How to Download Apps on Android

Get apps from Google Play, Amazon Appstore for Android, and elsewhere

Android home screen with app icons including the Play Store, Maps, and Twitter.

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Everything you do on an Android requires an app, whether it’s accessing settings, playing a game, sending an email or message, or setting a reminder. Android users have access to many app stores including Google Play, Amazon Appstore for Android, Galaxy Apps if you have a Samsung device, and an array of others — some legit, and some not.

One of the most important things to consider before downloading any apps is security. Just like a computer, an infected smartphone can cause performance issues, privacy breaches, and could even cause you to lose your data. Here’s how to secure your Android and download apps from a variety of sources.

These instructions apply to smartphones and tablets running Android 7.0 Nougat and later.

Google Play Protect

In response to some high-profile security incidents, which included malicious apps in the Play Store, Google rolled out Play Protect, which regularly scans your device for malware. By default, this setting is on, but you should double check that it is.

Google Play Protect settings on Android.

Go to Settings > Security & location > Google Play Protect, and toggle on Scan device for security threats. Here you can also see recently scanned apps and the time of the last scan. Google Play Protect also scans apps in the Play Store before you download them.

Downloading Apps From Unknown Sources

If you try to download an app from somewhere other than Google Play using a mobile browser or another app, you’ll get a warning that your device doesn’t allow the installation of unknown apps from this source.

Android settings page for allow apps to install unknown apps.

Go to Settings > Apps & notifications > Advanced > Special app access > Install unknown apps. You’ll see a list of apps that can download apps, such as Chrome, and other mobile browsers. Tap any app you use to download apps and toggle on Allow from this source.

Beware that an unknown app could compromise your device. To further protect yourself, toggle on Improve harmful app detection in the Google Play Protect section of your device’s settings.

Google Play Apps

You can download Google Play apps from a desktop browser in addition to your smartphone or tablet. The Google Play Store app is built into most Android devices and is available for some Chromebooks. Google keeps a running list of devices supported by the Play Store.

  1. On your smartphone or tablet, open the Google Play Store. Make sure to connect your device to Wi-Fi or a cellular connection.

    Google Play Store homepage.
  2. Search for the app you want to download or select a category, such as Games or Movies & TV or other filters, such as Editors’ Choice or Family.

    Google Play app download page.
  3. Tap the app’s listing.

  4. Tap Install; when the download is complete, Install changes to Open.

Google Play on Desktop

On the desktop, you can manage app downloads for any Android phones or tablets that you’ve connected to your Google account. Using the Play Store on your desktop is convenient if you use more than one device or manage app downloads for others, such as your children.

  1. In a desktop browser, navigate to play.google.com. 

  2. Search for the app you want to download or click Categories, Top Charts, or New Releases to browse the library. 

  3. Once you find the app, click its entry and then Install. If you have more than one Android phone linked to your Google account, you’ll see a list of smartphones and tablets. Choose your device; if you’re not sure which is which, there’s a “last used” date next to each one.

  4. Click Install or Buy and the app should appear on your device within a few minutes.

The price of the app is on the Buy button.

Amazon Appstore for Android

Android users can also access apps from Amazon’s store, either in a desktop web browser or the Amazon AppStore app. The apps sold here are sometimes cheaper compared to Google Play or even free. You can also earn coins toward future purchases. If you don’t have the Amazon AppStore installed, you can download it, but you’ll have to enable a setting called Install unknown apps.

  1. On your phone, open the Amazon Appstore.

    Amazon AppStore homepage.
  2. Search or browse for the app you want.

  3. When you find it, tap Get or the button with the price for a paid app.

    Amazon Appstore Download page.
  4. Then tap Download on the next page.

Amazon Appstore for Android on Desktop

If you have the Amazon Appstore on your smartphone or tablet, you can download and purchase apps directly from there. You can also download the Amazon Appstore through your mobile browser by visiting Amazon.com or through the Amazon Shopping app. You'll need to allow the app to install unknown apps in settings, as explained above.

  1. From the Amazon website, click the menu icon on the top left (three horizontal lines).

  2. Click Appstore for Android.

  3. Click All Apps and Games. (There’s also an option to download the Amazon Appstore app.)

  4. Search or browse for the app you want and click its listing.

  5. Click Get App (free) or Buy Now (paid).

Samsung Galaxy Apps on Mobile

The Galaxy App store is pre-installed on most Samsung Galaxy devices and includes Exclusive Apps Made for Samsung (apps made specifically for Galaxy phones), Galaxy Essentials (curated Samsung apps), and apps for Samsung DeX. It also has a sticker shop, live stickers, and fonts.

Galaxy Apps download page.

To get apps from Samsung:

Open Galaxy Apps, and search or browse for the app you want. Tap the app’s listing, then Install.