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 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. 


Reader comments

How to install Android apps


One word, no. The Amazon appstore app itself is free. Some of the apps in the store are free and some of them must be purchased. In order to download an app you need an Amazon account, for free apps you will get a bill for $0.00. Every day there is a paid app for free. You can get some good deals this way. Once you download an app it is in your "account". You can uninstall or reinstall apps as often as you like. Go to menu>My Apps> to see the apps in your account and check for updates by selecting "Update Available".

Since I'm kinda new at this smartphone thing, let me ask, is there an "average" number of apps that people have? Is there "too many"? Are there "good apps" and "bad apps", and any quick ways to tell the difference?

Thank you for the input!

Simply put, 'average' means what's on your device right now. 'Too many apps' means you're not allowed to install any more and you've already transferred those that will go to your SD card, so either unload those you aren't using right now or get a bigger device. 'Good apps' are those you really don't want to delete even if they're not installed all the time or you can't bear to uninstall them in the first place. 'Bad apps' become pretty self-evident if you dread using them, can't get them to do what you installed them for and delete them while telling everyone you know (and everyone else) not to make the same mistake.

Hope that clears anything up, above all, have fun!


I have Samsung Infuse 4G. I did have Skype app installed in my phone. I un-installed and now I am trying to install back but it won't let me install, it shows me an error message as "Error downloading "Skype" There is insufficient space on the device". I have 10GB space available in my phone. However,I am able to download other applications without any problem. I tried to switch off and on the phone and tired of this. I have been trying to download skype for past 3 days :-( What am I doing wrong?
Please help.

I have a Samsung Galaxy DUOS S6102. Android v2.3.6 (Gingerbread) MEMORY Card slot micro ultra SD, 16 GB, Internal Memory: 160 MB, 512 MB ROM, 290 MB RAM. It is a GSM smart phone with limited internal memory.

I am new to cell phones and this cell phone ( good with computers). I downloaded Skype and I keep getting notices of insufficient memory and asks that I delete some apps. I plan to use this phone for driving in the US and when we go to S E Asia for 6 weeks. It's to provide emergency assistance and connecting with family in Canada.

I would like to know how to install memory intensive apps on the 16 Gig micro SD card. This includes Skype, Language translation, Navigation using A-GPS and photographs sent to me by email or taken by the phone. Basically I would like the internal memory focused on speed operarions of the phone and it's apps; not consumed by app storage.

Kindly advise if this is possible. If so please list the steps to set up the app storage on my micro SD card. Thanks from a newbe senior!


Couple of extra points. If, like me, you're on pre-pay, the appstore is most definately NOT free for it burns through your credit loading all those little pictures as you browse for apps. Also, unless you want to re-download an app when you want to re-install it, get hold of an app called 'App Backup & Restore'. This will save ALL your apps (including the ones already installed and the ones that make up the operating system). All you need to do then is save them on your computer or burn them to a disk until you want them back on your phone when you copy them to a folder on your SD card (I use one I call 'Install') and ask your device to install the app. cd.

I have just bought an SD card changed preferred install location and downloaded a couple of apps that still went to my internal storage. This is from Google play. I can move the apps to SD but can't download directly to SD any suggestions?

Hi being a new by with smart phones if you have an answer to my question please use simple terms
When I click install on google play nothing downloads it just keeps saying installing. I tried different apps and nothing actually installs. I have changed the security to allow unknown and does not make any difference. I use to be able to install an app. I tried installing through amazon and it works. Is there an issue with google play with certain phones. I have a motorola

Wanted to say I just discovered your site and just love it. I am learning how to use and understand this whole new world thanks to all of you

IDC had published in the third quarter of 2013 that Android OS has created a new milestone with more than 210 M smart-phones shipped. Android counts more than 80% in the said shipment. With the massive momentum, which android has created, this seems to grow bigger. Android apps, which are now actually used for everything, are being sought by businesses to promote and brand their business. In such scenario, android app developers are seeing the great demand because of more and more android app development projects getting placed on the board. If you are a developer and aim to develop robust android apps, you must focus on learning it hard.

OK my apps keep auto updating even though I don't have the auto update button checked off. Also I can't open any apps it shows that it's installed but I am not seeing where to open and apply

"The best place to get Android apps is the (Google)Play Store. "
My opinion is it most definitely is not !

As a noob to Android fones, i find the Google Play site to be extremely dodgy.
Granted the specs and review pages for each app are set out quite well, very informative.
But i have yet to visit any other Apps sites to compare.

The problems start after hitting that good ol' "Install" button. If i am accessing the site directly from my fone, sure, the apps install without a hitch. And i am confident all other Apps sites will be just as efficient.
The problem is when installing from me puta ( with fone, usb connected to it)

After i hit "Install", after a short moment(depending on App size), Google Play informs me the App has been installed, but of course it has not. This has been confirmed several times with several app (alleged) installs.
Why is this so you may well ask, because that's what i did. So i requested a "call back" from Google Play support, and they informed me that it is impossible to install any Android App via puta unless the fone is connected to the net.

I told them one of their help pages clearly states that as long as i install one app using only my fone, i can then install apps via my puta. He shows me another help page that includes, what i regard as extremely vital info, that i can install via puta "as long as fone is connected to the net."

I inform him that my fone is connected to net via puta net connection. He says Google Play cannot recognize fone via puta net connection, fone must have it's own net connection. He says i can install apps via puta, but it will not complete install until fone is connected to net via either Wi-Fi or mobile service provider.

I state Google Play site clearly says app is installed, nowhere does it say, "not quite" or "connect fone to net to finish install". He also reaffirms there is no way an app can be fully installed via puta if fone is not independently connected to net.

I inform him that i can easily install on my old ifone, any app via my puta, via itunes, with fone connected to puta, and fone not independently connected to mobile service provider or Wi-Fi. I start itunes, go to app store, install app and it's fully installed on fone, ready to use. He seemed dubious that this technology exists. I suspect he has little knowledge of fone and puta technology outside of the Google offices.

But anyways, he just keeps going back to how my fone needs to be connected to the net in order to finalize app installs, and i keep telling him that my fone is connected to the net via my puta connection.
This fact continues to elude him, for he keeps stating that Google cannot recognize my fone via my puta net connection. I inform him that there is only one Net, and one Google Play site, and i am currently connected to that site via my puta, therefore, with my fone connected to my puta, my fone is connected to Google Play. He stands his ground and disagrees.

It seems to me that Google, even though their help pages clearly state people can install via their putas, they want people to access their site via their fones only.

Anyways, so after listening to the uninformed nonsense from the Google Play "experts"( that's what Google calls them), and realizing they lack common sense and or are unable to critically think, i started looking at other App download sites, and the second one i came across has no problems with installing apps onto fone via puta.

If you wanna use a lot of your fone data quota researching and installing apps, then by all means use Google Play. But for me, in how my puta and fone is set up, in my short experience, Google Play is the worst place to install apps, if you are doing so from puta, especially if you have to interface with Google customer\tech support.

I just got a new phone upgrade with a new contract and it's a HTC Desire 510 I don't know how to use it yet, I've had the iPhone4 phone for a long time. Can you tell me where do I go to download any apps, there's AppStore and it said Amazon Apps it said I have to sign into an Amazon account do I have to create an account with them to be able to download the apps that I need

I want to install other outside apps; I followed the instructions above - now what? I have set permission to install outside apps, but how do I now install them?
The .apk file I want to install is on my PC.