Getting Android Apps without the Android Market

A “smartphone” without applications isn’t a SMART phone, its just a phone.  I know I’ve complained about the lack of the Android Market in South Africa.  Apparently the guy at Google in South Africa who’s responsible for the Android Market has said that it’s coming soon. (I didn’t get a response to my email to him asking him for a comment, but that’s what I’ve been told by another local Android fan)

My favourite so far is Handango, but here’s my list of markets.  Worst of the pack (so bad I didn’t include them, were AndroidFreeware.mobi and AndroidFreeware.net – no “on device” experience, and a lot of really bad applications.)

Handango – starstarstarstar

Handango has been around for years.  I’ve used them for apps on my old Palm pilot, Windows Mobile phone and now on my Android phone.  Their Android selection isn’t huge, but they have some fun games, apps, and tools.  If you go to http://handango.com from your device you’ll be prompted to install “InHand” – their Android application for browsing through their store and downloading apps.  They even have some EA games in their catalogue.

Rating: 4/5 – Good, but really not as good as Android Market – no way to be informed of updates to an application that you’ve downloaded already.

MobiHand – starstarstar

I hadn’t heard of them until I started looking for alternative App stores. MobiHand seem to have a pretty extensive collection of applications for many devices.  They have a really well trimmed down mobile site at http://mobihand.com which you can use easily from your Android device.  My only complaint about the online store on the Android devices is that when the list of apps is too long and they start to split them into pages, the links to swap from one page to another are so incredibly small that it’s virtually impossible to click them without zooming in 3 or 4 times.

Rating: 3/5 – It’s good, has a start in the “on phone” experience for browsing for apps, but it’s not a happy experience and could use a few more apps.

Handmark – starstar

Yet another new store to me, Handmark seem to have made a really clean site.  Their software selection seems a little less impressive than both MobiHand and Handango.  That could be because both their mobile and full website seem quite tough to use to find applications.   It looks good, but just seems to require too many clicks to get there.  However, they seem to be the only app store that is selling some of the great EA games like The Sims 3, Spore, Sim City and a bunch of others.

Rating: 2/5 – Not a great search or “on device” experience, but the EA games are a big plus.

Google Search – star

Thanks to Google, I found my a great app for Geocaching, which had just been released for Android.  It’s called CacheMate.   I also found GeoBeagle, which is a free app.  That’s how I found Twitli – a really nice Twitter application.

Rating: 1/5 – You can get some nice things here, but it’s a lot of work.

Open Market – star

I’ve written about this before – you can get to it at Open Market.  It’s great, but is missing a load of apps. Doesn’t do paid apps, and I still haven’t heard back from them about the app I wrote and submitted to them a few days ago.  Until it gets more fully fledged, it’s not going to be a real contender, but you can download it on your phone at http://tr.im/nX6E

Rating: 1/5 – because it’s just South African, has no paid apps, doesn’t let you register as an app developer or downloader.

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