Apps are what make Android great but sometimes they can get a bit expensive, especially when you’ve already spent quite a lot on your device. So what is an Android fan to do? Go for the free ones of course!
Here are some tried and true ways to get free and cheap apps on your device.
Sometimes you hear or read about a great app and want to get it into your phone. More often than not, the developer has a free version of that app available together with a paid one. Just search for the app in the Android Market and click on the app that says INSTALL instead of the one with a price. Alternatively, you can click on the name of the developer that’s right under the app name to see his full roster of apps, including any free versions they may have.
The great thing is that often the free version has all the basic functionality you need. If you feel like you need more or want to reward the dev for such a great piece of software, go ahead and buy the paid one.
The Amazon Appstore is one of the alternative Android app repositories out there. What I like about it is that it releases for free a paid app everyday. Some of the great free apps they’ve offered are Angry Birds Rio, Plants vs. Zombies and Pac-man. There’s also a ton of free and paid apps that are only available through Amazon.
The trouble is reminding yourself to check the Amazon app daily to see what’s new and free today. Install the $0.99 Amazon Free App Reminder from the Market and get pinged on what’s on sale today, everyday. It pays for itself when you get your first free download and notifies you which app is free on a set schedule. And for those of you outside the US, read this here to be able to download apps from the Amazon Appstore.
They’re giving away Fieldrunners HD right now, so go on and grab it now!
Another alternative application marketplace, Getjar offers only free Android apps and often works with carriers to provide free apps to their subscribers. They offer free versions of many apps that go paid in the Android Market. Some of the great finds I’ve seen are Cut The Rope and Kaspersky Mobile Security.
Holidays of all types often bring discounted and even free apps to the Market. And even if the holiday is well known but not celebrated in your part of the globe, like Independence Day for the US, some devs do the sale Market-wide anyway. This was what EA and Gameloft recently did this last Fourth of July, and though most were not free, the discounts on the paid ones lowered many apps to an affordable $0.99. So watch that calendar and you might just get that exceptional game you’ve always wanted for cheap.
Spending on a paid app sometimes makes little sense if you just want it to do one thing. It will take some search-fu skills but you really can find lots of free alternatives out there. One site you can use is AlternativeTo which shows you software similar to the one you want. You can also just simply search the Market for the type off app you want (like say “Battery Alarm” or “Sudoku”) and click on free in the Price filter up top.
Sometimes, it really doesn’t hurt to ask the app makers for freebies. They are often gracious enough that you’ve found their app worth installing and will reward you with a free version, you only need to ask. Of course in exchange, they might ask for something minor in return (retweet our links, post a short review, like their pages). It’s a small price to pay, especially if you love that developer’s apps.
Sometimes a big milestone for an app dev comes along: one million downloads, anniversaries, getting bought by a huge company, etc. They share the love by giving a limited free or discounted offer to their loyal fans so it pays to be attentive. Follow your favorite dev’s Twitter account, watch their blog and website, and stay tuned to their FaceBook page. A good place to start trawling for apps are AndroidZoom’s On Sale tab and AppBrain’s Price Reduced page.
Some app reviewers get a handful of free stuff to give away to their readers that keep tuned to their blog posts. Of course, this doesn’t come easy though. Often they’ll give it away to the first N commenters, raffle it off to FaceBook fans or award it to the account that retweeted them the most. Follow sites like Android.Appstorm to get a chance to win that coveted app.
If unstable software doesn’t faze you, get on the beta list of the new apps you’ve heard so much about. Often, apps that are big in other place (*ahem* iPhone *ahem*) are now expanding into Android but want to work the kinks out first. You get to try a free app right that lets you in some brand spanking new technology. Note though that you will be working for it, in a way, since you will be reporting bugs and sending usage reports back to the dev’s mothership to help them improve their final release.