Sometimes an Android app that you want to install is not available on the Google Play Store. This can happen for a number of reasons: maybe it’s geo-blocked, it may contain adult content, or the developer may have removed it.
But even when an app is not available through the usual channels, you still have ways to install it on your device. You need to get a copy of the APK file so that you can load it aside.
Several sites specialize in offering APK files for download. Some are better than others, so read on if you want to find out about the best places to download APKs safely.
READ ALSO: Tutorial to Download and Install an APK Bundle
The importance of choosing a safe APK site
An APK file (short for Android Package) is the primary means of distributing and installing Android applications. When you download an app from Google Play, you download and run an APK file in the background, but you don’t have access to the APK itself.
Since APK files install applications on your system, they can pose a serious security threat. An attacker could modify the APK before installing it and then use it as a digital Trojan to install and run malware.
So, you need to make sure that the site you are using is reliable. It should carefully examine all APK files and have a history of safety and reliability.
APKMirror is one of the most popular sites for downloading APK files.
The site is owned and operated by the same team that is responsible for the widely read Android news site Android Police, which should give you reassurance that you are in good hands.
From a security perspective, APKMirror has robust policies in place:
- Staff check all APK files uploaded to the site before posting.
- The site matches the cryptographic signatures of new versions of apps to previous versions (to ensure that the real developers have signed them).
- New apps are compared to other apps from the same developer to check their legitimacy.
The bottom line is that if APKMirror cannot verify the validity of an APK file, it will not publish the file. Because of this, you won’t find any modified APKs, pirated apps, or paid apps on the site.
For each app, you can grab older versions, view various information pulled from Google Play, and access a list of related apps. If an app that you install from APKMirror receives an update from Google Play after installing it on your device, it will automatically update to the latest version.
The biggest traditional competitor of APKMirror is arguably APKPure. The two sites were launched around the same time. Like APKMirror, the site follows strong security practices to ensure that any APK files you download are safe and virus-free.
APKPure verifies the legitimacy of all applications before publishing using SHA1 to ensure certificate security. Cryptographic signatures of new versions of applications must match previously released versions, and completely new applications are compared to other software from the same developer.
Again, if APKPure has doubts about the security or origins of an app, the company won’t publish it on the site. There are no modified APKs on APKPure. In terms of site usability, APKPure pulls screenshots, app descriptions, and general metadata straight from Google.
There is also a list of previous versions of the apps in case you want to downgrade to an older version (due to features or bugs).
We really like APKMirror and APKPure. The truth is, you should never really have a reason to go to another site. But err on the side of caution and quickly present yourself with a few other options.
The first is the APK Store. The old name of the app was APK Downloader.
All APK files are extracted from the Google Play Store so that you can be confident in their safety and security. As with the other sites on this list, there’s a lot of metadata as well, which means you can avoid Google Play altogether if you want to.
Aptoide is another giant in the APK download world; it has over 200 million users and has been the source of six billion downloads. Like APKPure, the site offers an android application which allows you to access the store and download APK files directly from your Android device.
The company was also one of the early adopters of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. The site’s token, called AppCoins, allows developers to increase their revenue share, among other uses.
Why isn’t Aptoide closer to the top of this list? In short, because it allows users to manage their own stores and thus enables modded APKs on the platform. They are well marked, but if you don’t pay attention, you may download one by accident.
Yalp Store is different from other apps on this site – there is no web version. Instead, you have to install the app from F-Droid, which itself is one of the best alternatives to Google Play.
Once the Yalp Store app is installed on your Android device, you can use it to download APKs directly from the Google Play Store. This means that you don’t need to worry about the possibility of intermediaries injecting malware into APK files before you get them.
If you have rooted your device, Yalp Store can even update apps in the background without any intervention on your part. Best of all, you don’t need to have a Google account to download APK files from Google Play. This will appeal to many people who are wary of Google’s privacy practices.
SEE ALSO: The 5 Best Android Themes To Make Your Smartphone Amazing
Take extra precautions before installing an APK
No matter where you download your APK file, you should always take responsibility to make sure that no nasty surprises are lurking in the code. Several services can scan APK files for malware. We recommend drag and drop MetaDefender and VirusTotal .