Even though Android users can find and download apps in far more places than our iOS counterparts, app discovery on your device is still a task largely relegated to the Android Market. There are other app stores and apps that help you find new apps you would enjoy, but the official Android Market is the only one that's been regularly updated and does the best job of helping you find apps you would like based on other apps you may have installed.
- Keeps a list of apps you have installed or have purchased for reference or sharing later.
- Easy search tool allows you to quickly find apps you're already looking for, and browse suggestions for apps based on the names you searched for.
- App listings provide alternatives in the form of "users also viewed" and "users also installed", complete with their market rating and price.
- "Staff Picks" and "Editors Choice" sections direct you towards popular or particularly useful apps in the market, and featured apps are always on the same page.
- Search tool often displays apps with approximate functionality if the app you searched for isn't available in the Android Market or is only available for another platform.
- Swipe left-to-right to see top paid, free, grossing and trending apps in all categories and discover what other users have been downloading.
The beauty of Android is that you're not limited to any one app store or source for new apps when you want to try something new or find an application that suits your needs. The downside at the same time is that, unlike on iOS, there's no single repository to use to create an elegant tool like Dscovr Apps that can help you find new apps based on ones you already have installed, or ones that you'd like to try but don't want to pay for, for example.
Even so, Google does a great job with the Android Market in making it easy to search and find the apps you're looking for, and even easy to find new apps that other users may have chosen instead right there on the app's information page. This information is available both on the web and on your phone when you're browsing the app market, and you can see which other, similar apps users looked over or installed in lieu of or addition to the one you've searched for.
Long gone are the days where the front page of the Market was just a simple list of new or most-downloaded apps. The "Editors' Choice" and "Staff Picks" sections on the featured apps screen are actually useful tools to help you discover new apps in a given category, and the category breakdown helps you drill down to find popular apps based on their function or purpose. Top free and paid lists show you what everyone else is downloading, and "Trending" helps you see the apps everyone is talking about or are new and hot in the market -- even if people aren't necessarily buying or downloading them en masse.
The biggest problem with the Market when it comes to discovery is that it's a market. It's a store, and it's not designed to help you find apps you would like based on you, it's designed to make it easy for you to find and buy apps. That means there are no tools to help you find new apps based on the ones you have installed, or based on ones that you type in, or based on some functionality that you're looking for, beyond searching through a category. Sadly, the concept of finding apps based on other apps is limited to the search box in the Android Market.
AppBrain (free) saw its heyday when the Android Market was in a much sorrier state than it is now. Back then it was the only way to keep track of the apps you installed on your Android phone, share the apps you downloaded with other people, and one of the first services that allowed you to install apps directly from the web. It still does all of those things, and is still a great resource for apps, allows you to share your installed apps and discovered apps with others via Facebook, and offers a great curated selection of trending and interesting apps based on AppBrain staff.
Best Apps Market (free) focuses on free apps almost exclusively, and highlights some of the most popular and best free apps in multiple categories, chosen by the folks behind the app. Consider it an alternative to the Android Market that focuses entirely on free apps, and offers suggestions for similar apps based on the ones that you're viewing. It's also easy to share and rate apps that you discover on your favourite social networks.
Do you have another app discovery app for Android that we overlooked, or a preferred method of finding new Android apps? Share it in the comments.
Lifehacker's App Directory is a growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools across multiple platforms.