Do you want to switch back to an earlier version of an app after an update? Luckily, there are websites that allow you to download older versions of an app in APK format to manually install any Android app without the need for Google Play Store. However, downloading APK files from unverified sources can be risky. This guide takes a look at some of the best websites to safely download free APK files.
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Is it Safe to Install Apps Outside Google Play?
Installing apps on Android using APK files can be safe, but it is important to be cautious when downloading APKs from unknown sources. According to a report by Symantec, APK files were the second most common delivery method for mobile malware in 2019, accounting for 23% of all mobile malware attacks.
Additionally, it is important to be aware that installing apps using APK files can bypass certain security measures, such as the Google Play Store’s ability to screen for malicious apps. As a result, installing apps using APK files may increase the risk of downloading a malicious app if you source them from shady sources.
It is generally safe to download APK files from websites that have been around for a while and have a good reputation. These websites are more likely to have strict policies in place to ensure that the APK files they offer are safe and free from malware.
Many websites that allow you to download APK files also provide virus scans to ensure that the files are free from malware. It is a good idea to take advantage of these tools to ensure the safety of the APK file before you download and install it. Alternatively, use a dedicated APK scanning service on your phone.
How Do You Install an App Using an APK File?
To install an app using an APK file on Android, fiest download the APK on your device, then allow your device to install apps from unknown sources.
Open the downloaded APK file and review and accept any permissions requested by the app. Follow the prompts to complete the installation process.
APKMirror tops our list of free APK file downloaders in every aspect, especially when it comes to safety. All APKs uploaded to the website are checked by staff before they are published. The website even compares the cryptographic signatures of updated app versions to their predecessors (to ensure the developers signed them). If APKMirror can’t validate an app, it won’t publish it, so you won’t find modified APKs, illegally downloaded apps, or cracked apps on the website. APKMirror also hosts a massive library of apps. The site constantly adds new APK file releases and has almost every APK file you could want, each with different versions.
- Has every single app that you can find on Google Store
- Constantly releases APK files for new and updated apps
- APK files for older app versions are also available
- Very basic search engine
- Categorization of APK files is somewhat disorganized
Good to know: XAPK files are larger variations of APK files. Learn how to install an XAPK on your Android device.
When it comes to finding free, safe APK files, APKPure is another excellent option that’s also available as an Android app. Before publishing apps, APKPure uses SHA1 to validate them and ensure their certificates are secure. In addition, it verifies that the new app versions have cryptographic signatures that match previously released versions, while new apps are compared to other software from the same developer. Under this security standard, APKPure never publishes an app on the website if they are even slightly concerned about the app’s security or provenance. In addition, APKPure doesn’t offer any modified APKs. Instead, it pulls screenshots, app descriptions, and general metadata from Google to improve site usability. APKPure even maintains an archive of previous app releases.
- Large app library that includes apps not listed on the Play Store
- Works with region-locked apps
- Also available as an Android app
- The app doesn’t work properly on some Android devices and is not easy to use
The key advantage of using APK-DL is that you can find apps that are not available on your country’s Google Play Store. Another highlight of APK-DL is its search bar that lets you paste Google Play URLs for apps. The site gives you access to all of the most recently launched apps. Since its APKs are distributed from the Google Play Store, there is little to no room for suspicious malware. Also, it is one of the more user-friendly APK downloading websites, thanks to its clean, simple design. That’s not to say APK-DL doesn’t have drawbacks. For instance, downloading APK files from the website can be quite slow.
- Let you download apps from other countries without a VPN
- Gives you access to the most recently-launched apps
- User friendly
- Slow downloads
- Infested with ads
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Aptoide is available as both a website and an Android app and can be accessed in over 30 languages, making it accessible to a wider range of people. An important advantage is that it allows you to easily roll back to a previous version of an app via the mobile app. When it comes to identifying malware, Aptoide employs a three-stage verification system. Each app is tested, then Aptoide’s Quality Team conducts a manual inspection of each app. Finally, user review metrics are also factored in to rate an app’s safety. On the downside, Aptoide relies on ad revenue to monetize its platform, so you’ll often see more ads when using Aptoide compared to other app stores.
- Available in various languages
- Offers a “Request App” feature
- APK file downloads for apps no longer available on Google Play
- Both website and app feature ads
- No customer support
APKMonk is a popular APK download site among gaming enthusiasts and is largely focused on providing APK files for a wide variety of mobile games. It also lets you explore games based on categories such as Adventure, Board, Card, Racing, Trivia, etc. Apart from that, APKMonk is safe to use, as it collects the app’s metadata and photos from the Google Play Store and links the programs to their original listings. It also regularly scans for viruses and removes any suspicious apps. As with other trusted websites to download APK files, APKMonk allows you to download several earlier versions of an app. You can even get some of the paid Google Play apps for free on APKMonk, but it’s not advisable for you to download them.
- Excellent APK downloader for mobile games
- Clean and well-organized UI
- Lets you download older versions of apps
- Not that useful for non-gamers
- Doesn’t auto-update apps like Google Play does
F-Droid has a reputation for being one of the most secure channels to download APK files. Since its launch in 2010, F-droid has hosted more than 4000 FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) apps, and since it operates independently from Google, it’s a popular choice for custom ROMs, such as LineageOS and GrapheneOS. When it comes to security, F-Droid verifies the authenticity of each app using cryptographic signatures and reproducible builds, ensuring that they are not malicious or tampered with. Plus, all app signing is done on a dedicated, air-gapped, offline machine. Additionally, F-Droid allows users to easily install and manage updates for the apps they have installed, which helps ensure you have access to the latest version of your favorite apps with the latest security fixes and new features.
- Uses The Onion Router (Tor) to improve privacy
- Open-source software offers flexibility
- Apps don’t have hidden costs
- Suspicious files are immediately flagged
- Lacks a rating system
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Frequently Asked Questions
Can I download APK files for paid apps and use them for free?
Even though it is possible to download APK files for paid apps for free, it is generally not legal to do so and can be considered a violation of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) to use these apps without paying for them. Many developers rely on app sales as a source of revenue, and pirating apps by downloading them from unauthorized sources deprives them of this income.
There are some legitimate ways to obtain paid apps for free, such as through app giveaways or promotions, but these are typically offered by the developers themselves or through official channels, such as the Google Play Store.
Can I safely use APK files for apps that are not available in my country?
It’s possible to download APK files for apps that are not available in your country. They are typically not restricted by geographical location, so you should be able to download an APK file for an app that is not available in your country as long as you have a reliable source.
However, it is important to be aware that some apps may not function properly if they are not used in the country for which they were designed. This can be due to differences in language, currency, or other factors.
Image credit: All alterations and screenshots by Ojash Yadav.
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