How to Install APK Files on Android Phones / Tablets / Android TV

This is how you can install APK on Android devices, including the Android TV and Google TV sets.

Android, being open source, allows users to manually install apps on their phones and tablets. Just like DMG is the file extension for programs on Mac and EXE for Windows, Android has APK files for its apps and you can install APK files manually on any Android device as long as you know the right procedure. In this detailed guide we will be discussing complete procedure on how Android users can manually install, also known as side-load, APK files directly onto their devices: tablets, phones or even TVs.

For many enthusiasts and experienced users, this might seem as quite a usual task but for new Android users especially those shifting from other platforms might find this a bit tricky or difficult. Nonetheless, in this guide, we will be explaining each step in detail along with complete screenshots. Furthermore, rather than just focusing on Android tablets and phones, we will also cover how users can install Android APK on Android TV / Google TV — Android variant that is pre-loaded on many smart TVs.

How to Install APK Files on Android

What is Android APK file?

Android has its own proprietary file type for its apps. The extension for it is APK which roughly translates to Android Package Kit or Android Application Package. When you go over to Play Store to install any app, the file that your device downloads is the APK file. Similarly, these files can be obtained from sources other than the Play Store and then can be side-loaded (manual installation).

We have divided our tutorial into two different parts. One is for users wanting to install APK files manually on Android phones and tablets whilst the other focuses on installing APK files on Android TVs. Let’s start the guide with the easiest first — phones and tablets.

How to Install APK on Android Phones and Tablets

Installing APK files on phones and tablets is relatively easier than Android TV. For most part, there are plenty of file managers that support this. In our instructions, we use the built-in Downloads / File Manager / Files app in most Android phones and tablets. You can follow these steps on how to install APK on Android phones:

Step 1 – Download the APK file onto your phone directly or download it on your PC and then transfer it to your device, preferably in the Download folder for later use.

Download APK File

Step 2 – Now, you need to open up a file manager on your Android device. Usually, it is pre-loaded on most phones and navigate to Download folder. However, if your device does not have a file explorer, you can open your web browser and view downloads. From there, you should see the APK file.

Step 3 – From here, tap on the file. If this is your first time installing an APK or you haven’t changed factory settings, your phone will prompt you that it can not allow installation from unknown sources. Tap on the option that lets you allow.

Step 4 – Enable the setting and allow installation of APK files from your file manager or web browser.

Step 5 – After that is done, tap the back button and now you should see an install option along with the APK name up top. Select it.

Step 6 – Wait for the app install to finish. Once it does, you can then tap on Open to run the app or Done to quit back. If you click done, you can browse your phone for the app icon and run it from there.

MX Player on Google Play Store

If you are installing an APK which is listed on Play Store, it will be automatically detected and would be kept up to date as per your settings. To verify, search for the app you installed on Play Store and it should show up as Installed (as shown above).

How to Install APK on Android TV / Google TV

How to Install APK on Android TV - TCL C6

Android TVs and Google TV sets run Android OS which means they can also run APK files. The process is a bit different as TV sets are built differently from smartphones and have different input and output methods of communicating. However, we have listed below all the ways you can use to install APK on Android TV.

Step 1 – Open the Settings. To do this, browse down to the last row of options and then click on the Gear icon.

Step 2 – In Settings, you should be able to see an option Security & restrictions, click it!

Step 3 – Now, there will be an option listed for Unknown sources, enable it.

This guide works with almost every Android TV set available in markets right now. Once this is done, we have covered two methods to install APK file on Android TV sets. We also cover how to transfer or send APK to Android TV for sideloading.

  1. Transfer and install APK via online storage
  2. Move and install APK via USB
  3. Copy and Install APK with ADB

1. Transfer APK to Android TV via Cloud Storage

We cover the easiest method first. This is how to install APK on Android TV by downloading off online storage like Google Drive, Dropbox etc. All you would need for this procedure is an internet connection, the APK that you want to send and proper apps to explore internal storage of your Android TV.

Step 1 – Head to the Play Store on your Android TV and install File Explorer.

NOTE: If the above app is not available or you are looking for an alternative, Solid File Manager is a great option. However, it is available as a 14-day trial after which you have to purchase the app to use.

Step 2 – Upload the desired APK file to your Dropbox or Google Drive account.

Step 3 – Open File Explorer on your Android TV and go to Network section and select Cloud.

Step 4 – There should be an option of adding New account. From here, configure the account where you had your APK file uploaded.

Step 5 – After configuration, browse to the uploaded file and open it. The app should now display an option of Install, select it!

Step 6 – Follow the installation wizard till the app is installed.

Your desired app should now be installed. If you don’t know how to launch the app now, we have written about it later in this article. Some manufacturers do not allow running external apps that you have downloaded and installed from unknown sources – like an Android APK file.

How to Android TV Install APK - TCL P8S
TCL Android TV

2. Transfer APK File to Android TV via USB

A little bit tedious than the online method we listed but is just as easy to implement. For users without access to drive or internet, this is a great way to install APK on Android TV.

Step 1 – Download your desired APK(s) on your computer and then transfer to USB .

How to Install APK Files on Android Phones / Tablets / Android TV 2

Step 2 – Head to the Play Store on your Android TV and install File Explorer.

NOTE: If the above app is not available or you are looking for an alternative, Solid File Manager is a great option. However, it is available as a 14-day trial after which you have to purchase the app to use.

Step 3 – Open File Explorer on your Android TV and go to section where all storage devices are listed, here you should see your USB device name.

Step 4 – Select your USB, browse to where you stored the APK and select it.

Step 5 – The installation wizard will open up hence allowing you to install the APK.

That’s it, your app should be installed. After installation, you might be wondering how to access the app, we have written about that in the later part of this post.

3. Transfer APK to TV with ADB

This method is generally for users who are a bit more tech inclined than normal users as it involves a bit of command line.

Step 1 – Open the Settings. To do this, browse down to the last row of options and then click on the Gear icon.

Step 2 – In Settings, you should be able to see an option About, click it!

Step 3 – Now, browse till you see Build number. Click it several times until there is a notification saying You’re a developer now.

Step 4 – Browse back to main Settings menu. There should now be a new section called Developer Options. Select it!

Step 5 – Within this menu, there would be a setting for USB Debugging, you should enable it.

Step 6 – Now, again browse back to Settings menu and go to Network Settings.

Step 7 – From here, find the IP Address (Local IP) of your Android TV.

Step 8 – On your computer, issue the following command:

NOTE: It is assumed you have ADB configured already on your computer. If not, read: How to download ADB for Windows and Mac.


How to Install APK Files on Android Phones / Tablets / Android TV 3

Step 9 – There would be a pop-up on your Android TV saying Allow debugging? Select Always.

Step 10 – Run this command to install your desired APK. Make sure you are in the correct directory of the APK file.

adb install AppName.apk

adb install APK files

That’s it! There should be a Success text once the install is finished on your computer.

How to Launch Installed Apps on Android TV

Once you finish installing, you should install Sideload Launcher from Android TV Play Store. This app will have its own shortcut and within it, it will contain all side-loaded app shortcuts on your Android TV.

As mentioned earlier, some OEMs do not allow users to install and then run apps that were installed manually with an APK file – through unknown sources.

Where to Find APK Files?

APK files can be obtained from numerous sources. Be it an unofficial APK repository or developer’s own website, it is easy to find APK files on the internet. For devices with Google Play Store on them, downloading and installing APK files manually does not make much sense. However, in cases where the developer has not published the app on the Play Store, that is when he / she can ask you to download and install an Android APK directly on your Android device. Further, for non-Google Play devices, this APK route is usually the only way to install applications.

There are plenty of online resources like APKMirror and APKPure to download APK files. As per these repositories, all APKs are scanned for any malware or viruses.

Are APK Files Safe and Secure?

While APK files can be obtained via the internet, are they safe and secure? Well, this is something purely dependent on the source. Whilst many repositories have been tried and tested by users, there are chances you might stumble upon some file that is not secure. To get around this we recommend checking the following points:

  • Try to download APK files from an official repository.
  • Make sure the APK file has been endorsed by users either by reviews directly on the download site or on forums.
  • After installing the APK, run an anti-virus app scan.

Why Install Android APK Files Manually?

There are various reasons that lead users to manually install APK files on their devices. For starters, there is an app update out which hasn’t been published on the Play Store for your device — can be due to a phased release. To override, you can update manually by installing the latest APK. Next, many apps are region locked which means your Play Store wont list the apps even if you search for them, again manual installation is a great solution.

In terms of customization, you can sideload apps from other phones that are proprietary and can hence get features on your phone. A popular example would be Google Camera APK (GCam Mod) which is now available for various devices as an APK file. Or if you happen to try out early leaks or beta releases of apps i.e. Google Play Store APK, this guide will be helpful.

This was in-depth look at how you can install APK files on Android phones, tablets and Android TV sets. Let us know which method worked for you! And if you run into issues or have questions? Drops us a comment below and someone from our team will get back to you.

Taimur Akmal
Taimur Akmal

Devoted writer, enjoys developing code. Appreciates excellent food, exceptional coffee and great company. He is also into sublime design and nicely built cars.

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