More than ever, phones and computers have blurred the boundary between them. Like your computer, your phone works with a series of applications to load data, connect to the Internet, stream music, and more.
These apps use APKs and you may need to download them directly to get this app on your phone or other device. So, let's start with what they are and how to download them from the Google Play Store.
Apps and APKs
Most of the apps on your computer are probably from the web. For example, you've probably found yourself downloading iTunes from Apple's website to listen to music or downloading Steam from Valve's website to play games. Perhaps you rely on several different utilities downloaded from the Internet to control your computer. Anyway, you have no doubt installed applications on Windows or Mac OS using .exe or .dmg files respectively. Each of these file types allows the operating system to load, use, and install a corresponding application.
Likewise, your Android phone also operates using its own installable software. Any app you download from the Play Store installs on your device using an APK file. It is an installable archive file on the Android operating system. So even though you use a store interface to search through millions of Android apps and games, the process is basically the same as installing an app on Windows or Mac OS. Android also has the ability to install APKs from external sources, making it just as extensible an operating system as something like Windows 10.
Get APKs from the Google Play Store
Although Google does not specify this, it is possible to grab APK files directly from the Google Play Store desktop website in order to share and use these files. While it won't let you bypass Play Store restrictions for any paid apps you haven't purchased, the ability to directly download APKs from Google is still handy, letting you bypass geo-restrictions on apps, test applications on Chrome OS or in an emulator on Windows, and even share applications directly with other users. While it might not be a feature everyone uses, knowing how to download APK files directly from Google is a great Android pro tip to keep hidden when you need it.
There are two main ways to fetch APK files directly from Google's site, and the best method for you really depends on whether you're looking to download a lot of apps or if you're looking for a specific app that isn't offered. in your geographic area or on your specific phone model. Both of these methods can be done from a desktop computer, but if you are trying to download an APK from your mobile phone, we recommend sticking with the second solution listed below. Here's how to download an APK from Google Play, step by step.
Use a Chrome or Firefox extension to download an APK
This is the easiest way to download APK files if you plan to do so frequently. Instead of having to manually search for APK files online via a Google search, using an extension for Chrome (on the desktop) allows you to easily access the APK file from any free application on the platform, as well as any app you've previously purchased and purchased from Google.
The best extension we found, the aptly named “APK Downloader” is available for both Chrome and Firefox, although unfortunately Chrome users will have to settle for using the web version instead of the extension. , which has been removed from the Chrome Web Store. Firefox users, however, can use this Firefox extension (there are others available).
Similar to any number of YouTube downloaders on the market, APK Downloader works by simply pasting the app link into the included text box inside the website and allowing APK Downloader to extract the APK from play store listing.
This only works with free apps on the Play Store, whether you purchased the app or not, so you won't be able to use this method to share paid APKs online with friends or other internet users. What you'll be able to do, however, is use the app to emulate free apps, manually transfer APKs to your phone, or anything else you might want to use a downloaded APK for.
APK Downloader uses the exact file from the Google Play Store, with the same MD5 certificate included in the standard downloads certified by Google.
It is a secure website, although it is not without flaws. For one, a few of the apps we tried failed, giving us an error message and saying it might be a paid app when the app was, in fact, free. APK Downloader also timed out more than once, causing the page to completely refresh. Extracting the APK through their service can take up to three minutes, although more often than not it is much faster than that.
That said, the app can only be used around 1 times a day before the accounts used to do so are restricted by Google, so if the service is inundated with users early in the day, you won't have no luck at nightfall. Another major limitation: the service uses cached versions of APKs to help you bypass download limitations, which means you'll need to check your version number to make sure you have the latest app. If the site offers you an older version than the one available on Google Play, you can request an app update after installing it.
Use another APK website
If you're stuck on your phone and don't have access to a desktop computer, or if you're looking for an easier way to access APKs from Google Play, two websites exist to help you do just that. Although you don't download the APK directly from Google, both APKMirror and APKPure are trusted websites that help you download APKs from any app available for free on the Play Store. As with the extension and online utility described earlier, you won't use APKMirror or APKPure to download paid apps; both sites have restrictions on offering any type of pirated software.
What you can do, however, is to download previously downloaded versions of software that are not available on the Play Store. This includes apps that cannot be hosted on Google Play for various reasons (such as software restrictions, as seen in Nova Launcher's Google Feed integration) and beta versions of apps downloaded from the Play Store.
Either website will work for your needs, although we found APKMirror to be the better of the two offerings, with a design that makes it easy to navigate popular and recent APK files. While APKPure resembles the appearance of an app store, with a rotating carousel of highlighted apps and a list of "hot" apps and games, APKMirror allows users more to download apps for recent updates or third-party software.
It's also a bit more technical, as APKMirror allows users to download specific versions of apps to run on their device architecture. Meanwhile, APKPure just provides a standard APK file for most phones. Both websites provide users with standard QR codes to scan and sideload app downloads to their phone, and APKPure also offers a dedicated app for Android, allowing you to download apps directly to your phone without having to use your browser. .
Technically, you won't be downloading APKs directly from Google Play using this method. Despite this limitation, you still receive the same APK file, without having to go through the hoops involved with the Chrome and Firefox extension method. This APK file can still be used in any Android emulator and installed on most Android phones. Some apps that require specific devices may fail if you try to install them on an unsupported phone or tablet; for example, Google's Pixel camera app can only be installed on certain devices without taking advantage of a specific workaround. However, other apps, like Samsung's Custom Browser, can be downloaded directly to most devices as long as they run on recent software, despite their limitations when downloading apps from the Play Store.
To use these apps, just go to one of the websites and search for the app of your choice. On APKMirror, once you've checked out the most recent version of an app, tap the "View available APKs" list on the screen. This will take you to a full list of variants for different system architectures, as we mentioned above. Some apps have multiple versions for older phones, while other apps only have one package. Choose the app that best suits your phone and use the Download APK button to download the app directly to your device. If you are on the desktop website, you can use the QR code generator to automatically create a scannable link to the app page to use on your phone.
Meanwhile, on APKPure, the process is a little easier. Once you find the app to install, instead of focusing on your hardware variant, just tap the button Download or use the QR code on the app listing page to download the file. If you download the APK to your computer but need to install it on your phone, just use a USB cable to transfer the file from your computer to your phone.
They don't have every app imaginable, but they have the majority of software you could want on your device. Whether you're looking for an app that's not supported by your phone, restricted to your location, or an unreleased, beta, or banned app from the Play Store, it's easy to find on third-party APK sites.
Things to keep in mind while downloading APK
When downloading anything from the Internet, we recommend that you exercise caution, especially when using third-party services for torrents. Even though file sharing/mirroring is a great way to increase download times, it's still possible that something malicious has been added to it.
The majority of APK sites are not safe for most users. If the site appears to offer pirated apps or questionable file types, do not use the site. Instead, stick to ways that let you get your files directly from Google.
APK et Google Play Store
Overall, APK Downloader is a good way to download APKs directly from Google's own website without using a third-party service, although platform limitations definitely put a damper on things. So does the lack of a dedicated extension for Chrome, although the website can be bookmarked and accessed with relative ease. There are some occasional bugs and hiccups in the service, but ultimately APK Downloader is one of the only ways to grab APK packages directly from the Play Store.
If that doesn't concern you, however, using APKMirror or APKPure is just as easy, often without the restrictions and error messages you get with APK Downloader.
Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences by downloading APKs from the Google Play Store below.