Getting Android apps without using the official Google Play Store can be a mixed bag, depending on where you choose to get your apps. While Android lets you install any app you want, you’ll need to be cautious about where these files come from. And some popular devices, like the best Amazon Fire tablets, aren’t preinstalled with the Google Play Store. As such, we recommend APKMirror for your app needs because it is a brand we know and trust. This guide covers how to install or “sideload” Android apps using the popular service.
How to download and install apps from APKMirror
If you prefer video instructions over reading the steps in a guide, we included a quick six-minute walkthrough of the process that you can watch below. If text is more your style, though, read on.
Android has both normal APKs and split APKs or Android App Bundles. Android App Bundles save bandwidth and storage space, but they make it hard for people to share apps with one another outside the Google Play Store. That’s because each Android phone model runs a slightly different app version, creating a fragmented user experience. But APKMirror and the APKMirror Installer app eliminate that problem by allowing you to install all modern app formats equally.
You can sideload many Android apps without using a third-party installer, but that’s starting to change. With the rise of “bundling” and split APKs, the original APK format is no longer the default choice for some app developers. APKs are still popular, but the Google Play Store enforces the use of the Android App Bundles format by default for new apps. APKMirror Installer supports all app file formats, including APKs, so you can safely install your apps.
Grab the APKMirror Installer app and search for the apps you want to install
Before you can sideload an app on your device, download the APKMirror Installer app. Installing apps from APKMirror is a straightforward process, whether you’re downloading an Android App Bundle or not. And since the instructions for installing APKs and Android App Bundles are nearly identical, you won’t need to view a separate guide on the process.
Some apps from the Google Play Store may not be available on APKMirror, but many are. If the app you’re looking for isn’t there, check back often to see if it becomes available for download later.
To get install apps on your device, do the following:
- Download and install the APKMirror Installer app from the Google Play Store. You can download it from the Google Play Store, then use APKMirror Installer to install or update your apps afterward. Otherwise, grab the APKMirror Installer app from the official APKMirror website.
- Visit the APKMirror website and search for an app you want to install on your Android device. You can browse apps by APK, app, and developer names. When you sort by app or developer rather than APK, choose the version of the app you want. If this doesn’t matter to you, the latest non-beta version also works. Scroll down to All versions and find the one you need.
- Tap the Download icon on the right side of the app you want.
- Tap the app that matches the version you need, and then scroll down to the Download section. Or tap the See Available Downloads button toward the top to jump to the Download section. You may have more than one option available. If that’s the case, check the FAQ and do some research to determine which version is appropriate for your phone.
- Tap the Download arrow to the right for the app variant you want to install.
- Tap the Download APK Bundle or Download APK button.
- When asked whether you’d like to save the file, you might see a warning that the file format/extension is potentially dangerous. If you trust APKMirror as a source, allow it.
- The app variant you selected is downloaded to your device’s internal storage and is ready to be installed from here.
The installation may fail if you download the wrong version, but only sometimes. If an app installs regardless of the selected variant, it may work fine but have strange text or display issues. If this happens, download the correct version for your device and try the process again.
Open your downloaded app using APKMirror Installer
After downloading the file, you’ll need a way to open it to install it on your device. There are a few choices, and all lead to the same place. Check out the following steps to open your downloaded app:
- Swipe down on the top of your screen and tap the Download complete entry.
- Tap the Download complete notification when the file finishes downloading. Some web browsers show the download message at the bottom, but it’s the same process no matter where it appears.
- If prompted, open the file with APKMirror Installer to move on to installing the app.
- Tap Allow to grant APKMirror the proper storage permissions.
Install your downloaded app using APKMirror Installer
APKMirror Installer gives you an overview of many details regarding the app you’re installing. If it’s an APK Bundle, your best bet is to trust the app’s judgment. However, you can tweak things if you run into trouble and have to reinstall later. You get a simpler prompt if you’re not installing an APK Bundle, but it’s relatively easy no matter what.
To get started with the next part of this guide, check out the following steps:
- Tap Install app to continue with the installation process.
- Flip the Allow from this source switch to the on position. Don’t enable this setting for just any app. The warning protects you from apps that might install malware, so you must decide if you’re comfortable approving APKMirror.
- Tap the back arrow or gesture to return to the APKMirror Installer app.
- Tap Install app to move to the next screen if needed.
- APKMirror prepares the installation, and your phone asks if you’d like to install the app.
- Tap Install to finish the process. Most apps install quickly during this part, but some might take a little longer, depending on the source file size.
- Tap Open app to launch the new app or tap Close to shut down the APKMirror app.
If you run into problems during this process, APKMirror Installer notifies you immediately. If something goes wrong, you’ll receive a warning message if the app installation fails. So if you accidentally select an x86 APK when your phone is arm64 (like 99% of all recent phones), it probably won’t work.
You can even install the Google Play Store
Using these tips, you can apply the same steps to install the Google Play Store onto your Android device. All you need are four apps (though you might require different versions depending on how old your phone is or what version of Android it runs). It may only work on some devices, so keep that in mind, as these things are never guaranteed. This is especially true for old or unusual devices that involve you tracking down specific versions of the right APKs to install.
Without opening any of these until you reboot at the end, install the following apps in this order:
- Google Account Manager
- Google Services Framework: Check your phone’s Settings app to find your Android version (Settings > About phone or Settings > About phone > Software information) and download the latest services framework that matches (for example, Google Services Framework 12-7567768 if you’re running Android 12).
- Google Play Services
- Google Play Store
After all four Google apps above have been installed (again, without opening them), reboot, and you should be able to use the Google Play Store. If you get a notification that Google Play Services needs to be updated, don’t worry. If you can sign in to your Google account, everything should automatically update to the latest compatible version soon after.
Troubleshooting issues when sideloading apps
If you run into trouble, most issues can be fixed by one of the following escalating steps:
- Rebooting the device.
- Clearing app data for the Google Play Store and relaunching it. Go to the Apps or Apps & Notifications section of Settings, tap Google Play Store, and select Force Stop. Then go to Storage and select Clear data or Clear Storage.
- Clearing app data for Google Play Services and rebooting. Go to the Apps or Apps & Notifications section of Settings, tap Google Play Services go to Storage, and select Clear data or Clear storage.
- Uninstalling all four apps, rebooting, reinstalling all four apps in the order described above, and rebooting again.
- Reset your device as a last-ditch effort if you are sure you’re using the correct versions of the right APKs and doing things in the proper order.
Not all devices are compatible with a sideloaded Google Play Store, and you may experience issues or odd behaviors. We can’t guarantee any of these steps will work for your Android device, but it never hurts to try. If you need more help, we have a complete guide that walks you through installing the Google Play Store on any Android device.
Why install apps outside the Google Play Store?
There are many reasons to look for apps outside of Google’s store. Odds are, if you’re here, you have at least one. Still, there are some reasons you might not be aware of.
For one, Google sometimes removes apps from the Google Play Store based on content, functionality, or as a matter of censorship to comply with local laws. Sometimes apps are kicked to the curb for legitimate and valid reasons, like containing malware or violating user privacy, but that is only sometimes the case. For better or worse, Android gives you the freedom (and associated responsibility) to get your apps anywhere you like.
Another reason to download apps from APKMirror is that some apps aren’t available on the Google Play Store. Apps on the Google Play Store can also be geographically restricted or censored, and users in some countries don’t have access to them. Other times, apps distributed on the Google Play Store roll out updates progressively. So when it comes to playing with the latest cutting-edge features you might read about in our coverage, you may not have access to them yet.
Last, sometimes updates aren’t always for the better. APKMirror can provide a way to roll back to previous versions of an app.
Can you trust APKMirror?
You’ll need to make that decision yourself, but here are four reasons we trust APKMirror.
We know and trust the founder
Artem Russakovskii, the founder of Android Police, also runs APKMirror. While Google might be responsible for the ads you see at APKMirror, Artem has done his best to create a high-quality user experience. It might require a slight learning curve like the different APK versions based on hardware platform or “DPI,” but it’s generally straightforward to get what you need.
The company that owns APKMirror, Illogical Robot LLC, owned Android Police until Valnet acquired Android Police in 2021.
Apps are signed by developers and safe to use
The apps you download from APKMirror are securely signed by their original developers, ensuring maximum safety. APKMirror also crosschecks the APK cryptographic signatures to verify they match the originals. This is done for previous updates and versions distributed on the Google Play Store, which matches new applications to known signatures from developers. When an app’s signature can’t be verified, APKMirror won’t have it. APKMirror also blocks publicly disclosed test/dev/debug signing keys since they can’t always be trusted.
For the non-technically minded, this means APKMirror does its best to ensure the apps it distributes are safe from outside threats.
APKMirror doesn’t have pirated or ‘cracked’ apps
APKMirror does not host pirated content. Period. While you might be able to get around geographic restrictions or censorship, APKMirror doesn’t provide “cracked” or pirated versions of apps. Although, it does host some modified apps, like Google apps tweaked to work with more devices.
APKMirror wants to help developers succeed, not make their lives harder or take away their ability to earn a living. Regarding safety and security, many apps that have been modified to provide paid or premium features for free would raise some red flags. As such, these apps potentially have malware or spyware hiding inside them, which you don’t want.
Don’t just take our word for it
Android Police is no longer owned by APKMirror’s parent company, Illogical Robot LLC. This post was fact-checked and updated by an editor who has no relationship with Mr. Russakovskii or any APKMirror employees. We have also linked to impartial sources that trust APKMirror.
APKMirror Installer is a simple way to install apps on any Android device
The APK file format is widely available across all Android devices and has been the go-to option for many years. However, it’s slowly getting phased out for Android App Bundles or split APKs. The main issue with these new file formats is that there isn’t a native way to install them outside the official Google Play Store. Other third-party apps can manage bundles or split APKs, but APKMirror Installer is one option we’ll always highly recommend. APKMirror Installer, above all else, is excellent primarily due to its simplicity and reliability, allowing you to install your apps with minimal effort.
If you have an Amazon Fire tablet, you can install the official Google Play Store instead to avoid sideloading your apps. We cover everything you need to know in detail to help make the process as smooth as possible.