How to install Android apps

Still figuring out your first smartphone? We're going to help you take your first steps into the world of apps. 

If you’re brand new to the world of smartphones, you may be hearing the word “apps” being slung around a bunch, but not getting a lot of information on what they are exactly and how to get them. We’re happy to help you through your first steps towards enjoying what is probably the most important part of owning a smartphone. 

What is an app?

The word “app” is short for “application”. Applications (or programs, as they’re better known on computers) are created by programmers to fulfill specific tasks, In order to use apps, you have to install and store them on the devices you use, though many apps are installed on your phone before you buy it. Apps are built to run on certain types of devices. For example, you can’t install an app made for iPhone on an Android device, and vice versa. Most apps you have to explicitly launch to use, but sometimes apps run quietly in the background and spring to life under certain circumstances. As users, we can interact with apps in a couple of ways, including typing in text, tapping icons and menu items, swiping our finger through them, and even speaking to them.

Sometimes developers charge money for the ability to install an app on your device, while sometimes they give the app away for free and rely on other forms of revenue. This can include running advertisements within their app, or limiting functions to premium versions of the same app. Developers will often update the app they have for sale in order to make them run more stably or introduce new features. Getting those new features requires users to download the app again, which typically happens quietly in the background and results in no lost information associated with the app.

Apps in the Play Store

That’s all well and good, but exactly do apps do? The short answer is just about everything. The nice thing about the phones we have available today is that they have a lot of processing power, are location-aware, can connecting to the Internet, have high resolution cameras on them, and large, crisp screens. Entrepreneurs are perpetually experimenting with new ways to leverage this technology for use cases that haven’t been considered before, or, more often than not, adding a new spin to tasks we’re already used to making. As is, apps can let you listen to music, map your location, play games, watch videos, get in touch with friends, and lots more. Just about everything you do on your Android phone is done through an app.

How do I get Android apps?

The best place to get Android apps is the Play Store. Google sells apps here, along with other content like books and movies. Odds are you already have a Google account set up which is associated with your Play Store purchases. Remember that once you purchase or download an app, you can download it again at a later date if you want, so don’t worry about deleting it or wanting to use it elsewhere. You’ll need to provide credit card or other payment information if you want to purchase apps, though there are plenty of free options out there. There are other sources for Android apps, such as the Amazon Appstore and the Humble Bundle, but stick to the Play Store for now.

First, let’s open the Play Store.

  1. Tap the Apps icon in the bottom-right of the home screen.
  2. Swipe left and right until you find the Play Store icon. Tap it.
  3. The first time you tap here, you may be prompted to sign in with your Google credentials and payment information. It will also prompt you to allow back up of apps to your Google account, and require you to accept the terms and conditions.

Once you’re within Google Play, you can search for a specific app or browse through larger categories.

What is an app?

How to search for Android apps

  1. Tap the Apps icon on the home screen. It usually looks like a bundle of dots at the bottom of the screen. 
  2. Swipe left and right until you find the Play Store icon. Tap it.
  3. Tap the magnifying glass in the top-right, type in the name of the app you’re looking for, and tap the magnifying glass on the keyboard to execute the search. Some suggestions will pop up below the search box as you type, which you can tap to reach directly. The search term can also be more general to find any apps that focus on a topic or keyword.
  4. Results will be presented for apps, movies, and books. To the right of the Apps subheading, tap the “___ more” button to see the full listing of results.
  5. Tapping the three dots on the right side of each entry will provide options to install right away or add the app to a wishlist for future reference.
  6. Tapping the box itself will provide more details for that app, including screenshots, video, a description, and reviews from users like you.


How to discover Android apps

Discovering Android apps

The easiest way to discover Android apps is to peruse the various categories and featured sections within the Play Store. Of course, you can also stick around Android Central to hear about the latest and greatest apps being released, too.

  1. From the Play Store home screen, swipe your finger from bottom to the top to browse through featured content categories. Tap the See More button to view the full list, or tap the three dots next to the app title to download right away or add an app to your wishlist for future reference.
  2. Tap the Apps button at the top. Again, you can swipe through the front page for popular suggestions.
  3. Swipe left and right to change filters along the top. These include a list of categories, top paid downloads, top free, top grossing, top new paid, top new free, and trending. Within individual categories,  such as Games, Business, or Communication, you can swipe between these filters as well.
  4. After tapping an app that you’re interested in downloading, swipe from top to bottom and scroll past the reviews section. After that, there are sections where you can discover other apps by the same developer, other apps in the same category, and other apps downloaded by those that have downloaded this one.

How to install Android apps from Google Play

Installing Android apps

  1. Tap the Apps icon in the bottom-right of the home screen.
  2. Swipe left and right until you find the Play Store icon. Tap it.
  3. Tap the magnifying glass in the top-right, type in the name of the app you’re looking for, and tap the magnifying glass in the bottom right. Some suggestions will pop up below the search box as you type, which you can tap to reach directly. The search term can also be more general to find any apps that focus on a topic or keyword
  4. Results will be presented for apps, movies, and books. To the right of the Apps subheading, tap the “___ more” button to see the full listing of results.
  5. Tapping the three dots on the right side of each entry will provide options to install right away or add the app to a wishlist for future reference.
  6. Tapping the box itself will provide more details for that app, including screenshots, video, a description, and reviews from users like you. Tap the Install button at the top to start downloading. You will be prompted to provide certain device permissions for the installation to continue.
  7. Ongoing downloads and installations will show as icons in the notification bar at the top of the screen. Swipe down from the top for a detailed look.
  8. Once the download and installation are complete, you can tap the Open button in the Play Store listing, or tap the icon from the notification tray to open your app. Otherwise, the app will be accessible by tapping the Apps icon in the bottom of your home screen, assuming an icon hasn’t already been put on your home screen. 

How to install Amazon Appstore apps

Installing the Amazon Appstore

Amazon has its own appstore with lots of great stuff. The big attraction there is that they make one premium app free every day. 

  1. Visit http://www.amazon.com/getappstore on your Android device's browser (usually Chrome).
  2. Tap Download the Amazon Appstore. You may get a warning that it's dangerous to download .apk files, but go ahead and download this one by tapping OK in the box that pops up.
  3. Swipe down from the top of the screen to view the notification tray. When the download completes, tap the icon for the Amazon Appstore .apk download in the notification tray.
  4. You may be warned that you can't install from unknown sources. If so, tap the Settings button in the pop-up, scroll down to the Device Administration subheading, tap Unknown Sources, and OK in the following warning pop-up. You may need to tap the back button at the bottom of the screen to return to the browser and tap the download button again.
  5. Tap the Next button in the permissions pop-up that appears after opening the Appstore installation file, then tap Install. 
  6. Tap Open in the pop-up that appears once installation is complete. There will also be an icon on your home screen to tap in order to open the Appstore.
  7. Enter your Amazon account e-mail address and password by tapping on either box and typing on the pop-up keyboard. If you don't have an Amazon account, tap the Create account button and follow the instructions there.
  8. Once logged in, browse the featured sections, or tap the menu button in the top-left to drill down into specific categories, or the magnifying glass in the top-right to search for specific apps.

How to install other outside apps

Installing apps from unknown sources on Android

You may get access to apps through other channels, such as the Humble Bundle, or from trusted colleagues over e-mail. Be sure you trust your sources before installing!

  1. Swipe down from the top of the screen and tap the Settings button. You may need to swipe from the top-right.
  2. Tap the Security button beneath the Personal subheading. 
  3. Scroll down to the Device Administration subheading, tap Unknown Sources, and OK in the following warning pop-up. 

Close, disable, or uninstall apps

Apps show up in the multitasking view and can be closed from there, though most of the time you don't need to worry about it since your system knows how to manage system resources intelligently. Looking through the system settings can at  show the most power-hungry apps on your Android device, and provide quick access to uninstalling them, though. 

How to close Android apps

Multitasking in Android

  1. Tap the multitasking multitasking button at the bottom of the screen. It should look like two boxes, one behind the other.
  2. Swipe from left to right across​ individual apps to close them. 

How to uninstall Android apps

Uninstalling Android apps

  1. Swipe down from the top of the home screen to bring up the settings window. You may need to swipe down from the top-right side of the screen. 
  2. Tap the gear icon at the top, then tap Apps under the Device subheading.
  3. Swipe to the left until you're on the Running tab. Tap Show cached processes at the top to see background apps.
  4. Tap individual apps in this list and tap Force Stop to stop currently running processes and apps. (Again, you should generally let the system when to stop apps.)
  5. Swipe to the All tab and tap problematic apps to force stop, uninstall, or cease notifications. 

If you're having trouble finding good stuff to download, we pick some of our favorite apps every week. Take a look at our latest picks and who knows? Maybe you'll find something you like. 

That's how you find, download and uninstall apps. Any questions? Don't be shy, nothing is too basic. We're here to help! Just leave a comment below and we'll get you all sorted out.