The ability to install applications without the help of the official Google Play Store is one of the many strengths of the Android OS. Anyone can do it, and the entire process is very straightforward and painless.
Some users might think that installing applications on their own and not through the Google Play Store is a complicated process, but that’s actually not true. If anything, installing apps from the APK files can be done with ease and takes only a few steps.
It’s important to know that any application that you have on your phone or tablet is stored as an APK file, even the ones that are part of the operating system. For example, you can’t delete the launcher or the dialer app, but they also come in the form of APK files and can be upgraded.
There are lots of reasons why you might want to use an APK instead of the regular Google Play store, but in this article we’ll focus on how to install them. All you need is an Android device and the willingness to install apps.
Allowing Android to install third-party apps
Before trying to install applications on your mobile device, you need to know that, by default, the Android OS won’t let you do it. It’s a safeguard measure, but it’s not hidden away, and users don’t need to have elevated privileges to disable it.
The option is called “Unknown sources” in the Android OS, and it’s just a simple toggle. Users should also be able to see something written underneath, such as “Allow installation of apps from sources other than the Play Store.”
Depending on the version of your Android OS and the makers of the device, the location of the option can be in various places. It’s most likely under Security. To enable it, you just have to turn it on.
If you don’t want to go looking for it, you can just try to install an APK, and the OS will tell you where to go to enable the option, but we’ll get to that in just a moment.
Installing APK files on Android
Once you know what application you need, just download it on your device. Softpedia offers a wide selection of applications that range from simple ones to complex games. Just click on the download button and your Internet browser will automatically get the file and place it in the Downloads folder.
Some browsers offer users a button to open the file once it’s downloaded and you can press that one. You’ll get a prompt that tells you’re about to install an app and the type of access that it requires. This is where you can check what the applications needs, like access to the contacts list or the storage.
At the button of the page you get the “Cancel” and “Install” buttons. After you press the “Install” button, the process will start, and you’re done.
There is only one caveat to the installation process. The apps that are installed this way don’t have a corresponding shortcut on the home screen, but they will be visible when you open the app drawer. You can place your shortcut on the screen afterward.
Also, it’s important to know that you don’t have to download the APK files with the mobile device. Just as well, you can download the files on your PC and transfer them on the phone or tablet.
The problem is that some devices don’t have a proper file manager, so accessing the files after you’ve copied them from the PC can be tricky. You can install a file manager to get better control over your files and folders.
Using the file manager you just navigate to the folder where you’ve copied the APK files and run them using the same app. Most file managers have built-in support for running APKs.
Getting the right APK file for you
With so many devices on the market right now, getting the right APK for your version can be a little bit problematic, but you’ll get the hang of it with some practice. When you’re looking for an APK to download and install on your phone, you need to know a few things about it.
If you check out Softpedia for an APK, you’ll notice that each download has a few important attributes. Let’s take the Pixel Launcher APK as an example.
On the left side of the page (the top side on the mobile version of the website), you’ll see that there's quite a little bit of data. What your DPI for the screen is and the type of CPU you have are the two things you need to know about your device.
Most applications don’t have DPI (dots per inch) restrictions, but some do. If you get the APK with the wrong DPI for your device, you might have problems viewing it correctly.
The second thing that you need to know is the type of processor. Let’s take the Nexus 6P from Google. It comes with an ARM64 processor, so if I download an APK for an app that’s made for ARM or x86 processors, odds are it won’t work.
The good news is that most of the apps are not bound to processor type, but it’s important to know this if you get an error during the APK installation that states you don’t have a supported platform.
There is also a third criterion that needs to be remembered, but it’s not as important as the other two. It’s quite possible that the application that you’ve downloaded is not working on your particular version of the OS. Most of the time the app doesn't support older versions of the OS, but it can happen the other way around too.
Security as a primary concern
People will want to know if installing APK files is a safe process and the answer is not simple. Users need to think of APK files just like they think about any other apps that can be installed. When the file comes from a reputable source, there is little chance that it has been tampered with.
All the APK files that are made available on Softpedia have been scanned for viruses, and the result of the scan is made available with every download. We also provide the signatures used in the creation of the file, so users can check those online as well before downloading the files, not to mention that you can also check the SHA256 hash.
The bottom line is that users have to be careful when they download applications, whether it’s for their Android OS or their desktop PC. If you check the signatures and you confirm with a virus scan, you will be just fine.
Installing APK files on our Android phones and tablets shouldn't be something to be feared. Once you’ve done it, you will find that your horizons as an Android user will be expanded greatly.
Having the option to install APK files on Android is an important one, and you need to use it. You can stay up to date with apps that haven’t been officially released yet, or you can download and install apps that haven’t been released in your country just yet. Just imagine the possibilities.
You can always check the APK section on Softpedia.com and see if you can get something that you like. Don’t forget to add our RSS feed, so you know when a new version of your favorite app is made available.