How to Download APK files of Android apps

Who I am
Carlos Priora
@carlospriora
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Did we aim for an interesting app but we can't download it on our Android smartphone? Are we not getting any updates for the messaging app we use? Is the app that everyone has is not available in the Play Store of our device?
In all these scenarios we can quickly solve by downloading the APK file of the app from the Internet and then installing it on our Android smartphone or tablet (after temporarily lowering the defenses of the operating system, which basically does not allow you to install apps outside the Play Store).
In this guide we will show you what an APK file is, like download the APK file from secure sources and how to set up Android to be able to install these applications correctly.

How to install APK on Android

Before continuing it is good to remember that installing APK lowers the security of our android system, which therefore becomes more vulnerable to attack from viruses, malwares and Trojans. If we really have to download and install APKs, make sure we do it only from safe sources and, after changing the Android settings for the installation, we raise the defenses again by blocking the installation from unknown sources.

What is an APK

The APK file is an installation package compatible with Android, containing all the instructions to be able to install and use the application chosen on our device. It is therefore not an executable like EXE files on Windows, but is more like a setup file like MSI on Windows.


Normally the APK files are not managed by the Android system by default, since the applications are already available "ready" on the Google Play Store; but no one forbids the developer or manufacturer of the app to release the APKs on their site or on other collection sites so that, if a user has difficulty downloading or updating the app on their device, they can use the APK file taken from the Internet after modifying the system to accept apps of unknown origins).
Obviously, APKs also have limitations and you have to consider them before moving on to downloading files:
  • There is no guarantee of operation: if an app from the Play Store is not available on our device (for various reasons), downloading the APK does not give any guarantees of operation indeed often the installation is blocked or the app does not start (this is because one of the reasons why the app is not available in the Play Store of our device is incompatibility).
  • There is no guarantee of updates: if an app not available on our Play Store is installed via APK, we will not receive automatic updates from Google and we will therefore have to manually download all the APKs of subsequent updates.
  • We cannot download paid apps: paid apps are not available as APKs, since they only work if linked to the Google Play Store (and to the account that manages them). If we find paid apps in APK format we find ourselves in front of crack versions, moddates (to add functions) and often full of viruses or crap.
  • Greater security risks: as mentioned in the introduction to the guide we run the risk of infecting our smartphone, since an APK file can be modified to show additional advertising windows, install new infected APKs by yourself or modify our chats on WhatsApp or other social networks.
All these flaws are enough to make most people give up: better not take any chances and install only the apps available on the Google Play Store! And if we necessarily want the app in APK format, in the following chapters we will show you where to retrieve APKs from secure sources and how to install them on Android smartphones or tablets.

Where to download the APKs of the apps

APK files should not be downloaded with a simple Google search: most of the sources shown may contain modified APKs or infect the system even before starting the download! For more safety we download the APK files from PC and only then transfer them to the Android device, following the suggestions proposed in our guide on how Send files between PC and Android (mobile or tablet) in wifi without cables.

One of the best sites to download APKs is definitely APKMirror.


On this site we can find practically any app updated to the latest version (often even before it appears on the Google Play Store); to download the app, simply use the search bar Search at the top right, select the most relevant result among those proposed, press the button See Available APKS and download the version suitable for our system (we recommend that you download the two APKs indicated as armeabi-v7a e
arm64-v8a, testing both until we find the one that works correctly). Unfortunately the site does not offer an alternative store to install on the device, so we will inevitably have to visit the site often to download the updated APK of the chosen app.

Another site where we can download the APK files safe is APKPure.


On this site we can download many apps that cannot be found on APKMirror, so that you can take advantage of the desired applications even on incompatible tablets or smartphones or with an outdated version of the Play Store. To download an APK, simply use the search bar at the top right, select the desired application and press the button Download APK in the presentation window.
APKPure can also be installed as an alternative app store to the Play Store, so you can download and update all the apps separately from the Google store (very useful on Chinese tablets or TV Boxes without Play Store).

Other site that we can use to download the APKs for our smartphone or tablet is APK4Fun. Here we can find many apps that are constantly updated and many apps not supported by the Google Play Store, all we have to do is use the search bar at the top, click on the name of the application to download and click on the button Latest version in the presentation form of the app. Also in this case there is no app store available to install on our device, but we will necessarily have to download the APKs of each update.

Another very famous site for downloading APKs for Android is Aptoide.


From this site we can download practically any app already seen on the Play Store, just use the search bar at the top right, press on the most relevant result, click on the button Download and finally on Download, present next to the item Download the APK to your computer.
Aptoide is an alternative app store to the Google Play Store, able to manage updates and direct installation of apps without going through the site.

Finally, we recommend that you also try the downloader offered by the site APK Downloader.


With this site it is sufficient to enter the URL link of the app on the Google Play Store (we search on it and copy the link of the app in the address bar), select the Android version and the device model in the Android and Device fields and finally press on Generate Download Link to start downloading the APK. Obviously we can only download free apps, it is not possible to use the site for paid apps.

Two other sites to download safe APKs are also:
- Android-apk.org, where you can also find old apps and games that have disappeared from the Google store
- BlackMart Alpha, a great safe alternative to the Google Play Store for any Android operating device

How to install APKs on Android

After transferring the APK from the PC to our Android smartphone or tablet, we will have to "lower the defenses" of the operating system, which as mentioned by default does not support installation from unknown sources.
Let's get into the app Settings, we open the screen Safety and make sure to activate the check mark next to the item Unknown origin.


We confirm in the warning window that will open then open the file manager present on our device (we can also download one for the occasion), let's go to the folder where we placed the APK then tap on it and press on Install to start the installation (if the application is already present on the device, we will be asked if we want to update it by pressing the button Update).
The location of this option varies from device to device, but is usually always present on the system security screen. On "pure" Android systems we will have to open the Settings section -> Apps and notifications, take us to the menu Special access to apps, press on Install sconosciute app and give permission to the file manager used.

After installing or updating the APK, we recommend that you deactivate the voice again or remove the assigned permission, so as to restore the right level of security.

Conclusions

APKs can become a good alternative to get the desired apps on old devices, on Chinese tablets or smartphones without Play Store or on all devices that (for one reason or another) are not compatible with some of the apps we use daily basis.

If the missing app issue is with Amazon's Fire TV Stick, we recommend that you read our guide on how Install Android App on Fire Stick TV, from APK or Store.
If, on the other hand, we wanted to open the Android apps on Windows, Mac or computers with GNU / Linux systems, we can continue reading our article on how Open Android App in Chrome on Windows PC, Mac and Linux.


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