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What Is an APK File and What Does It Do

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You might have heard of APK if you own an Android phone. Although you can still use Android without knowing the meaning of APK you will be able to appreciate it more if you do.

Let’s take a look at the APK file and its importance to Android.

What is an APK File?

APK is an Android package (also Android Kit, Android App Package). This is the file format Android uses to distribute and download apps. An APK is a complete package that contains all elements required to correctly install an app on your device.

APK stands for the archive file. It contains multiple files and metadata. Other types of archive files are probably familiar to you, such as ZIP and RAR.

Archive files (like ZIP), are generally used to combine multiple files in one file. This makes them easier to access or reduces their size. Software packages are created when software is archived and distributed.

APKs are actually a variation of the JAR file format. This is because a lot of Android is written in Java. APKs can be downloaded as ZIP files but must include additional information in order to function properly as APKs.

All APKs can be considered ZIPs. However, not all ZIPs can be APKs. You can open an APK file to see the contents if you are curious. To open an APK file, you can use one of the best file extractors like 7-Zip. APKs can only be used on Android platforms unless you download an Android emulator such as Bluestacks.

What are APK files used for?

You can install apps on your Android smartphone using APK files. These files are similar to the APPX files that you use to install Store apps in Windows 10 and other corresponding package files for other platforms. An APK is a file that contains instructions for installing on your phone. It also provides information about your package to your device when you open it.

Google Play automatically installs the APK when you visit and update or download an app. The Play Store acts as a package manager, allowing you to easily install, update, or remove the software from a device.

Google Play isn’t the only way to install APKs because Android is open-source. It is easy to download an APK file from another source, then move it to your device and then manually install it. For a complete guide, see How to Sideload Apps on Android

How are APK files created?

Android Studio is the official tool for Android developers when creating an Android app. Android Studio compiles an app once it is ready for shipping. Then, the APK container is created.

Although APKs can be named whatever you like, they must have the file extension .apk so that OSes can interpret them. Typically, APKs have filenames such as the following when you download them:

This is an abbreviated version of Google’s Phone App’s APK name. The URL of the Google Play page shows that the full name of the app matches the filename.

The numbers at the end indicate the current version. This can be very precise as major apps like these are constantly updated.

Why would I install APK files manually?

Google Play is sufficient for most Android installation needs. However, there are many benefits to manually installing APKs.

Accessing the latest versions of apps in advance is one of the greatest benefits. It can take up to a week for your device (or more) to receive the latest version of a Google app (such as Calendar). You can install the APK yourself and get it as soon as possible.

Sideloading APKs allows you to install apps that aren’t available on Google Play. It’s possible to find an app not allowed on Google Play, or you might want to check out the app of a friend who’s in development.

Downloading APK files from unknown websites is dangerous, just like downloading desktop software. Although Google Play has protections in place to detect dangerous apps, you don’t have the same protection if you install APKs yourself. These could be malware disguised to appear as legitimate apps, or they might have spyware added.

Only can download APKs from trusted websites. Pay attention to any site that claims it will give you a paid application for free. This is a common way to install malware on your phone.

What is Base.APK?

Perhaps you’ve come across base.apk on your phone and wondered what it does. These base.apk files can only be seen if root access is granted to your phone. They are in protected system folders.

This file is located in each app folder. This file contains the APK you downloaded from Google Play. It was used to install the first app. They should match if you compare the file size to the one reported by the app’s Play Store Page.

These backup apps can be used to create a copy of installed apps on your smartphone. These files can be copied manually to another location if you wish. This is not necessary to back up your Android device. So if you aren’t rooted, don’t worry about these files. They are a normal part of Android’s operation, so don’t panic if they do appear.

You now know what APK files are for

We have looked at APKs, which are the core format Android uses to distribute apps and install them. They are almost invisible for normal usage. They are invisible for normal use, but APKs power all your downloads, so you deal constantly with them, even though you don’t know it.

Sideloading APKs from other sources is a great way to use Android. To avoid security risks, you should only sideload APKs from sources other than the Play Store.

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