When deciding whether to spend money on paid apps or use free apps instead, it’s important to weigh the benefits of getting the best experience possible against the costs. Free alternatives often compromise a bit in terms of functionality, but in most cases, you can still get by with free options that are nearly as good as their paid counterparts.
Here, we’ll identify a few of the popular paid mobile apps and look at suitable free alternatives for each of them, and also see how well they stack up against their paid versions.
1. Movies & TV Shows: Tubi TV vs. Netflix
Netflix is a subscription-based service where you pay to access its library of movies, television shows, and original content. Tubi TV is a free streaming service owned by the Fox Corporation. While there are ad breaks, the service has a decent range of popular movies across several genres.
Netflix has an incredible variety of original programs though (Stranger Things, anyone?) and offers up all the latest movies. With Tubi TV, however, you get only limited new releases and a lot of older shows and obscure titles.
The positives are that it is free and doesn’t require a subscription. The downsides are that the video is limited to standard quality, and it isn’t organized like Netflix.
To sum up, if you’re looking for quality over quantity, Netflix is the way to go. Tubi TV doesn’t offer a massive library of movies, but if you just want something to watch without a monthly subscription, it’s pretty good.
Download: Tubi TV for Android | iOS (Free)
2. Digital Publications & Magazines: Flipboard vs. Medium
Medium is a subscription-based publication, with a mix of articles on business, technology, and political issues. Membership starts at $5 per month and provides access to the best writing on Medium and helps support thoughtful writers and analyses.
Flipboard is a free online platform where you can discover and customize your favorite topics around the web in an easy-to-navigate, beautiful mobile magazine. Flipboard is great for news and magazines, and Medium is great for blogging.
Flipboard’s visuals are easy on the eyes and make it super simple to get through a lot of reading. The “smart magazine” option lets you find interesting stories from around the web and social feeds that you might not have otherwise sought out on your own. It also integrates seamlessly with social media, so it’s easy to look for or follow friends and share stories.
Download: Flipboard for Android | iOS (Free)
3. Music Streaming: YouTube vs. Amazon Prime Music
Listening to music is one of the greatest human joys. With Amazon Music, you can listen to over 90 million songs, anytime, anywhere, on all your devices—smartphones, tablets, Fire TV, and Alexa-enabled devices such as Amazon Echo.
Amazon Music is only available to Amazon Prime members. A monthly subscription costs $7.99 and an annual subscription is priced at $79. If you want ad-free streaming of songs and to download and save your favorite music and videos, Amazon Prime is a better option.
YouTube is your destination for content from anywhere across the world. You can collect and share everything you love, such as music, shows, and news, all in one place. It is the simplest way to enjoy music. You can search, play, and save tracks of your favorite artist, or album, although you have to keep your screen on when you listen.
It also provides you with personalized recommendations based on your tastes and history. If you are looking to save money and don’t mind listening to advertisements while streaming, YouTube is a good option.
Download: YouTube for Android | iOS (Free, subscription available)
4. Antivirus and Security: AVG vs. Kaspersky
If you’ve been looking for an antivirus program that’s best suited to your needs, then you’re likely to have come across both Kaspersky and AVG. Each product offers a different mix of security tools, functionality, and performance.
Kaspersky offers three different security suites starting with its entry-level antivirus and anti-phishing software. The full-featured packages add parental controls and substantial protection against hackers, as well as webcam controls and online payment protection capabilities.
With quick scans and automatic updates, you’ll never have to worry about losing important stuff. You can avail a two-week trial period to test out these features following which you’ll have to sign up for an annual subscription, starting at $29.99 per year.
On the other hand, AVG Antivirus is a popular freemium antivirus app available for Android, iOS, and desktop devices. The app offers real-time protection for your mobile device against viruses, malware, spyware, and other threats. It also scans device memory and external storage to locate, lock, or wipe data from lost or stolen devices.
You also have the option to upgrade to additional security features including a virus scanner, file scanning for malware, and performance issues, VPN protection, retrieval of device location, and an app lock feature to keep strangers out of confidential information on your device.
Download: AVG for Android | iOS (Free, subscription available)
5. Meditation and Self-Care: Smiling Mind vs. Headspace
Headspace is a guided meditation app offering bite-sized sessions to help you train your mind to be more calm and balanced in everyday life. There is also a range of content that helps you use mindfulness to tackle stress, erratic sleep schedules, and other common issues.
However, with a free trial and a subsequent hefty price tag of $69.99 per year, the subscription-based model makes this app unattractive for beginners who are just getting into the basics of meditation practices. It is a better option for those who’ve already gained an understanding of guided meditation and would like to further develop their skills.
Smiling Mind was created as an Australian not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the mindfulness and mental well-being of young people. Its free online meditation sessions are great for children and teens, but the library of meditations is available to anyone—young or old, new or experienced.
The intuitive interface makes it simple for you to start your journey of mindfulness, with helpful visualizations guiding you through the meditation sessions. You can also have “well-being check-ins” which are a series of questions intended to assess your emotional states before starting your session. More importantly, the app is absolutely free to use.
Feeling stressed? Take a look at some of these meditation and relaxation apps to help calm your nerves and increase mental resilience.
Download: Smiling Mind for Android | iOS (Free)
6. VPN Services: ProtonVPN vs. Surfshark VPN
When using a VPN, it’s important to find a service that offers the features you want and the pricing plan that best fits your budget.
Surfshark is a secure VPN that offers several features, great compatibility, and good performance. It combines improved security with speeds that are fast enough to handle streaming as well as unblocking geo-restricted content. It also allows for an unlimited number of devices on one account.
Worried about online or email account breaches? The Surfshark alert feature does the heavy lifting for you by securing your sensitive information. Not only that, the CleanWeb ad blocker also blocks trackers and malicious websites for you.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for something more economical, ProtonVPN provides unlimited data for free users without sacrificing speed or security, as well as a strict no-logs policy. The free tier works fine but has a limitation of a single device, limited tunneling protocols, and only three countries to choose from.
Download: ProtonVPN for Android | iOS (Free, subscription available)
7. Audiobooks: LibriVox vs. Audible
Audible is the premier provider of audiobooks worldwide, with over 200,000 titles and offering a rich collection of classics and bestsellers. Audible offers a free 30-day trial but requires a membership thereafter, starting at $7.95 a month. If you value customization, ease of use, and professional narrators, then an Audible subscription might be preferable.
For the audiobook enthusiast, LibriVox is a nice surprise. The free-to-read collection features fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, horror, classics, and children’s books. And that means you can find great classics like Dickens, Hemingway, Arthur Conan Doyle, and more. LibriVox is a volunteer-based initiative to record public domain books and release them as free audiobooks.
Download: LibriVox for Android | iOS (Free)
Try Before You Buy
While not every paid app comes with a free alternative, it’s easy to find very good ones that function well and don’t break the bank. Before shelling out a few bucks for a new app, consider what you could get from a free one and whether your needs are likely to change down the road.
We hope this guide will give you a leg up when trying to decide whether to get that paid app or head for the free versions.
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