If you own an Android device you will likely have heard of “APK files” at some point, and possibly wondered what they even are. Understanding this is essential if you want to start downloading pre-release apps or customizing your Android experience further than would be possible using the Play Store alone. In our guide, you’ll learn what APK files are, how to download them, and finally, how to install them.
What is an APK File?
An Android Package Kit (APK for short) is the package file format used by the Android operating system for the distribution and installation of mobile apps. Just like Windows (PC) systems use an .exe file for installing software, the APK does the same for Android.
When you download an APK online, you’re essentially getting an app. Most users get apps from the Google Play Store, without ever seeing the word APK. But there are occasions when you would want to do otherwise.
In 2021, Google started phasing out APK files on the Play Store, replacing them with the more flexible AAB format. But because AAB files are custom-made for each device, they require different steps to install.
Why would I want to install an APK File?
APK files of new Android builds are often leaked ahead of time, giving you early access to all the exciting new features that otherwise wouldn’t be available to you. Also, some apps are restricted to regions outside of your own. App updates can take a frustrating amount of time to arrive automatically over the air. Getting the latest APK for your favorite apps will let you jump the queue. Or you might even not like a particular app after an update, and want to install an older version instead.
And if your Android device lacks access to the Google Play Store, APK files may be your only option for installing apps on your device.
Be careful though, you don’t want to download stolen apps. Some APK services let you download pirated apps. This is illegal and should be avoided. Worse still, sketchy APK files may contain malware, as many who thought they were getting early versions of Fortnite for Android discovered to their dismay. Do some research before you download so you don’t do anything against the law or contaminate your device.
You can install APK files on your Android smartphone or tablet directly from your browser.
- Just open your browser, find the APK file you want to download, and tap it–you should then be able to see it downloading on the top bar of your device.
- Once it’s downloaded, open the Downloads folder, tap on the APK file, and tap Yes when prompted.
- The app will begin installing on your device. Simple.
You don’t need a smartphone to download and install APK files. You can also do this on a desktop PC. Here’s how it works.
First, you must find the APK file you want. Search online for an APK file and download it to an easy-to-find location on your computer (like your desktop).