Download and install Android apps without the Google Play Store

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Not all Android apps can be found in the Play Store. External APK installers can help.

Anyone who owns an Android smartphone will most likely have had to do with APKs, even if he or she didn’t even notice it. Because the Android Package Kits are the most common way to install apps on the device. If you press the install button in the Google Play Store, you can download an APK.

However, since not all apps are in the Play Store on the one hand and not all devices have access to them on the other hand, external sources are sometimes necessary to get the desired app on the device.

In the following, we will show you how you can safely install external APKs on your smartphone without much effort.

APK: Beware of unknown sources!

Before you can start, however, a hint is necessary: ​​Not all APK providers and installers are trustworthy! If you install apps carelessly, you can catch viruses and malware or pass on unwanted data.

So make sure during installation that it is a source you know and always be clear about the permissions that you give the app!

A number of trusted APK installers can be found at the end of the article.

Install apps with “Unknown origin”

For the reason mentioned above, Android only allows the installation of apps from the Play Store by default. However, you can adjust this via the settings of your smartphone. To do this, proceed as follows:

  • Open the settings of your Android device.
  • Select the “Security” sub-item.
  • Depending on the manufacturer, the options “Install apps from external sources” or “Unknown origin” can be found here at different locations.
  • Activate the option to allow installations from outside the Play Store.
  • When the warning message appears, select “OK”. By doing so you declare yourself responsible for the consequences of external installations.

Instructions: Download and install external APKs

After all preparatory work has been done, the app can be installed. Choose either an existing link to an APK or search for the desired app in the APK installer of your choice.

If you landed on the bottom of the APK, follow these steps:

  • Check on the site which user uploaded the APK and whether there was a security check of the APK. A decent APK installer should tell you about both.
  • Click “Download”, “Download” or a similar button to begin downloading the file.
  • Accept the warning that indicates potential damage. This appears regardless of whether the app actually contains malware.
  • After downloading, you can usually open the APK using the download icon in your status bar. Otherwise you will also find the file in your download folder.
  • Install the file and accept the access rights. Be careful not to grant the app any unwanted rights.
  • Confirm the installation and start the app.


When installing external apps, Android warns of potential damage – regardless of the source of the APK.

Instructions: Install APKs via USB

If you don’t have internet access with your smartphone or want to forego the direct APK download for other reasons, there is another way: APKs can be downloaded via other devices (e.g. a PC) and then transferred to the smartphone via USB. That’s how it’s done:

  • Download the APK as described in the previous point via an internet-enabled device by clicking the download button on your preferred APK installer.
  • Activate USB debugging on your smartphone. To do this, you have to start the developer mode. You do this as follows:
    • Open the settings of your smartphone.
    • Select “System” and then “Via phone”.
    • Press your device’s build number seven times in a row.
  • Now your smartphone can be connected to your PC via USB cable and then selected in the file browser like a USB stick.
  • Copy the downloaded file into the folder structure of your smartphone.
  • Disconnect after copying.
  • Use your file manager on your smartphone to access the file and install the program as you would if you had downloaded the app in the previous step.

APK installer for external download

You can download APKs from the Internet from numerous sources. Some of them are safer than others. The following APK installers have proven to be trusted providers over time. As in the Play Store, problematic apps cannot be completely ruled out, but the risk is limited.

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About the Author: Jan Gruber

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