great locations for turning up new Android apps and finding reviews and discussion about the latest releases from the Guardian to XDA Developers. When you find a reviewer with taste that matches yours you’ve struck gold, but it’s easier said than done.

What Android is really lacking is a good aggregator service (post a comment if you know about one). A service that collects all the app reviews and ratings from respected sources and aggregates the scores would be useful. Metacritic does this beautifully for games and the service has expanded to include iOS, but sadly there’s no Android coverage on there. We contacted Metacritic to ask if there are any plans to include Android, but they declined to comment.

Suggestions please

With the right apps and games everyone gets more from Android, so let’s put our heads together and share tips. How do you find new apps and games? Have you got a foolproof method for avoiding dross? How do you dig past the same hundred or so names that dominate all the charts? Post a comment please.

  • bungadudu

    Nfs mw, monopoly, plants vs zombies as birthday apps?
    Ty for recommendation !

  • truli

    The Hubbl app is great. It’s a great aggregator, believe me. Much like you have asked for in parenthesis.

    • Simon Hill

      I’ll check it out thanks for the tip.

    • Deon Wells

      I’d like to suggest our own app which curates and recommends the best apps. It’s called “Best Android Apps” in Google Play.

  • cordova

    How to find the best Android apps ?
    it’s easy.

    just go to one of apk pirates forum out there.
    no, no, I don’t suggest you to download pirated apps.

    instead, just look at hot thread or discussion. thread with lot of views, replies, or lot of thanks to uploader.
    based on public demand, app or game on those hot thread will definitely worth your money. trust me, those won’t lie to you. they are pure public opinion.

    the reason I’m telling these because nowadays you can’t trust any app-reviewer site nor google play itself. they can be too much biased. and they can be paid.

    • VicVicVic

      Can you suggest such a forum that doesn’t have spyware and such? I was pretty happy when I saw this article, but the resources are still a bit lacking. I’ve never thought of your strategy, but that could work. Thanks!

  • VicVicVic

    I know Google is supposed to be putting out their own Google Store Red Guide soon (source:, but I’m not sure if it will be biased.

  • Thanks for the shout out, SImon! We’re working hard to make Fetch better every day and it’s great to see that you like what we’re doing.

    • Tarun Matteda

      came here to tell..Fetch Apps & are right here :)

  • Also look at the Editor’s Choice Apps in the Google Play Store for some really good apps.

  • Gdroid1

    The play store just needs a fully customizable sort function. First off they need to add sort by rating, not popularity. Something may be too new to be popular yet but it could be highly rated. Then you should have the option to really customize your sort, sort first by rating, second by cost (or vice versa). Often times I want a free app that is highly rated but I can only sort by popularity (which should be rating) OR cost. I need both sorting simultaneously.

    Best app market and app brain are good but it’s similar for them too. Plus they need to add the option to sort for related. Once you click related it no longer provides the option to sort, which to me is almost useless because I’m left finding related apps but can’t find the highest rated free ones (or whatever the combination I’m looking for).

    Lastly, why the heck does the play store have some sort options online but not on the actual app? This is android, a mostly app dependant system, and you are Google running it… C’mon Google!

    In the mean time I spend a lot of time watching video reviews and checking all my sources and feeds. Sort could really minimize the need for a lot of this.

  • Appogee

    Sidebar (Pro/Lite) is a great app that is pretty nice for multitasking and productivity. Love the stability it has and the customizations, especially the addition of widget toggles.

  • Take a look at recipes by ingredients. Its a new app that allows for searching, saving, sharing with multiple ingredients, allergies, and a ton of other things.

    Link to Android:

  • DOTD Mike

    I am an independent developer, and run an unbiased ‘App Of The Day’ app named DOTD. I hand curate the daily app based on community suggestions. It is a simple way to discover apps, and is free of ads or promotions (the apps are selected based on merit, not sponsorship).

  • Carlos Chen

    This is a very good article. Basically the main problem for an app developer now is how to inprove the probability that the app can be discovered.

    Even for the basic category of voice recorder apps for Android, the ranking on google play seems NEVER changed since its starting. The top 1 is always the “Smart Voice Recorder” with such an idiotic look-and-feel. If you compare it with the “Easy and Smart Voice Recorder” under with much more powerful pre-scheduling capability and much more beautiful design, you know the problem of google play ranking.

    We can hardly expect that google will change the ranking algorithm in the short term. This is the fact and also the chance for third-party ranking tools, since such tools can help the customers a lot to get just the best apps.