Parse Error: What It Is and How to Fix It

Don't let this Android error stop you from installing your apps

A man looks at a parse error on his Android phone.

Sirinarth Mekvorawuth / EyeEm / Getty Images

A parse error is a message you will sometimes see on your Android phone when an app fails to install. This error message isn't very specific, and there are a lot of different problems that can cause a parse error. The main thing this error message tells you is your phone experienced a problem when trying to install the app, and the app wasn't installed.

If you still want to install the app, you'll have to identify the root cause of your parse error and fix it.

Cause of the Android Parse Error

The parse error usually appears when you try to install or run an app on an Android. In most cases, it appears when you try to install an app you downloaded from a third-party source instead of the official Google Play Store.

When this error occurs, you'll usually see a message like this:

Parse Error
There was a problem parsing the package.

In less common cases, this error can also happen when trying to install apps from the official Google Play Store.

Here are some of the most common specific causes of the Android parse error:

  • The app isn't compatible with your device.
  • Your phone doesn't have permission to install the app.
  • The file you're trying to install is corrupt, incomplete, or damaged.
  • Your antivirus or security app is preventing installation.
  • There's some kind of problem with your phone.
  • Changes have been made to the app you're trying to install.

How to Fix a Parse Error

If you want to fix the parse error and install your app, you'll need to try each of these solutions. After you've attempted a fix, you can try installing the app again. If you still see the parse error, move on to the next fix.

  1. Update to the latest version of Android. The app you're trying to install may not work with your older version of Android. In extreme circumstances, trying to install or run an app that's designed for a newer version of Android will result in a parse error.

    If you have an older device, but your carrier doesn't support upgrading Android, you may have no option other than buying a new phone. In some cases, you may be able to install a custom version of Android.

    Installing a custom version of Android is a complicated procedure. If you don't know what you're doing, you can brick, or permanently damage, your phone.

  2. Check compatibility issues, and try an older version of the app. If the app you're trying to install requires a newer version of Android than your device is capable of running, check to see if older versions of the app are still available. You may be able to install that version of the app without generating a parse error.

    Running extremely old versions of Android, and old versions of apps, can create security issues. Older versions of Android, and apps, sometimes have security vulnerabilities that have been fixed in the latest version of the operating system.

  3. Enable permissions to install apps from unknown sources. If you're trying to install an app you didn't get from the Google Play Store, you may see the parse error message. The fix is to enable permissions to install apps from unknown sources. This option is off by default to protect you. If you turn it on, be careful to only download apps from trusted sources.

  4. Try downloading and installing your .apk file again. If your app files are corrupt or incomplete, that can cause the parse error.

    Return to the website where you originally downloaded the .apk file and download it again. If you can find a different trusted source for the .apk file, try downloading it from there instead.

    If you're trying to download the .apk using the default Android browser, try using a different browser from the Google Play Store. You may also want to try downloading the .apk file using a computer, after which you can transfer it to your phone.

  5. Temporarily disable your Android antivirus or any other security applications you have installed. An antivirus or security application may incorrectly identify the app you're trying to install as a threat, causing the parse error message.

    If you're absolutely certain the app you're trying to install is safe, try disabling your antivirus or security application temporarily. If you can't figure out how to do that, uninstall the antivirus app, then try to install the app generating the parse error. You can reinstall the antivirus app when you're done.

  6. Enable USB debugging. This is an advanced option, but turning it on may fix your problem. In most cases, enabling apps from unknown sources is all you have to do to install apps you didn't get from the Google Play Store. When that isn't enough, enabling developer mode, then enabling the USB debugging option sometimes does the trick.

    For this step, all you have to do is turn on developer mode and enable USB debugging. You don't actually have to connect your phone to a computer and perform any debugging.

  7. If you modified the manifest file, restore it. This is a less likely fix, because it only applies to advanced users; making changes to the Androidmanifest.xml file contained in a .apk file can cause a parse error. Changing the name of a .apk can also have the same effect. Try restoring the file to its original state, then try installing the .apk again.

    You will also want to try changing the name of the .apk to its original name if you made any changes there.

  8. Try resetting your phone. This is a last resort option, so don't try it until you've tried everything else since the process will erase all of your personal data. After you reset your phone, you'll have to update it to the latest version of Android before trying to install your app again.

Before you try resetting your phone, make sure to back up your personal data. Resetting your phone will permanently remove all of your photos, videos, and anything else you have stored on your phone.

Other Errors Like the Android Parse Error

There are a number of other errors somewhat related to the Android parse error, in that they also relate to problems with installing Android apps. The most common are Google Play Store errors, which can prevent you from installing official apps.

Another related error has to do with Android app downloads freezing.