So you’re new to Android, and you’re trying to find where you go to download apps? We understand that it can be confusing at first, so we’d like to step you through all your options.
Don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s everything you need to know about downloading apps on an Android phone or tablet.
This Is Google Play
Google Play is the name of the default digital store that likely came with your Android device (especially if you live in the US). When you look through your app drawer, it will go by the name of the Play Store, which fits more in line with the other Play apps that were probably pre-installed, such as Play Books and Play Music.
In addition to apps, you can buy eBooks, magazines, music, movies, and television shows that you can view on your phone or tablet. Selection and availability vary depending on where you live.
How To Download Apps
Great, so you’ve found the Play Store. Now, how exactly do you go about using it? We’ve got you covered.
The easiest way to get your hands on new apps is to use the search bar. Just tap it and type in what you’re looking for.
Google will make suggestions as you type, and for popular services like Netflix, they tend to be spot on. Clicking on the app will bring up its Play Store page, which contains background information and screenshots. There’s also a big green Install button.
If Google doesn’t immediately figure out what you want, you can tap the magnifying icon on your keyboard to perform the search. A list of results will appear. You can tap any of them to go to their pages, or you can tap the three dots and select Install if you know for certain you’ve found the app you want.
At this point, you will receive a prompt displaying what permissions the software needs to run. If the app wants access to your camera, GPS location, WiFi networks, and other potentially compromising resources, you will find out here. For most major apps, though — like Netflix — the permissions are probably fine.
This screen will change once Android M comes to phones and tablets. At that point, apps will start requesting access as they need it, rather than when they’re first installed. But that version of Android is still months from release, and most devices currently out will never receive an update.
For those times when you’re ready for something new but have no idea what, it makes more sense to browse than to search. To get started, select the green Apps button at the top of the Play Store’s home page. It will take you to this screen.
Google lumps content into groups, so you can start browsing simply by scrolling down. When you come across a section that catches your eye, you can tap the green More button to see what else is available.
Category tabs spread out across the top of the screen. You can select them or swipe in those directions to view what free apps people are flocking to and which ones they’re willing to pay money for (or go to other lengths to get). The store will also show you which software just came out.
To look through specific kinds of apps, swipe or tap on the Categories tab on the left. A list will extend down the left side of the screen. You can scroll down to get to finance, health & fitness, and photography-related apps. Here you can find live wallpapers and widgets too. Tablet, Chromecast, or Android Wear users may be pleased to find sections dedicated just for those devices.
When you select a category, the familiar Top Paid, Top Free, Top Grossing, etc. tabs will still appear across the top, only now they strictly apply to the type you’ve selected. In the screenshot below, we’re looking at widgets.
Just like with searching, you can select any app to go to its dedicated page or tap the three dots to start installing right away.
Installing From a PC
You don’t need to be holding your phone in order to install apps. You can also get the job done from a PC. Just head to Google Play’s website and look around. When you see what you want, click the Install button and select which device to send the app to.
The Play Store isn’t just where you go to get your hands on apps. It’s also where you will keep them up-to-date. When new versions of software arrive, you should get a notification saying that updates are either available or have been recently updated, depending on your settings. You can also go through and do things manually.
What If I Don’t Want to Buy From Google?
No problem. There are plenty of alternative stores that offer Android apps. Your device may have come with one already installed, but chances are it didn’t. Since alternative app stores are not allowed to go through Google Play, you will have to head directly to their websites to download them. Fortunately, it’s a pretty straightforward process.
But first, you need to go to Settings > Security. There you should see the “Unknown Sources” option. Turn this on to allow installation of apps from places other than Google Play.
The largest and most well-known Google Play alternative is the Amazon Appstore, which you can find at amazon.com/getappstore. It’s best to visit the website on your phone or tablet directly, so you don’t have to bother with trying to transport the installer from your PC (through here are a few ways to do so just in case). After launching the downloaded file, you will need to sign in with your Amazon account.
Afterwards, you see a screen that looks like this.
Now, you have everything up and running. Look for a free app of the day at the top of the screen. It changes — you guessed it — daily, making this one of the biggest reasons to use Amazon’s store over, or alongside, Google Play.
One thing to keep in mind: apps installed through the Appstore will look to Amazon, not Google, for updates. So you must keep the Appstore installed to receive future versions.
Despite the change in appearance, Amazon’s marketplace functions similarly to Google’s. Both companies keep a list of all the apps that you’ve installed. Amazon refers to this as its Cloud, and you can access it on all of your devices. The option to re-install these apps or check for updates is only a tap away.
The F-Droid store is for people who are into Android because of the free and open source aspect, as it only carries apps that are distributed under an open software license. You can grab the Android package needed to install F-Droid directly from the website’s homepage.
Given its priorities, F-Droid has a significantly smaller library than competing app stores. Chances are, any apps you see referenced on TV or in an ad won’t be available.
F-Droid also isn’t as visually pleasing as the other stores. That said, its interface is simple. It’s not difficult to browse, and managing updates isn’t a problem. F-Droid won’t store a list of your installed apps for you to access later, but that added privacy is part of the draw.
The Humble Bundle didn’t begin as a traditional app store, but it shares many of the same functions. The organization releases a different bundle of DRM-free games every week, which you can buy by paying however much (or little) you like. You can then download the Humble Bundle app to manage and install your games.
To download Humble Bundle, go to humblebundle.com/app. Again, it’s best to do this on your Android device.
From here you can browse through your entire library of games. Since you might have bought a bundle just for one or two games, this lets you install only those while leaving the others in the cloud. The app will also send you notifications whenever a new bundle is available for purchase.
Since growing in popularity, Humble Bundle has also launched the Humble Store. You can only browse through it in a web browser, but any Android games you purchase will show up inside the standalone Humble Bundle app.
After you’ve installed a bunch of apps, you eventually get to the point where it’s time to get rid of some. That part is easy. Just go to Settings > Apps. There you should see a list of all the ones you’ve downloaded, including those that were pre-installed but have received updates. You can swipe left and right to switch to those that haven’t received updates and those that are currently running in the background.
Tap on an app to get the option to uninstall. Unfortunately, you can’t remove most of the software that came with your device. Instead, you can disable them. This hides their icons from your app drawer and is effectively the same as uninstalling, just without freeing up storage space.
Did You Find What You Were Looking For?
Turns out, there are a bunch of ways to install Android apps. Some manufacturers, such as Samsung, even offer their own separate stores.
But at the end of the day, the Play Store holds the largest selection of Android software you can find on the Web. If you want to install something for Android, Google Play is the first place you’re likely to find it.
If you have any further questions about how to install Android apps, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below. What is your favorite Android app store?