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Android for Beginners: What is an APK File?

Steven Blum

Android for Beginners Graphic

If you're new to Android and would like to start downloading leaked apps and customizing your Android experience, you'll need to know about APK files. In the following guide, you'll learn why APK files are important, how to download them to your computer or phone and, finally, how to install 'em. Read on for all the juicy details

What is an APK File?

An APK file is a file format used to distribute and install software (usually games or applications) on the Android operating system. Downloading the APK allows you to install programs without needing access to sites like Google Play (or AndroidPIT). To install these files, it's not even necessary to be connected to the Internet.

Why Would I Want to Install an APK File?

Installing APK files allows you to install apps that have leaked ahead of their official release (like Flipboard, for example). Alternately, you can download apps that have been banned (like Market Changer, which trickers Google Play into thinking you're from another country). Often APK files from new Android builds are leaked, giving you early access to features like Google Now that you wouldn't have been able to get without downloading them on your own. You could say that APK files allow one to bypass carriers to get the latest Google updates. Alternately, if your Android device lacks access to Google Play, APK files may be the only way to get apps on your device.

Installing APK Files from Your Computer

There are many websites that host APK files. Be sure to choose one you trust so you don't accidentally upload a malicious file to your phone. Generally, APK files hosted on sites like XDA should be saf(er) to download. Read reviews before you download. 

First, download the APK file to an easy-to-find location in a folder or on your desktop. Before installing anything on your phone, you'll need to properly enable your phone by going to Menu > Settings > Security > check "Unknown Sources" to allow your phone to install apps from sources other than the Google Play Store. You should also download an app like ES File Explorer so you can easily find the app you transfered from your computer to your Android.

Start by connecting your device to your computer. At this point, you'll be asked on your phone if you're only interested in charging your phone or would like to connect it as a "media device." Choose the latter. Then simply find your phone on your computer and drag, then drop, your APK file in the folder of your choice on your Android. 

You'll be able to find the downloaded app by going to ES File Explorer and clicking on the desired folder. Find the APK file, click on it, then click "install." You're done.

Installing APK Files from Your Browser

Alternately, you can install APK files from the browser on your Android. Just open your browser, click on the APK file to download and you'll see it downloading in the top bar of your phone. Once done, open the "Downloads" icon, click the .apk file, click "yes" and the app will begin downloading to your Android. DONE.

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