Unlike iOS, there is no shortage of third-party app stores on Android. From the Amazon App Store to Aptoide, we have a plethora of options to choose from.
In my opinion, F-Droid is easily the best of them, since it's filled with only free and open-source software and is FOSS in itself. But what if I told you there is a new FOSS android app store available, and this one focuses on privacy and security?
Well that's exactly what Accrescent is, but unfortunately, it comes with a few caveats.
What is Accrescent?
Accrescent bills itself as "A novel Android app store focused on security, privacy, and usability." From my experience thus far, I'd say this rings true.
As a developer-friendly app store, Accrescent offers many features and tools that should appeal to privacy and security-loving individuals. This includes signed repo metadata and verified app installs, so users don't have to trust the app source on first use.
Users also benefit from things like automatic, unattended, unprivileged updates on Android 12 or higher, as well as split APK support, so downloads are optimized for the device to conserve bandwidth. Accrescent offers all this without requiring user accounts, and all apps in the store are free.
In short, Accrescent is a highly focused, highly accessible app store with privacy and security in mind. If those things matter to you, then Accrescent might be for you.
What's the catch?
Now, all of this sounds amazing. An open source app store focused on privacy, security, and usability that seems to be up for the job. What's the catch? Well...there's a few.
Firstly, the app is still in early alpha. Now, this isn't a huge deal, given that my experience with it thus far has shown it to be quite stable. It's still worth keeping in mind that this project is fairly new, and you may encounter bugs or issues in these early stages.
Secondly, though Accrescent is free software (under the ISC License), there are no guarantees all the available apps will be. As of right now they are, but Accrescent has no software license restrictions like F-Droid. That means even proprietary software can be present in the future.
Some may see the potential availability of more apps as a good thing, while others will see this as a shortcoming for user freedom. I typically fall in the latter camp, but this isn't something that would keep me from using Accrescent. For example, I am a heavy Flathub user, and there is plenty of proprietary software on there.
Lastly, and most importantly, there aren't that many apps available. And when I say not that many, I really mean not that many. At the time of writing this post, Accrescent's app catalog is barely in the double digits. That means Accrescent is a far cry from being your one-stop shop in its current state.
In fact, I will list out every app currently available in the Accrescent app store:
- Accrescent - The app store itself
- Articons Dark - Dark mode icon theme
- Articons Light - Light mode icon theme
- Articons You - Material You icon theme
- Clipious - Frontend Invidious client
- tunedetective - Uses Deezer's API to discover new music
- ExifEraser - Permissionless image metadata erasing application
- Aves Gallery - Video and photo gallery
- BeauTyXT - Material design text and markdown editor
- Molly - Alternative Signal messaging client
- IVPN - VPN client for the IVPN service
As you can tell, there isn't that much in the way of selection on Accrescent right now. Three of the apps are icon themes, and one is the app store itself to manage future updates.
On the other hand, a few of the other apps are great choices. Aves Gallery and Molly are apps I would recommend if you have use cases for them, and IVPN is my favorite VPN right now. That means there are some solid offerings in here already, it's just not going to be enough if Accrescent wants to gain some real traction.
The idea of Accrescent is something I find really appealing. I am HEAVILY drawn to an app store that focuses on some of--in my opinion--the most important issues today: digital privacy and security.
On the other hand, the lacking app selection and the potential inclusion of proprietary software are two things that keep me from wanting to start using it right now.
I consider myself a fairly practical person, but it's hard to move my mobile workflow away from F-Droid or something like Obtanium when I am really happy with them right now.
That being said, nothing I've said thus far would keep me from using Accrescent if it comes into its own. I will definitely keep my eye on it moving forward, and I recommend you do too. You can download the Accrescent app store at the link below.