If you have an Android device, you might have heard the term APK and wondered what it means. Let’s quickly discuss what an APK is and why it’s important to Android.
What Is an APK File?
APK stands for Android Package Kit (also Android Application Package) and is the file format that Android uses to distribute and install apps. It contains all the elements that an app needs to install correctly on your device.
Just like EXE files on Windows, you can place an APK file on your Android device to install an app. Manually installing apps using APKs is called sideloading.
Normally when you visit Google Play to download an app, it automatically downloads and installs the APK for you. While you can extract APKs from the Play Store, they’re also available to download from alternative app stores.
What Are APK Files Used For?
You’ll find several benefits to installing APKs manually. One of the biggest is getting access to apps ahead of time. When a major Google app (like Calendar) releases a major update, it can take a week or more for your device to get it. Installing the APK lets you skip the wait and update right away.
I see that people are already playing that Animal Crossing mobile game. Man, if only there was a way to sideload the APK. ….wait….
— Motoko (@SailorMotoko) October 26, 2017
Sideloading APKs also lets you install apps on your device that aren’t available on Google Play. However, it’s important to be cautious about where you download. Just like desktop software, downloading APK files from random websites isn’t a good idea. This is especially true if the site promises you a paid app for no cost.
So APKs are the core format that Android uses to distribute and install apps. They’re quite handy for power Android users, but you must be careful where you download them from.
Did this help you understand what APKs do? Do you ever sideload apps on your Android device? Tell us in the comments!
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