If you’ve used Android devices before and downloaded apps from the Google Play Store, then you’ve probably encountered APK files. When you download apps from the Play Store, they are usually in the APK format and you can see the download progress on the screen.
But what are inside these APK files and how do you open them? This guide will discuss what an APK file is, what it is used for, how to open it, and how to install it on various devices.
What is an APK File?
A file with an APK filename extension is an Android Package file that is used to distribute and install apps on the Android operating system. APK means Android Package Kit or Android Application Package. This file format contains all the components that an application needs to install correctly on the device.
APK files are usually saved using the ZIP format and can be downloaded directly to Android devices. APK files are usually downloaded from the Google Play store, but they can also be found on other third-party websites.
When you go to Google Play to download an application, the Play Store automatically downloads the APK file and installs it on the device for you. But if you downloaded the APK file from an alternative source, then you need to install it manually.
And you don’t need to worry because the APK already contains all the files required for successful installation. Some of the components you can find stored in a regular APK file includes an AndroidManifest.xml, resources.arsc file, classes.dex, a META-INF, and a res folder.
APK files are the equivalent of EXE files on Windows. You can download an APK file on your Android device and install the app manually. The process of manually installing apps using APK files is called sideloading.
What are APK Files Used For?
Regular Android users get their APK files from Google Play Store and are automatically installed on the device. You just need to click the Get button and Android does everything for you.
However, there are also some benefits to installing APKs manually or sideloading. Let’s look at some of the scenarios where installing APKs manually is a lot better than letting Android do all the work.
We all know that when Google releases an update, they don’t get rolled for everyone at the same time. For example, if there is an update on the Google Calendar or Gmail, it can take a few days or weeks for the update to be available on your device. Getting access to apps ahead of time can be a hassle. Downloading the update manually and installing the APK file on your device lets you skip the waiting game. You can enjoy the updates as soon as they are released, just make sure that you download only from reputable sources.
Let’s admit it: not all apps are available on Google Play. Sideloading APK files lets you install applications on your Android device that aren’t hosted on the Google Play Store. However, just like any other software, downloading APK files from suspicious or unofficial websites is not a great idea. This is especially true if the app repository claims that you can download a paid app without a cost. You might download fake apps or malware-ridden apps instead.
Ultimately, APKs are the core file format that Google uses to distribute and install apps on Android devices. They are quite useful for power Android users, but you should exercise caution when you download them from third parties.
How to Open an APK File?
Most major operating systems can open APK files, but they are used mainly to install apps on Android devices. Here are the different methods on how to install an APK file:
How to Open APK Files on Android
Installing an APK file on your Android device is as simple as downloading it just like any other file, and then opening it when prompted. But if your APK files were downloaded outside of the Google Play Store, it will not install automatically because the Android system blocks installations from outside sources by default.
To bypass this security restriction and install APKs from unknown sources, you can navigate to any of these menus. The settings vary depending on your Android version and the manufacturer of your device:
- Settings > Security
- Settings > Apps and notifications
- Settings > Apps & notifications > Advanced > Special app access > Install unknown apps
You will need to grant permission whenever you try to install unofficial APK files. Or you can enable the Install Unknown Apps or Unknown sources options so you don’t have to give permission every time you need to manually install APK files.
If the APK file won’t open even after you’ve granted access, you can use a file manager, such as Astro File Manager or ES File Explorer File Manager, to try and browse the contents of the APK file.
How to Open APK Files on Windows
The best method to open an APK file on a Windows computer is by using an Android emulator, such as BlueStacks. When you open the BlueStacks app, click on the My Apps tab, then choose Install APK. Navigate to where your APK file is saved and you can then install it on your Windows computer. However, you will need to run BlueStacks every time you need to use the app.
How to Open APK Files on Mac
You can open APK files on macOS by using ARC Welder. It is a Google Chrome extension designed for testing Android applications for the Chrome OS, but it also works on other operating systems. This means that you can open any APK file on your Mac or Windows computer as long as you have this extension installed in the Chrome browser. Unfortunately, you can’t open APK files on iOS devices because of incompatibility.
How to Extract APK Files
If you only want to open the APK file and see its content, you can use a file extractor tool to do the job. This works in Windows, macOS, or any other desktop operating system. This is because APK files are just archives of multiple folders and files. You can use the extractor, such 7-Zip or PeaZip, to unzip the APK and see the various components that make up the app.
Extracting APK files, however, does not mean that you can actually use the APK file on that computer. You are only able to open the file but you can’t install it. To do this, you need an Android emulator, such as BlueStacks, to run the Android OS on the computer.
An APK file or Android Application Package is a pretty popular file format since it is commonly used by Android to distribute and install applications. You can easily open APK files on Adnroid devices and on any computer, except for iOS devices. APK files are designed for the Android operating system so it won’t work on iOS.