What Is An APK? What Is Its Use?

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Image: Unsplash / Denny Müller

Android Package Kit (APK), or simply Android Package, is a file format for applications in the Android operating system. It contains all the programming code and other assets required by an app. In some cases, it is also called an Android Application Package.

App developers create these APK files using Java or Kotlin programming language on Android Studio. Every Android app, ranging from a calendar app to a game, comes in the form of an Android Package.

At its core, APK is an archive file format, somewhat similar to ZIP and RAR files. For this reason, you can access its contents via file archiver software programs such as 7zip.

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The Play Store is the largest marketplace for navigating through APK files. However, you may also download them from third-party websites or copy them from a computer. This is particularly common when installing apps that aren’t available on the Play Store for one reason or the other.

Notably, sometimes APK files from other sources can contain malware or spyware. Therefore, it is important to trust the source from where you downloaded the file. Also, before running files obtained from third-party sources, your Android phone prompts you to enable the settings to perform this action.

The act of manually installing apps using APKs downloaded from anywhere other than the Play Store is known as sideloading. It is a unique feature that Android users enjoy. Some publishers release the latest versions of their apps on their website before it becomes available on the store officially. Sideloading helps you access these latest apps without any wait.

Moreover, there are certain kinds of apps that Google doesn’t allow on its app front due to various reasons. One such popular app is Dream11, a fantasy sports platform that Play Store doesn’t host due to its policy about cash contests. But, thanks to sideloading, Android users can easily download its APK from the official website and install it on their phones.

If you like this simple explainer, check out our Short Bytes section. We take complex tech topics and break them into short, easy-to-understand articles.

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