Google Play has finally joined the free app party, with a new Free App of the Week section. The free app isn't promoted very well, so this could just be Google testing the waters. Either way, we'll be interested to see if more free apps are offered in future. One a week is fine to start with though.
To access the first Google Play free app of the week, you'll find it via the new Family section (we expect that to change with each new app though), where you'll find the free app banner. You're not told what the app is until the Install dialog box pops up, and 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 drag your attention away from Google's monster market.
You have options on how to get this, 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 like 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 - you can install them below.
''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.
Sometimes the free apps offered by AppGratis won't be eligible for updates, so keep that in mind, and not every free app offered ever cost anything in the first place. 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.
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, they want 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 cashed out to buy other apps in the Play Store.
Discounted apps and sales
Sometimes apps are discounted so much they're free (or practically free). App of the Day does basically the same thing as AppGratis and Amazon, offering a free or heavily discounted app for a limited time only. There are lots of different versions of this app, so you need to get the one relevant to your location (otherwise the Play Store will tell you it is incompatible with your devices).
I should also note that other apps, like AppSales, let you add apps you're interested in to a watch list, so you can be notified when they go on sale. Not exactly free but still better than full price. Plus, AppSales occasionally post free apps too. 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.
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.