The Google Play Store isn’t the only source of apps for Android devices. There are many sites that host Android apps. You can download apps as special APK files from these sites and install them on your phone. You will need to set up your phone to install them, as these are unofficial Android apps.
If you’re new to APKs and don’t know how to install Android apps with these APKs, our guide will help you.
What is an APK file?
APK stands for Android Package Kit and is a file containing all the resources and codes required by the application to install.
For example, if you upload an APK for YouTube, the APK will contain YouTube assets such as banners, logos, and other content. The APK also contains code that tells the app what to do when you click on a certain option.
In a nutshell, APK is an app installer for Android devices. You click the APK and the app is installed on your phone.
Why use an APK to install an app on Android?
You can use APKs to install apps for a variety of reasons.
Often, the reason is that the app you are looking for is missing from the Google Play store. You can download the APK for this app from the developer’s site and use it on your phone.
Other reasons include restricting access to certain apps on Google Play in your area. The APK helps to overcome this limitation.
What are the risks of installing an APK from outside the store?
Using APKs to install Android apps is risky. One of the main risks is that you don’t know what the application will do on your phone. For example, it can be a malicious application that can steal your data.
Since these apps do not pass quality and safety checks on the Google Play Store, they can have any code and do whatever they want with your phone.
However, most applications are safe to use. As long as you trust the website or developer you get the APK from, you should be fine.
How to enable APK installation on your Android device
On almost all Android phones, the ability to install unofficial applications (APKs) is disabled by default. You need to enable this option to install the APK.
- Launch the Settings app on your phone.
- Scroll down and tap the About Phone option.
- Tap the build number about 7-8 times to activate developer options.
- Go back to the main settings screen, tap Developer options and turn on Unknown sources.
- If you can’t find the developer options menu, look for options such as Security or Lock Screen & Security. This option is device dependent, but you must find it.
How to enable installation of the app’s APK on Android
Some Android phones have a feature to allow APK installation only from certain sources. On these phones, you need to enable the APK install option for each app you will use to download the APK.
For example, if you will be using Chrome to download and install an APK, you need to enable the APK install option for Chrome.
- Open the Settings app and click Apps & Notifications.
- Scroll down and tap the last option labeled Access Special Application.
- On the next screen, select Install Unknown Applications.
- Select the application you will use to install the APK. In most cases, this will be either your browser or file manager.
- Enable the Allow From This Source option.
How to install an Android app using APK
The easiest part is installing the app using the APK file. If you haven’t downloaded the APK file for your app yet, download it now, or browse some popular and safe APK download sites to get the APK.
Then you have two ways to install the app using the downloaded APK.
Android Debug Bridge (ADB) helps you execute commands on your phone remotely from your computer. If your APK is saved on your computer, you can use a command in ADB to send the APK to your device and install the app.
We have a detailed guide on how to install Android apps using ADB. Check it out and you will know the whole procedure.
Using Android Phone
If you’ve already transferred the APK file directly to your phone, you can use your browser or file manager app to install the APK file.
- Launch your browser or file manager and click the APK file.
- You will see a message asking if you want to install the application. Click “Install” at the bottom.
- You will see the installation progress on the screen.
- After installing the application, click Finish to close the current screen, or click Open to launch a newly installed application.
How to install updates for Android APK apps
The Google Play store only allows you to update apps that you have downloaded from the store. To update the apps you have installed using the APK, you have two methods.
Find and install updates manually
One way to update your APKs is to download the new APK and install it. This will overwrite the existing application, but keep your data in those applications.
You can find newer versions of your APK apps on some APK download sites or the official app website.
Use the app to update your apps
You can use a free app like APKUpdater to update your downloaded apps just like the official Google Play Store method. This app scans your device for all installed apps, finds updates for those apps, and prompts you to install updates.
What to do with the APK file after installing the app
Once you’ve installed the app using the downloaded APK file, you no longer need it.
You can safely delete the APK file from your phone using the file manager to clean up the clutter and free up memory space.
Apps are not published on the official Google Play store for various reasons. However, being able to install Android apps using APKs, you can install any app on your phone no matter what. With this feature, you can even test applications that you have developed.