As an Android user, you often come across them – APK files! Supposedly, one should be able to install apps outside of the Google Play Store through downloads and thus be able to access free mobile games. In this guide, NextPit reveals exactly what APK files are, how you can safely and quickly install an APK on Android, and where you can download the files.
Table of Contents
- What is an APK file anyway?
- Install APK: here’s how ← Direct to instructions
- APK download: you need to know these sources
- Is APK installation allowed?
The abbreviation “APK” stands for Android Package and this is a file format used by the Android mobile operating system. If you’ve ever installed a program on Windows, you’re probably familiar with .exe executable files, and in principle APKs work the same way on Android: you download a file through your browser, which you can then install using a browser manager. records. However, what is common practice on Windows is only necessary in some cases on Android.
Because most applications can be found under Android in the Google Play Store and there are also many advantages to using them. On the one hand, there are application control mechanisms that check new applications for viruses and . On the other hand, installed apps are automatically checked for updates. We should go into more detail about the pros and cons of APK installations before the guide.
Installing APK files is useful when a developer cannot offer their app on the Google Play Store. This is how they can make their app available and leave the installation to the Android users themselves. The Google Play Store payment system can also be bypassed in this way, although we strongly discourage it. (More on that in the cons)
Installing APKs has also become important since Huawei’s trade embargo with the US as the Google Play Store does not work on current Huawei and Honor devices. Summarized again:
- Installing apps outside the Google Play Store
- Developers can deploy applications directly
- More apps on HMS smartphones (Huawei and Honor)
- Even more possibilities on rooted Android phones
As already mentioned, installing a lot of APK files is a balancing act. After all, anyone who installs a mobile game that is actually subject to a fee using a free APK file is committing at least one violation of Google’s guidelines, and often even a criminal offence. Also, you need to manually update installed apps via APK or install an APK updater app on your phone.
If you are not careful while installing APK apps, you will get malware, Trojans and other malicious software on your Android smartphone. Since mobile phones often contain very sensitive data, APKs should definitely be treated with caution. Again at a glance:
- The use of many APKs is not legal
- Violations of Google’s guidelines threaten
- Apps are not updating automatically through the Play Store
- Risk of installing malware and Trojans on the phone
Of course, to prepare you need an APK file, which is better already in the memory of your mobile. If you found these instructions on Google, you may already have a desired application in mind on a manufacturer’s website. If not, you can skip straight to the safe APK download paragraph at this point.
Now check if there is already a file manager on your mobile phone. Different manufacturers pre-install different apps in their Android versions, Google itself offers the “Files” app. Alternatively, you can find other free file managers on the Google Play Store. Here are some tips with a link to the Play Store:
With a file manager in tow, we now need to go to Android settings and enable third-party app installation there. Simply follow the instructions below:
- Control your mobile phone settings
- Select the entry “Apps and notifications”
- Now tap on “Advanced”
- Now tap “Special App Access”
- Then in “Install unknown applications”
- And choose your file manager
- In this menu you have to allow the installation of unknown applications
You now have the basics to install an APK file through your desired file manager. Now switch to the file manager of your choice. Here you are looking for the application already downloaded. As a general rule, file managers offer an overview of the latest downloads. Tap on the APK file and confirm that you want to install the app. A few seconds later you can use the app on your mobile phone.
As mentioned above, there is some risk associated with downloading APK files. Therefore, it is not advisable to trust every site on the web. Instead, you should stick to sites that check files for viruses before hosting them, i.e. making downloads available.
We have compiled known app sources in the list below. While we recommend these sites, you should be careful when installing APKs on Android. You are ultimately responsible for any Trojans, viruses, or violations of the Google Play Store guidelines.
- APK Mirror
- Pure APK
- XDA Labs
Last but not least, we would like to point out the legal framework for installing APK files. Because if you are not careful with the APK installation, you will quickly head for choppy waters.
The legal situation with APK installations is not that easy and usually has to be decided in the app itself. However, in an interview with Areamobile, lawyer Christian Solmecke stated that installing APKs of apps that are also unofficially available outside of the Google Play Store is often not legal. Because if you bypass the Google Play Store, you are not agreeing to the license agreement of the app library in such cases and thus using unlicensed apps.
If a manufacturer makes an app available independently of the Google Play Store, this is of course an exception. If you want to be safe while using APK, you can also visit Google Play Store online. So, check if the app you want is also available here, and then consider whether installing it via the Google App Library isn’t the best option. Since installation is more secure here and updates are provided to you automatically, we recommend using the Google Play Store in most cases.
What are your tips for app source and APK file handling on Android? Tell us in the comments!
More Android guides on NextPit:
This guide was completely rewritten on November 27. The comments below the article have not been removed.