How to Download APK Files Onto a Phone

by Kristen Waters

Android Package (APK) files are the type of files used to install software (apps) on Android devices, such as a phone or tablet. Most APK files are downloaded through the Google Play Store. There are times when a package is not available through the store, or is not released for your particular phone. You may be able to find the APK file on a third party site and either download it directly to your phone or to your computer and transfer it to your device.


Before you download any third party APK file to your phone, it is a good idea to install a file manager. Downloaded APK files appear in your phone's notification screen. But, if the notification screen is cleared, you will not be able to access the file without a file manager. The "Install from Unknown Sources" option must also be checked, found in the Applications section of the Settings menu. If you do not check this option, the Android operating system does not permit you to install the file.

Download Directly To The Phone

The most direct method to get the file to the phone is to download it using the phone's Web browser. Navigate to the site that has the APK file available for download and touch the download button. Be careful when downloading from a third party site, as the file could hold malicious software. If you are unsure of the site, you may want to install a virus protection program on your phone before downloading the APK, or download the file to your computer before transferring it to your phone so the virus protection software on your computer can test it.

Download to Your Computer

Another method for getting a third party APK file to the phone is to download it to a computer, then transfer the file to the phone. When you download an APK file to the computer, Windows may change the ".apk" file extension to ".zip." If this happens, rename the file with the correct extension before transfering it to the phone. Once the file is on the computer, either tether the phone to the computer using a USB cable, or remove the SD card from the phone and mount it on the computer. If you are tethering the phone, make sure you can access the SD card through the computer's file manager. Copy the file to the SD card.

Installing the Software

The file should appear in the Notifications menu when the download or transfer is complete. The filename will look like "app.apk". If it does not appear in the Notifications menu, use a file manager to locate the file on the SD card. Touch the filename to open the Details window. Install the app by touching the "Install" button.

About the Author

Kristen Waters has been writing for the computer industry since 2004. She has written training materials for both large and small computer companies as well as how-to and informative articles for many online publications. She holds Bachelor of Science degrees from both York College of Pennsylvania and the University of Maryland.

Photo Credits

  • cell phone image by Alexey Klementiev from