Update, July 16, 2016: The game has now launched in many new countries, including Canada and the UK!
Pokémon Go, the latest real-world-exploring, monster-catching game from Nintendo and Niantic, has taken the world by storm. That hype machine has been fed in part by the fact that Pokémon Go isn't available in all parts of the world yet, and on Android the only workaround involves tracking down the APK from shadier parts of the Internet.
And even if you are only downloading Pokémon Go for Android on Google Play, there are plenty of sketchy apps looking to cash in on the phenomenon. Some of them even ape the name and icon of the official app, while others present dubious, poorly designed "game guides" that are not worth your time or storage space.
If you are hunting down the Pokémon Go APK from unofficial sites — not something we recommend for security reasons — then the risks are greater, with remote access malware having been discovered in some hacked versions of the game.
So what can you do? Well, the easiest part is to only download Pokémon Go from the link below. This is the official app listing from developer Niantic:
Be sure to look for:
- Developer: Niantic, Inc.
- Downloads: 5 million or more (let's face it, that number's only going up)
- Google Play's trusted "Top Developer" badge in the top right corner (on the web), or next to Niantic's name (in app)
If you're looking for game guides, be sure to check the screenshots for whatever you're downloading. If they look like garbage, chances are the app is garbage too. For a Pokémon Go guide that's actually worth your time, we've got you covered. (And our sibling site iMore has its own extensive guide to the iPhone version of the game, covering the basics and some more advanced strategies.)
Bottom line: If it looks sketchy, it probably is. If the screenshots and app listing look like trash, it probably is. And if you need to disable some of your phone's security settings before installing, then you're potentially on your own if you've downloaded something bad.
Stay safe, and happy hunting!
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Alex was with Android Central for over a decade, producing written and video content for the site, and served as global Executive Editor from 2016 to 2022.