Users of Android devices like smartphones and tablets have access to a wide range of apps designed to run on this popular mobile platform. Just like with PC software, there are Android apps in every category imaginable, such as productivity tools, utilities, games and more. Some apps are completely free to use, some require the user to purchase them, while others could be categorized as somewhere in between, such as apps that provide basic features for free, but require a purchase to unlock more advanced ones.

APK files are a kind of archive used to package Android applications for distribution to users. However, the majority of basic users don't see or use them, as Google Play, the official source for Android apps and most popular mobile marketplace, takes care of downloading and installing new apps automatically.

There are many sources of APK files across the web, but be sure to choose a trusted site like FilePlanet.com

To find the APK of the app you are interested in you can simply search on Google the name of the app followed by "apk fileplanet".

Compared to Apple's iOS, Android is a far more open platform, giving users the opportunity to download and install applications from unofficial or third-party sources without requiring complicated procedures to unlock this functionality. There are also a few competing app stores that can be used to easily download apps without going through the Google Play service.

The latest statistics from the top Android app marketplaces show that there are over 2.2 million apps available for download, with many others being distributed through third-party websites. With so many apps to choose from, there is a high chance that every user will find some that they find useful or just entertaining.

How to Install Apps on Your Smartphone

There are several ways to get apps on your Android smartphone:

Using the Official Google Play Store

This is the most common and easiest way to install apps on a smartphone. All that you have to do is to open the Google Play Store app, which is already installed on all Android smartphones. Once Google Play is open, you will get the opportunity to search or browse for an app you want to get.

Google Play takes care of the download and installation process for you. If the app is free, simply click on the “Install” button to get it. For paid apps, click on the app's price and follow the instructions to add a payment method to your Google account and complete the purchase.

By Sideloading Apps From Other Sources

In the context of Android apps, the term sideloading refers to installing an app by loading its APK file onto an Android device without going through the Google Play store. There are many good reasons why you may want to sideload an app onto your device.

Certain developers publish their apps directly on their website, on forums or on social media groups, giving users the opportunity to download them without having to use Google Play. There are also certain apps that many enjoy which can't be made available through the Google Play Store by the developers as they have content or features that are against its rules. Common examples of this are apps featuring adult content or which let users wager real money. Google recently updated its rules on copyright infringement and has removed many apps that allow users to download content from streaming sites like YouTube, access live streaming feeds from various sources without going through their official website or block annoying ads while browsing the web and using other apps.

By default, Android smartphones prevent users from sideloading apps. This setting can be changed in just a few seconds. To do so, just access your system settings and tap on the Security menu. Check the “Unknown sources” option and press OK on the security warning that will appear next. You're now ready to install devices from sources outside of the Google Play Store.

There are tens of thousands of sources for Android apps outside of Google's marketplace. Some apps are found through third-party software download sites, on discussion forums, social media groups or directly on a website maintained by their developers. You can browse for and download apps either on your Android device or on a PC.

Installing apps by using the sideloading method may require a few more steps when compared to using Google Play, but it is still a simple procedure that any Android user can do, even those without much technical skill. The steps to take depend on where you downloaded the APK file to.

Installing From a PC

If you downloaded the APK file onto a PC, you will first need to move it to your smartphone. If you've ever manually moved any files between your Android device and a PC, such as pictures or music, you'll find that that the procedure is essentially the same.

First, connect your smartphone to the PC with a micro USB cable. In Windows, the phone will show up as a drive connected to your system, just like any other type of removable storage such as an external hard drive or USB flash drive would. Find the APK file on your PC and just drag and drop onto the drive representing your phone. You can create a folder to organize your APK files, but this isn't strictly necessary and just copying the file to the root folder will work fine.

When you're done moving the APK file to your mobile device, open up your Android's preinstalled file manager and find the APK file you've just transferred from your PC. Tap on it to start the installation.

Installing an App Downloaded Onto Your Phone

If you've downloaded the APK file by using your smartphone, installing the app becomes even simpler. Just go to your app drawer and find the “Downloads” app. Unless you chose to save the APK file to a different location you've specified in your phone's memory, it should be waiting for you in the downloads folder. Tap on the APK file and Android will begin the process of installing your new app.

Security Considerations

While sideloading apps gives you the freedom to download and run any app you want, just like on a PC, it does come with some possible security risks. Google reviews all apps submitted to the Play Store and screens them for malware. By getting apps from a third-party source, you circumvent this protection. If you sideload apps, it's your responsibility to thoroughly research the apps you install and the websites hosting them to judge for yourself whether they're safe and reputable. You may also opt to get an anti-malware app, which scans apps automatically for malicious code.

Using a Third-Party App Store

Even though the Google Play Store is the most popular app store for Android, they aren't the only game in town. There are several third-party app stores, with the Amazon Appstore, Mobogenie and Aptoide being the most popular.

To use a third-party app store, you will first need to enable installation of apps from “unknown sources” if you haven't done so already. This is done by tapping on “Settings,” then “Security” and checking the “unknown sources” option.

Obviously, Google doesn't really like competing app stores, so you will have to install them by visiting their website and downloading the APK file, as they're not found in the Play Store. Follow the instructions in the previous method to do this.

Your new app store will then be ready for you to use. Third party app stores offer some unique advantages over using Google Play. Apps made available through them aren't subject to the same restrictions and rules, allowing users to download a greater variety of applications. Some developers use them to distribute their apps at a lower price or even for free for a limited time after they're released to the public. You can also find pre-release and beta versions of paid apps for free.