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You’ve installed a custom ROM on your Android device, but for some reason, all the Google apps are missing! Google Play Store, YouTube, Maps, Gmail, and all the rest are gone.
Unfortunately, you’re going to have to install them yourself, and unless you know what you’re doing, this is easier said than done. Fortunately, after reading this guide, you’ll know exactly what you’re doing, what GApps is, which version you’ll need, and how to install it.
What Is GApps?
A contraction of “Google Apps,” GApps is a customizable APK that you can download and install on any unlocked Android device, via the custom recovery. Typically, you install a GApps APK after the installation of a custom ROM.
As the name suggests, GApps packages include the usual Google apps for Android: Google Play, Google Camera, Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps, Google Music, and others. There’s also background elements like Google Play Services included.
While you can use a custom ROM without GApps, you cannot access your usual Android apps and services without installing them. Typically, you’d install a GApps package to gain access to Google Play and so you can download apps and games, enjoy films, etc. However, since other Android app stores are available, you might have another reason for wanting Google’s apps.
Why Custom ROMs Ship Without Google Apps
Custom ROM developers have many reasons for not including Google Apps. To begin with, these applications update regularly, which would put a heavy burden on ROM developers to create new versions of their ROMs whenever one of the apps updates.
Additionally, many users of custom ROMs are hoping for a more open-source, AOSP-style experience from Android. As such, ROM developers don’t bother with Google Apps.
Following the Google Play Certification news resulting in only certified devices supporting Google Play, many ROM developers are reluctant to bother with Google Apps. To get around this, custom ROM users can register their device’s Google Services Framework (GSF ID) in order to get Google Apps running.
How to Register Your Device for GApps
In March 2018, Google started blocking unregistered devices from accessing Google apps. This is to prevent phone manufacturers from skipping out on Google’s certification process, but it also affects you when installing a custom ROM on your device.
Fortunately, the company has provided a workaround. Visit Google’s device registration page for information and instructions on pulling your GFS ID using an ADB command. Doing so will register the device to your Google account and allow you to use Google apps as normal.
Note that this ID changes each time you factory reset your device, and Google limits you to 100 registered IDs per account. Thus, hardcore custom ROM users may eventually hit this threshold. Apps are only blocked if the system image build date is after March 16, 2018, so older devices shouldn’t be affected.
How to Download GApps to Your Android Device
To install GApps, you (obviously) should have no Google apps on your phone. Your Android device should have a custom recovery installed, and root access.
Begin by downloading a GApps file from Open GApps. Make sure you’re on the Download tab. Here, you need to make three choices, platform, Android version, and variant. Because the result can be quite different (and potentially wrong for your device) depending on what you pick, you need to make your choice carefully.
The aim here is to end up with exactly the Google apps you want for your phone, rather than a load of Google bloatware.
Begin by selecting the right hardware platform for you device. The choice here is:
- ARM: For standard ARM processors.
- ARM64: For 64-bit ARM processors.
- x86: For 32-bit Intel processors.
- x86_64: For 64-bit Intel processors.
Getting this right is an important first step. You should check your device’s hardware specification to find out which option to choose. Either Wikipedia, GSMArena, or your phone manufacturer’s website should reveal the answer.
Choose the correct hardware, then move to the next column.
2. Android Version
Here, you’ll need to choose the right Android version. The choices available at the time of writing are:
- 8.1: Oreo revision
- 8.0: Android Oreo
- 7.1: Nougat revision
- 7.0: Android Nougat
- 6.0: Android Marshmallow
- 5.1: Lollipop revision
- 5.0: Android Lollipop
- 4.4: Android KitKat
If you don’t know which version of Android you’re using, open Settings > System > About Phone. (This may differ in some Android releases, especially those produced with manufacturer-specific versions, rather than stock Android.)
The final option to choose is the type of GApps package you want.
Super offers all Google apps, while Stock gives you the core collection of apps. After this, each package gets progressively smaller through Full, Mini, Micro, and Nano, all the way to Pico. This is the smallest package and features just Google Package Installer, Google Play Services, and for Android 6.0 and later, Google Text-to-Speech. As such, it is ideal for anyone who simply requires access to Google Play.
There’s also a TV stock version specifically for Android TV devices, and an Aroma version, which offers a menu for selecting your preferred Google apps. For a full breakdown of what each package includes, check the openGApps Package Comparison.
With the package specified, click the Download button, and save GApps ZIP file to your Android device. You should also download the MD5 checksum; this enables your device to verify the integrity of the downloaded GApps package.
If you cannot download to your Android device (perhaps you haven’t yet installed the new ROM) then download to your PC instead. You can then copy the ZIP file across via USB when the device is in Fastboot mode.
Install GApps on Your Android Device
With the GApps file ready to install, it’s time to boot into your Android recovery. Whether you’re using TWRP or ClockworkMod Recovery, the process is generally the same: hold Volume Down + Power for 5 seconds. This should be done as the phone restarts, or boots up.
In your recovery, choose the Install option (Install on TWRP, Install zip from sdcard in CWM) then browse to select the ZIP file. Next, select the option to flash (Swipe to Confirm Flash in TWRP; simply select in CWM), then wait as the Google Apps install on your device.
Finally, once this completes, hit Back, then select the option to clear the device cache. On TWRP select Wipe > Advanced then check Dalvik Cache and Cache. Next, Swipe to Wipe, then restart your device. For CWM, first use Wipe Cache Partition; when this is done, open Advanced and select Wipe Dalvik Cache.
Note that the first restart after installing GApps will take a bit longer than usual, just as it does when installing a new ROM. You’ll be prompted to sign into your Google account when the phone starts,
Only Install the Google Apps You Need With GApps
The beauty of GApps is that it lets you choose exactly which Google Apps you want on your phone. Don’t care about Google Fit, Google Plus, and others? Don’t install them! Choose a compact version like Micro, Nano, or Pico instead. On the other hand, if you want the full selection to choose from, use the Aroma option.
Installing a custom ROM lets you choose just how your phone or tablet looks; adding your specific GApps package finishes it off should you wish to go down the Google route.