what are apk files and how to install them on android

The world of apps for Android smartphones passes from the files with apk extension. Let’s go deeper into this topic and try to get to know this sector better with useful information also on the risks and opportunities that these files offer.

We got used to Windows Exe files, jpg files for images, pdf files for documents, and many others; now is the time to understand and know better what are apk files, how to install them, and what issues (because there are) about safety.

If we want to summarize, we can say that these are the application files that we have on our Android smartphones, but with which we often don’t even get in direct contact because we manage all the app from the Google Play Store.

In reality that is not the only channel, even if the only official one, with which to install apps on our phone with the Android operating system. So let’s try to clarify.

What are apk files

What are .apk files

As the online encyclopedia Wikipedia reports, the apk file is “used for the distribution and installation of supplied components on the Android mobile platform“.

If to install a program on Windows you need to start a file with a .exe extension, to do the same thing on Android (which is an operating system other than Windows) you need to start the .apk file extension.

How to install on Android smartphones

How to install apk files

To install an apk file of an application, simply open that file, follow the settings on the screen and in a few clicks finish the procedure.

Difficulties arise in find apk files, send them to your smartphone, find them in the memory of our phone and overcome the security limits that Android places, why we will see it shortly, in the installation of these files.

To find apk files you can access sites and online search engines dedicated exclusively to these files, while to send them to your smartphone just use the Bluetooth connection (to transfer them from one device to another), or send them by email from your PC or, again, transfer them via cable always from the PC. In all cases it is important to know where they are saved (the downloaded ones are automatically destined for a folder called Downloads)

in order to take them and start them. The easiest way to do this is the use of File Managers which allow you to move within the smartphone memory as if we were among the folders of our pc. Alternatively, you can search for the file directly from your smartphone, this facilitates the download and immediately makes the file available for installation.

Very often once you get there install apk files our Android smartphone blocks the operation by remembering the security risk of installing applications downloaded from external sources. To deactivate the block, even temporarily (the time to install the apk and then reactivate it) you need to follow a simple procedure.

A procedure that varies according to the Android version present on the smartphone. Basically there is a procedure valid for all versions of Android until 7 and one for the subsequent ones (hence from Android 8 Oreo, Android 9 Pie and Android 10 on). Let’s see them both:

Install apk from unknown sources for devices up to Android 7

  • access the Settings of the telephone;
  • press on the item Safety;
  • locate the item Unknown origins;
  • activate the flag.

From this moment when you open an apk file the procedure continues normally and you are able to complete the installation process. Once the installation is finished, simply disable the flag on the item Unknown origins to reset the security lock. The procedure may vary slightly depending on the brand of your smartphone.

Install apk from unknown sources for devices from Android 8 and above

The procedure has been changed compared to previous versions of Android and involves the following steps:

  • access the menu Settings of the smartphone;
  • select the menu Apps and notifications;
  • press on advanced;
  • to select Special app access;
  • press on Install unknown apps.

At this point, it is necessary to select the application you want to install (for which to grant authorization for installation from unknown sources) and continue with the procedure until the installation is complete. Here too there may be small differences in the path to follow.

Why apk and not Google Play Store

Google Play Store and apk files

Before facing the thorny security issue of files with apk extension it is appropriate to wonder why a user should prefer this way, evidently more complex and articulated than to start the Google Play Store, search for the desired term, select the app and install it. The reasons, of course, are there and can also be very interesting.

Basically you need to know that the world of smartphone apps is much wider and more varied than we think. The apps are not only those present on the Google Play Store (as they seem, and they are, to be many).

Google requires certain standards to insert an application in a store but nothing prevents a developer from creating an app and distributing it outside the official Google store.

And so, in fact, it happens with hundreds of apps that are o revised or expanded versions apps already known (as in the case of WhatsApp Plus), programs not available in your country (not all existing apps are downloadable in Italy) or applications that offer services (such as downloading videos from YouTube or Facebook in a few clicks) for which there is no application on the Play Store that performs the same operations.

Although the Google Play Store offers certainly remarkable visibility, it is equally true that for developers having to subject to certain limits o having to pay the cost of distributing your work (a subscription costs about € 25 although there are no limits to the number of apps that can be presented to be included in the store) can be a problem; here is the choice of spreading your apk file in other ways, also taking some risks. Let’s see why.

Security issue: you have to be careful

Security apk files

As we have seen our smartphone Android blocks installation by default of apk files as to install applications you can take advantage of the official channel, certainly more secure.

The question of security revolves around the fact that, since there is no guarantee (which the presence on the Google Play Store provides), apk files can hide viruses or malware which can cause problems.

In itself, however, very often we may not even realize it, as the app works quietly, and apparently ours too device works regularly (except in some cases in which a reduction in performance and autonomy is evident).

Android apps often come from unknown sources they are real Trojan horses with which hackers and attackers can enter our smartphone and have, in a more or less uncontrolled way, free access to files, resources, images, videos, and personal data.

In summary, it can be concluded that installing .apk files offers interesting opportunities but which are not without risk. You have to basically understand if it is worth taking this risk or, alternatively, be sure that that apk file is really safe and therefore free from any kind of security threat of our smartphone.

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