How to Download and Update Apps on Android Phones and Tablets
We understand this can be confusing at first, so we’ll step through all the options and procedures you should know. Don’t worry: it’s not difficult!
Google Play is the name of the digital store that almost certainly came with your Android device. Before 2012, Google Play was known as the Android Market.
When you look through your phone’s app drawer, you’ll see an app named Play Store. This fits in line with the other Play apps that also come installed on Android, such as Play Books and Play Music.
Just tap it to open Google Play and its world of digital media. In addition to apps and games, you can buy ebooks, magazines, music, movies, and TV shows that you can view on your phone or tablet. Selection and availability will vary depending on where you live.
Great, so you’ve found the Play Store. Now how exactly do you go about using it? Let’s take a look.
Note that as long as you have the Play Store installed, these steps are the same for all Android devices. The process for installing apps on a Samsung device is no different than installing on an LG phone, for instance.
The easiest way to get your hands on new apps is to use the search bar that’s always at the top of Google Play. Just tap it and type in what you’re looking for.
You’ll see suggestions as you type. The most popular apps will even appear instantly as shortcuts. If the search doesn’t immediately figure out what you want, tap the Search/Enter icon on your keyboard to submit your query. A list of results will appear. Tap an app’s name to bring up its Play Store page, which contains a ton of information.
App pages include the app’s review average, number of downloads, screenshots, a brief description, related apps, and more. It’s a great way to learn more about apps before you install them.
As you might guess, the green Install button will download the app to your device and install it, all in one step. To save the app for later, click the three-dot Menu button and choose Add to Wishlist.
Otherwise, you’ll see a list of permissions that you must accept to download the app.
When you want to download something new but don’t know exactly what, it makes more sense to browse Google Play than to search.
When you open the Play Store, you’ll see tabs along the top for Home, Games, Movies & TV, and more. We’ll only focus on apps and games here, but know you can use those tabs or open the left slide-out menu to switch categories when needed.
On the Home > For You tab, you’ll see lots of app bundles. These could be new games, recommendations based on what you already use, apps on sale, and similar. Tap More to see additional apps of that type. If nothing here catches your eye, use the tabs along the top to browse in different ways.
Top Charts shows the most popular apps, while Categories lets you search groups of similar apps like Education or Shopping. Editors’ Choice shows the apps that Google Play staff love. Each of these offers several filters to further explore apps, so you can really dive in and find what you’re looking for.
Just like with searching, you can select any app to go to its dedicated page and find more about it. Don’t forget that each one shows related apps, which is a good way to find what similar users have installed.
From any PC, you can install apps to any of your Android devices that use your Google account. Head to Google Play’s website and have a look around. You can browse using Categories and Top Charts at the top of the page, just like on your phone.
When you see an app you want, click the Install button and select which device to send the app to. You’ll need to sign into your Google account if you’re not already.
The Play Store isn’t only for installing new apps. It’s also where you keep them up-to-date. From time to time, you should get a notification letting you know that updates are available. Tap that notification, or open the Play Store and choose My apps & games from the left sidebar.
This will open a page with your installed apps, showing those that need updates at the top. Tap the Update button on an app to download the latest version. You can also tap the app’s box to see what’s new in the latest version. To apply all available updates, just tap the Update All button.
You can also set updates to automatically install. Open the left menu in the Play Store and choose Settings. Tap Auto-update apps and choose whether to update automatically all the time, only on Wi-Fi, or not at all.
We recommend enabling automatic updates on Wi-Fi so you don’t have to check manually all the time. It’s still a good idea to open this menu occasionally though, as some app updates require manual approval.
Since these other app stores are not allowed on Google Play, you’ll need to head directly to their websites to download them. Fortunately, it’s a pretty straightforward process.
On Android 7 Nougat and older, head to Settings > Security and look for the Unknown sources option. Enable this and accept the warning, and you can then install apps from anywhere. Usually, you’ll download an APK file from a website, then tap it to install.
On Android 8 Oreo and newer, this process is slightly different. Head to Settings > Apps & notifications > Advanced > Special app access. Choose Install unknown apps and select the app you’d like to install from (likely Chrome). Toggle the slider on.
This change allows you to install from a trusted source while keeping your device safe from others.
The largest and most well-known Google Play alternative is the Amazon Appstore, which you can find at amazon.com/getappstore. It’s best to visit the website on your phone or tablet, so you can install it directly. After launching the downloaded installer, you need to sign in with your Amazon account.
Afterward, you’ll see its homescreen.
From here, it’s a similar story to Google Play. Browse around for the apps and games you’d like to try. Both companies keep a list of all the apps that you’ve installed. Amazon refers to this as its Cloud, and you can access it on all your devices.
Keep in mind that apps installed through the Appstore must update through Amazon’s app, not the Play Store. You thus must keep the Appstore installed to receive updates for them.
Given its priorities, F-Droid has a significantly smaller library than competing app stores. Chances are, wildly popular apps from Google Play won’t be available here.
While polished, F-Droid is visually pretty basic compared to the other app stores. However, it’s easy to browse, and managing updates isn’t a problem. F-Droid won’t store a list of your installed apps for you to access later, but that added privacy is part of its draw.
After you’ve installed a bunch of apps, you’ll eventually want to get rid of some. Whether you need to free up space on your device or want to remove apps you no longer use, it’s easy to uninstall apps.
Just go to Settings > Apps (on Android 8 Oreo and newer, Settings > Apps & notifications > See all [X] apps). There you’ll see a list of all apps on your device, including pre-installed apps. You can swipe left and right to switch to the Installed tab (or use the dropdown list to switch Android Oreo) to see only ones you’ve installed.
Tap an app to open its info page. Choose the Uninstall button and confirm to remove it from your device.
Unfortunately, you can’t remove most of the apps that came with your device. Instead, you can Disable them. This hides their icons from your app drawer and is effectively the same as uninstalling, though it doesn’t free up storage space.
You can also skip this menu and uninstall apps right from your drawer. Just long-press on an app and look for an Uninstall or Trash icon (depending on your version of Android). Failing that, you can select Info or similar to jump right to the app’s info page.
Sometimes, you’ll come across an app on the Play Store but can’t download it. This can happen for a variety of reasons:
Turns out, there are a bunch of ways to install Android apps. Some manufacturers, like Samsung, even offer their own separate stores such as Galaxy Apps.
But the Play Store holds the largest selection of Android apps in one convenient location. Plus, it uses Google Play Protect to make sure you don’t install any malicious apps. You should be fine sticking with Google Play unless you need a specific from outside it.