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What is an APK File? Everything You Need to Know About APK Files

Feb 24, 2017
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There may be millions of apps and games on Google Play Store, but that doesn’t always mean you will find what you are looking for. Although Google Play Store is the easiest way to download apps on your smartphone or tablet, there are other ways of doing it as well. If you are an Android user, you have probably heard of an APK file before. Before you start using APK files, it could come in handy to learn how to actually do that. In this article, we will learn what an APK file is, what you can do with it and where you can find them online.

What does APK stand for?

APK stands for Android Package. They are very similar to EXE files, which you can find on any Windows computer. Both APK and EXE files basically function in the same way. They are executable files that have the function of installing new software on your machine. Macs also have their own executable file type, which have the DMG extension.

The Dangers of APK Files from Unknown Sources

Let’s first start with the most important part. There is a dangerous side to downloading and installing APK files outside of Google Play Store. APK files may contain malware or viruses. It is also not always a certainty that they will function the way it is claimed. You also do not have the peace of mind that your personal data is treated securely.

Before developers submit any apps or games on Google Play Store, they first need to be approved by Google. This lowers the probability of the above-mentioned risks dramatically. This is definitely not always the case for APK files that you find on the internet. Make sure that you know what you are doing before proceeding. Always be careful when you need to disclose personal information within an unknown app. Those are usually very malicious.

Why Install Apps Through APK Files?

By default, you can find apps that are developer for the Android operation system on Google Play Store. However, given the fact that Android is open source, there are numerous apps that are made by independent developers. Those apps are usually not recognized or permitted on Google Play Store due to not meeting the requirements. Because of this, those developers are not able to make their content available on Google Play Store. To be able to use their apps, you are going to have to download their APK files from their own websites.

There are also cases where developers decide to not use the Google Play Store Beta system. They rather choose to submit full versions of their apps on Google Play Store, and use their own websites for beta releases. Since beta versions of apps will most likely contain bugs, the developers are running the risks of getting bad ratings. Instead of doing this, they choose a different approach. You can usually find beta versions of apps on the developer’s websites.

Downloading and Installing APK Files

In order to be able to install APK files, you first have to ensure that your smartphone or tablet allows you to access these files. Normally, every Android device blocks the installation of apps or games that are obtained outside of Google Play Store. To allow your device to install them, you will need to go to your settings menu. Once there, find the Security tab and check the Unknown Sources box. This will allow you to install apps from unknown sources.

Initially, you are going to have to search for the APK file of the app that you want to install. This can be done both on your desktop computer, as well as directly on your mobile device. If you are doing this on your desktop, make sure that you store the APK file in a location that you can easily find. Now connect your Android device to your computer by USB cable. Move the APK file onto your device’s storage, after which you can securely disconnect your device. Once you have found the APK file on your device, simply tap on it to start its installation.

Of course, you can also choose to install an APK file directly from your smartphone or tablet. Use your mobile browser to search for the APK file and download the file. The download will show up as a notification, just like any other download on Android devices. Once the download is complete, all you have to do is find the file and tap on it install it.

Websites with APK Files

Even though I have mentioned dangers of downloading APK files, there is a website that basically comes without any malware-containing files. The website is called apkmirror. This is a website full of official apps, beta versions and apps that you can’t find on Google Play Store. Apkmirror checks the apps for authenticity, and if they are being uploaded by the real developers of the apps themselves. This ensures that you won’t be downloading any viruses, malware or malicious apps. To download APK files, simply visit the apkmirror site.

Next to apkmirror, there are countless of other sources that offer APK files. However, these are not all equally safe. Some well-known websites sometimes offer their apps on their own websites, instead of going through Google Play Store. For example, gambling websites have apps, but since Google doesn’t allow gambling on the Play Store, they can’t offer it there.

Other known APK file websites are android-apk.org and apkpure.com. Both of these websites are generally safe; however, the amount of APK files you can find are less compared to apkmirror. You will find that often the best way to find APK files is to simply Google search the name of the app. If you are concerned about the security of these files, it is advised that you make a backup of your device. This will make it easy to restore everything if something does go wrong.

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Sinan Yildiz
Sinan Yildiz is a Freelance Reviews Writer at AppInformers and enjoys writing about games and apps way more than he should. He is passionate about technology, likes to develop websites as a hobby and is a PC gaming fanatic. He dreams of being a video game writer and seeing his work in AAA games one day.