In August 2021, on the search for ways to distribute their apps, Metatrans Apps discovered F-Droid. They approached us for help – and after evaluating their needs and capabilities, Krasimir and I set up a repository for them using the open source F-Droid software. Within a few days after the first contact, it was online.
This is a guest article written by Krasimir Topchiyski, CEO of Metatrans Apps, describing the process from his experience. It hopefully inspires and motivates other developers to follow up.
I would like to share with you, our story about discovering F-Droid world and making our first step toward it by making our apps available for F-Droid users and clients.
In short, this is a completely new world in front of us at Metatrans Apps company.
We are publishing apps since 2014, for reference you may want to check our company overview. I am developer and have started with the creation of Chess Art for Kids game and then in time we have extended our portfolio with 8 additional apps, mainly educational games and chess apps. So now we have nine free games & apps overall – two of them already being completely open sourced, more are planned to follow (with two already in the pipeline and being worked upon).
Distributing our apps
From the very beginning I wonder where to publish the apps in order to reach more users and make them happy. I started with publishing our games to Google Play, then also to the app stores of Amazon and Samsung, but they have generated only a few downloads and had big difficulties with the user interface, used by developers, for uploading games on their stores. In the beginning of 2021 I was contacted from the Bulgarian office of Huawei App Gallery, where we now also have a presence.
While working on Reddit to promote our apps, in their community rules I found out App Stores’ names written which were unknown to me. So I started the communication with them and fortunately one of them has responded immediately! We started chatting and I had very good impression about it, as I was receiving prompt replies with detailed information.
This was F-Droid community! More especially the contact was Izzy and I am so happy to face him as it is very easy to work with Izzy!
Establishing our own F-Droid repository
In just a few days we succeeded to build our own F-Droid compatible App Store for our 9 free apps. He also was so kind to add our repository link to some important places as well as to include it with the repo browser on his website. Hint: You can simply scan the QR code to add this repository to your F-Droid client (click the image for a larger version if needed).
Here are some interesting facts regarding the own F-Droid Store approach, which I have observed during the story:
- Everything, meaning all necessary software is freely available under an open source license (including F-Droid server itself)
- If you are developer, you can do everything by yourself, although it has learning curve and needs time. As I was not willing to wait and wanted to go for own store immediately, I requested help from Izzy. We agreed than in the beginning he will do everything (we achieve go live in just a few days that way) and than in next weeks and months he will handover to me tasks in order to educate me and I will be able to do the job by myself in future. Of course, I have appreciated his help and compensated for it.
- In general, changes, recreation of the index and upload to the hosting server are necessary mainly if you plan to do updates of your APK files and metadata (descriptions and icons) from time to time. Don’t worry everything in this process could be automated, so at the end you just need to transfer single zip file to your hosting and extract it in a few seconds or even this could be completely automated! Basically, if you have full SSH access to the hosting server, and the fdroidserver env set up, you’d simply need to drop the APK and run a simple script ...
- There is also one important difference in comparison with the other apps stores. With the available F-Droid clients the end user don’t need accounts in order to download. The privacy aspect is highly valued by the F-Droid community. This is something which has made a very good impression on me and feeds me with input to think about. For example, I understood that there is a completely new segment of people, who in general are not willing to create let’s say Google accounts, but of course would like to download and use Android apps.
- At the moment I am waiting for feedback from my new users! Please contact me via email firstname.lastname@example.org or via the contacts available on our website for any questions related to our apps.
In order to give you an idea how it looks like, let’s take a look at our top notch technology app Chess Board Position Scanner, Editor and Analyzer. It is available for download on 3 stores:
This app is based on modern technologies like Machine Learning and Computer vision. It scans, edits and analyses 2D chess board position in 5 basic steps, check the source code on github.com
So I would like to finish this post by saying: it was very positive experience and I would recommend to each app developer to consider this completely separate world with opportunities, because it is not just additional source of downloads, but also it is own app store, in which you have total freedom and define your own rules!