What is an APK File? Every Android user may hear the word APK without knowing what it means. APK implies Android Package Kit else Android application Package. It is the set of file formats that the android operating system uses to distribute and install applications. It contains all the Meta data and files that an application requires. In other words, it is an archive file system that includes all files and Metadata. APK contains all the necessary and sufficient files and elements that an application or App requires to install on an android device. When an archive file system is used to distribute application software, it is called a software package.
The best example of an Archive file system is RAR and ZIP. They generally merge multiple files into a single one and compress them to make them portable and save space. All APK file systems contain .dex files, resources assets certificates, manifest files, META-INF Directory, or Metadata. It may have any file name but end with the extensions such as apk, xapk, apks, apkm to identify and recognize it as an APK file system. APK is of the Java Archive file format (JAR) since most android applications are built in Java.
As we discussed earlier .apk file is actually a zip compression package, which can be easily decompressed with the selected decompression tools. But you cannot implement them on platforms other than Android without any emulators such as Bluestacks. For a hassle-free implementation, the android user needs to turn on the unknown source settings to install APK files manually.
What is an Android App Bundle?
Android App Bundle is an android App publishing file format. It includes the App’s compiled code and resources that allow you to sign and generate APK files other than the play store. It uses the file extension .aab. Keep in mind they do not support APK files with .obb extensions. The app bundles, which are open source in nature, allow the development tools to support them. Changing from Android APKs to android app bundles gives Google more control over it.
What are Split APKs?
Without Android App bundles, most APK files can support multiple CPU architectures; many display resolutions and support multiple languages. It means every installation file has a large amount of bloatware irrelevant to a device specification. But with, the split APKs that Google Play generates contain only the relevant codes and resources needed for a specific device to download. In case the user changes the language settings, or to upgrade the device, or changes feature settings, then the play store can deliver additional split APKs to fill the requirements. The Play as you download feature of the Google play store uses the android app bundles to download and install games by parts while playing.
What are APK Files?
APK files are part and parcel of the android apps you install on your Android device. It is similar to the APPX file format used to install apps on Windows Operating System. Other than legacy apps, APPX is the only installation method allowed for UWP apps. When you open the Android Package Kit, it shows the instructions and provides the required information about the Application to install the App on your phone. When you download an app from the Play Store, Google Play acts as a package manager and download and update the required APK files of an application.
Similarly, Google Play plays the package manager role and helps you remove or install or update the App from the device. You can get the required APK anywhere outside Google Play and install it on your android device. Thanks to Android’s open nature.
How can APK Files be created?
A Developer can create an Android app with the help of Android Studio or any other development tool for Android. Once the Application is ready, the Android studio compiles the App and puts it into the container called APK. The APKs may have any name with the file extension.apk. So that the Operating System can understand and interpret them.
What are APK Files used for?
Installing apps in Google Play is very simple, and the process is fully automated. However, android default settings and Applications restrict any updates or if you want to opt for installing APK files.
If you want to get the apps or games in the beta stage that are not available in a particular location or device, you can download the file from Play Store. Though Google Play is fine, there are other benefits to installing the APKs manually.
With the help of APKs, you can get the latest version of Apps ahead of time. Installing APK on your own lets you skip the waiting period. In addition, most of the Android developers and Gamers can download the App with the APK files that are leaked ahead of the official release.
APK files permit you to override carriers and download the latest update without waiting for the over-the-air updates. In addition, if you are in some regions where Google imposes restrictions, you can use the APK files to resolve the issue.
Some developers may not connect the App to the Play Store; in that situation, you can use the APK file and update it.
How far are the APK Files Safe?
Apple Play store is tightly regulated and safer than the Google Play Store. But Google actively identifies and removes the malicious apps periodically. When you get an APK file from an unknown third-party website, your device is exposed and vulnerable to threats. Some hackers and malicious developers can cheat the unsuspecting Android users into installing Ransomeware or other malicious software by making them look like legitimate apps. For example, most APK files related to YouTube downloader apps are embedded with malware. Google does not allow downloading videos from YouTube without permission. Therefore no apps are available in the Play store.
Consequently, those downloading the APK files related to the apps are the easy target for the hackers. The hackers always disguise the malware as the most popular game or App in these files to attack. You can get the legitimate APK from the Amazon App Store, but you must do it at your own risk.
What does an APK File contain?
The android application package contains all the files in the archive. Here follows the list of files and folders.
- META-INF/: Directory
- MF:The Manifest files Meta Data for a group of accompanying files signature, and a list of resources in the archive.
- CERT.RSA: Certificate of the Application (CERT.SF)
- CERT.SF: Signature and a list of resources in the archive
- Lib/: Directory
- It contains Native libraries that run on specific device architectures such as armeabi-v7a, x86, arm64-v8a, etc.
- Res: Directory
- It is the directory containing resources not compiled into resources.arsc.
- Assets/: Directory
- The directory containing applications assets, which the Assets Manager can retrieve
- An additional Android manifest file describing the name, version, access rights, and referenced library files for the Application, describing the name, version, access rights, and referenced library files for the App. That file may be in Android binary XML that can be converted into human-readable plaintext XML with tools such as AXMLPrinter2, Apktool M, or Androguard.
- All the Classes Compiled In the Dex File Format Executed By Android Runtime
- The file containing precompiled resources, such as binary XML
Most of the Operating systmes opened this file system, but it has greater applications on Android devices. The APK files are in the archive file format and you can open it with any decompression tool. If you wish to open and explore the content of an APK file system, rename the file extension to .zip, and you can open the file directly through the decompression tool.
How to Install APK on Android Device?
You can Install APK files on Android manually implementing the following steps:
- Open the Settings Screen
- Tap on Security to open the Android security Settings screen
- Tap on “Unknown Sources” and Turn it On
- You can now download the APK files from the sources or the email attachment.
Warning: Downloading APK files is a security threat and downloads them from the reputed sites only.