We love apps. We love free apps. And we love paid apps being given away for nothing most of all. But we don't like pirates, so if you have an eye patch on your face and a parrot on your shoulder, be gone with ye! There are plenty of legal ways to get paid apps for free on Android – including in the Play Store – so we're going to share a few with you. Here's our guide on how to get free paid Android apps.
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Before we continue, it's worth pointing out that free apps may cost in other ways: as one study discovered, ad-funded apps can use an average of 79 percent more mobile data than the ad-free equivalents. If you're on a limited monthly mobile data plan, choosing the free option of an app may be a false economy.
Google Play free app of the week
Google Play has taken a leaf out of Amazon's book and introduced a free app of the week promotion, where a previously paid-for app is available for nothing. It's done a rubbish job of promoting it though, and it's hidden away where you're unlikely to stumble across it.
To access the Google Play free app of the week, use your device to visit the Family section of the Play Store. You should now see a banner promising a free app of the week. If you tap it you'll see an install dialog that tells you what the app is and what it normally costs. Even then you don't get an app summary, just the title and icon.
The Amazon Appstore may be the oft-forgotten little brother of the Google Play Store, but one of the great things about Amazon being second best is that it offers up a free app every day, to try to drag your attention away from Google's monster market. Unlike Google Play, it isn't necessarily a family-friendly app; at the time of writing the free app of the day is a point and click adventure game.
There are several ways to access Amazon's free apps. Just hit the Amazon Appstore online to see the App of the Day listed up the top, or download the regular Amazon app (see screenshots below). You can't install the Amazon App Store from the Google Play Store anymore: you need to install it right from the Amazon website. Just bear in mind that to use Amazon's Appstore you will need an Amazon login.
Make sure you go into the Security settings of your Android phone first, then check the box for Allow Unknown Sources and tap OK. Once you have installed the app, go ahead and uncheck this button.
If you don't want to check the Amazon app every day, you can also grab a notification app such as Free App Notifier for Amazon (which only works for the US Amazon Appstore) or Daily Free App @Amazon (for global Amazon app stores) for daily alerts.
There's also another way to get free apps on Amazon. If you're a member of its Prime program, which offers free next-day delivery on many items, opting for slower deliveries on your orders (on a per-order basis) can give you a credit against Amazon's digital content: not just apps, but music or video too. The credits aren't huge — think a pound, euro or US dollar per slower delivery — but if you order a lot of Amazon stuff it soon adds up. Then again, if you aren't in a hurry, why are you paying for Prime in the first place?Free App Notifier For Amazon
Free App of the Day apps
AppGratis is one of my favorite apps because every morning I'm greeted by another new app for free. There's no overload of offers — just one app a day — curated by Sam, the ever-comical developer with the bad jokes.
As with any deals program, the offers vary: some apps won't be eligible for updates, and some of the free apps probably don't cost anything to start with. Nevertheless, the AppGratis deals just keep coming and there's often some real gems in there. Also keep an eye on Freapp, which does basically the same thing.AppGratis - Cool apps for free Freapp - Free Apps Daily
Google Play surveys
We've written about Google's free Play Store credit in exchange for answering surveys before. If you're not aware of it yet, Google offers its very own rewards program because, well, it wants even more information about you and your habits.
Simply install the Google Opinion Rewards app, fill in a short survey and collect your coinage. You're limited to one survey a week (so you can't exactly retire early), and you don't always get paid for every survey, but you can earn up to a dollar per survey. Not bad for a few minutes of your time.
There's another app called Get Paid Apps Free where you watch short videos or download selected apps in exchange for credit that can be used to buy other apps in the Play Store.Google Opinion Rewards Get Paid Apps Free
Discounted apps and sales
Some apps, such as AppSales, enable you to add apps you're interested in to a watch list, so you can be notified when they go on sale. It isn't exactly free, but it's still better than full price. Plus, AppSales does occasionally post free apps.
There's another alternative called Getjar: Paid Apps for Free where downloading and trying some apps will earn you credit for downloading or upgrading others.App of the Day - 100% Free AppSales. Best Apps on Sale
Google Play return policy
If you're interested in a game and don't mind spending a few bucks on it — but don't want to commit unless you know it's actually worth it — then you can take advantage of Google's returns policy for apps. When you pay for an app you've got two hours to test it out before you are stuck with the purchase.
A couple of hours may not seem like a long time, but it's definitely long enough to get a feel for a game and know if you actually want to pay for it or not. And if you're really, really skint you could manufacture a night's entertainment out of just your phone and a stopwatch.
How do you score paid apps for free (no illegal methods, please!)? What's the best deal you've ever found for a paid app?