Saturday, June 10, 2017

Safe Alternatives to the Google Play Store for Downloading APKs

Have you ever been victim to an app update letting you down completely because of a radical new redesign or change in the user interface? Maybe you found the new update to be buggy and it crashes on you all the time consequently ruining your workflow. If you want to rollback or download the older versions safely, then you can use the alternatives of the Play Store

Download Older Version APKs

These Play Store alternatives will let you chose the version of the app and you can download the older ones in APK format, which can be directly installed on your device.

How Are These Apps Verified?

APK(Android Application Package) is the file extension given to all Android apps and is the main identifier when it comes to spotting an Android app. When a developer uploads their application to the app store, it’s uploaded as a .apk file. Each file contains its own unique MD5 Checksum which is a string of values that’s different for each file.

Sites like APK Mirror & APK Pure match their APKs with the files from the Google Play Store database to make sure the file has the same cryptographic signatures. These are sites I’ve been using for many years and has proven to be a very useful tool.

How The Sites Stay Profitable?

Running multiple mirror servers that cater to a huge user base every day is quite expensive. APK Mirror & APK Pure both make their money through online ads and featured app placements.

F-Droid, on the other hand, relies solely on donations via PayPal & Bitcoin to keep their operation going.

Of course, if you don’t want the sites to serve you personalised ads, you could always disable it from the Google Dashboard.

RELATED: How To Make Google Ads More Relevant To You

How to Find the Correct Version of the App

Even though it’s not necessary for you to learn the definition of terms like DPI & CPU architecture, you are required to know certain values specific to your phone. You can learn them by installing apps like CPU-Z or Droid Hardware Info on your Android device before looking for the correct variant of the file.

After you install the app, note down information like the type of architecture which can one of the following:

arm (armeabi, armeabi-v7a), arm64 (arm64, arm64-v8a), x86, x86_64, mips, mips64

Then look for your device’s DPI in the app. These can range anywhere between 120 to 640 dpi and above as more higher resolution phones come to market.

Based on these two values, look for the suitable app in the APK Mirror website. If the file variant has nodpi in its title then the app will work on phones with any DPI. Of course, this is not an issue you’re using APK Pure or F-Droid since their apps automatically show the correct variant for you to download.

Top Mirror Sites for Google Play Store Applications

1. APK Mirror (Website)

The site is run by the Android Police team for many years and was the first on the scene. They do a phenomenal job of verifying apps and categorising all the apps based on the version number and device specifications. Visit the site and search for the app you need and you’ll be downloading the file within seconds from any one of their mirror servers. Although they lack a mobile app, they are usually the first to get their hands on exclusive Google betas and even beat Google to the punch by uploading it first.

The APK Mirror Website

2. APK Pure (Website & Android App)

The APK Pure Website

It’s another alternative to APK Mirror but the main difference is that APK Pure has its own Android app. The main advantage of APK Pure over APK Mirror is that it offers a more extensive library of apps compared to APK Mirror. The app is also easy to use and it’s possible to update apps automatically from the APK Pure app without a root. You can browse apps by their version to pick the exact version you’re comfortable using.

APK Pure App User Interface

Additionally, the site offers an online service for verifying APKs you may have downloaded from other sites to make sure it doesn’t contain any malware or is modified in any way.

Online App Verification Tool

Open Source Alternative to the Google Play Store

The two Google Play Store alternatives are owned by private organizations and only mirros the apps which are available on the Play Store. If you are looking for Open Source apps which have not yet made to the official play store, then F-Driod is here to help.

F-Droid (Website & Android App)

The F-Droid Website

It’s not a traditional app store in the sense that it doesn’t feature Google Play Store apps. Instead, it’s a repository of apps from a vibrant community of developers who develop with the intention of keeping their apps open source with community focused development.  Once the app is installed from the  F-Droid’s website, it’s similar to APK Pure in terms of navigation and usage.

F-Droid App User Interface

While that ends our roundup of Play Store alternatives, it should be noted that none of these recommendations contains Pro versions or Paid apps to avoid copyright infringement and piracy.

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