What Are Android Apps? Everything You Need To Know

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What are Android apps? They're pieces of software which are usable on an Android operating system. They either comes pre-installed along with Android OS, or you can download and install them after the fact. It all depends on what app and device we're talking about.

When you hear the words “Android applications”, you immediately start to think of smartphone apps. Well, that is completely understandable, but Android applications are not necessarily only apps for smartphones.

Android has spread its wings quite a bit up to this point. That is not surprising considering that it first launched back in 2008. There are various iterations of Android available at this point. Android OS for smartphones is still the most used one, though. So, if you’re wondering what are Android applications, or just want to get more information, read on.

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What are Android apps?

Well, those are basically pieces of software that you can install on an Android operating system. Or software that comes pre-installed on your Android-powered device. That goes for Android for smartphones. Android TV, Android Auto, and all other iterations of Android.

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Android app drawer

Those applications are all created for a specific purpose. For example, you can access Google’s Gmail client via a dedicated application. You can do the same for Facebook, Google’s Chrome browser, and pretty much anything else you can think of.

Where can I download Android apps?

Android applications are officially available from the Google Play Store. That is basically Google’s online store for various software, including applications, which are the main focus here.

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The Google Play Store app comes pre-installed on your Android smartphone. You can also access it via your browser, if you prefer. You can even install applications on your phone using your browser. That essentially means that you can install an app on your device from your desktop without touching your phone.

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Google Play Store logo

Having said that, the Google Play Store is not the only place you can get Android apps. Other companies have created their very own stores with Android applications. Those stores also provide an official way to download apps, just not directly from Google.

 

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Where else can I download Android apps?

As alraedy mentioned, many companies have created their own stores for app downloads. If you're using a Samsung devices, the company has its very own store for Android apps called the "Galaxy Store". You can access it via the provided web link, or via your Galaxy-branded smartphone. You will be able to find the "Galaxy Store" app on your phone.

Amazon, on the other hand, also offers Android applications via its website. That is yet another way to install them. These are only some examples, same goes for Xiaomi, and a number of other Android smartphone manufacturers. They usually include their very own Android store apps on their device, in addition to the Play Store.

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Google Play Store comes pre-installed on Android smartphones, at least those that are not meant for the Chinese markets. Why? Well, Google services are not used in China, so you will not find them pre-installed on devices meant to be used in the Chinese market.

Is there an unofficial way to install Android apps?

Yes, there is a thing called "sideloading". Android allows you to download an APK file (Android app file extension), and install it on your phone. It does ask you to confirm you want to install an app from unverified source first, though. If you are about to do this, you need to proceed with caution. If you're willing to be careful about it, read on, as we'll explain you how to sideload an app.

The first thing you need to do is locate a verified Android application. DO NOT sideload Android applications if you are not sure they are legit. You could install an app which contains malware by accident.

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People usually get apps for sideloading from APK Mirror, or similar websites, which always scan apps before making them available. So just keep that in mind before proceeding. Once you download an app that you’re interested in on your phone, you’ll need to make the installation possible.

In order to do that, you’ll need to navigate to the “Apps & notifications” section in your phone’s Settings. This goes for stock Android on Android 9 Pie, at least. Depending on the version of Android that is running on your phone, it may be located elsewhere.

In any case, in that menu, you’ll need to hit the “Special app access” option, and allow your device to install “unknown apps”. Proceed with care, as already mentioned, do not install APKs you’re not sure are valid.

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Are all Android apps free?

No, they’re not. The vast majority of applications that you will find in the Google Play Store are, though. If an app is not free, it will be clearly stated once you open its listing. That at least goes for the vast majority of apps.

Some apps allow you to download them before asking you to pay for specific services. Such apps will clearly be listed with “in-app purchases” tag in the Google Play Store. Other apps offer free trials before asking you to pay app. It all depends.

How many apps can I install on my Android device?

There is no firm limit on that. In theory, you can install as many apps as your device’s storage can handle. So, for example, if you have a smartphone with 64GB of storage, you can use all the free storage that is available.

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Android app list

If you have a ton of applications, though, your phone’s battery life and / or performance may suffer. This is still valid, but not as much as was before. Android-powered devices are much more powerful these days, so the amount of installed apps does not affect them all that much any longer.

How do I use Android apps?

All Android applications that you install on your handset will appear in your app drawer. If you’re using Android TV, they will appear on your homepage, and so on. It all depends on which iteration of Android you’re using.

If you’ve installed an app on your phone, for example, all you need to do is locate it in your app drawer. The app drawer is a menu where all your installed apps are located. You can usually access it by swiping up on your phone’s home screen.

On some iterations of Android, you will need to tap a special icon on the bottom of the screen in order to access the app drawer. Some versions of Android have an app drawer on the home screen, however, Like Xiaomi’s MIUI, for example, so every app you install will be accessible on one of your home screens.

How do I uninstall Android apps?

When it comes to smartphones, you can usually just hold your finger on the app you want to uninstall, in the app drawer. At that point, a pop-up menu will appear with the uninstall option. In some iterations of Android on smartphones, you will have to press and hold until you’re able to move the app into the dedicated “Uninstall” section.

Android app uninstall screenshot
Android applications uninstall screen

On non-mobile iterations of Android, uninstalling apps is a bit different. You can uninstall your Wear OS applications from your phone, or from the watch itself. There is a dedicated menu on the watch for doing so. When it comes to Android TV, you can do it via a separate menu in Settings as well.

Are Android apps available for smartphones only?

No, they are not. That’s actually why an article like this is quite useful. Android OS exists in a number of formats at this point. Android for mobile is one, Android Auto another, while Wear OS (formerly known as Android Wear) is the third example we’ll give you.

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Update for Android Auto

So, Android applications for Wear OS, for example, can be installed via the Play Store, but will be portrayed differently on a smartwatch. Speaking of which, Wear OS is Android for smartwatches, essentially.

Something similar can be said for Android Auto as well. Some Android applications, Spotify, for example, will look and function differently on Android Auto. These are only some examples, of course.

Are all Android apps compatible with all devices?

The compatibility factor is something else worth noting. As some apps are compatible with some devices, while they're not with others. This may be due to a number of reasons. One of those reasons may be the region you're in. If an app has been pushed out for the US market only, you will not be able to access it in Europe.

Those apps may work if you sideload them, but you cannot download them officially. On the flip side, some applications are made solely for some phones, or specific brands. Let's take Samsung as an example. The company has a number of Galaxy-exclusive apps available in the Google Play Store, which you will not be able to download to your phone.

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Android app compatibility

Your Android version may be yet another reason why you're prevented from downloading some apps. If you have an older Android phone, with an older version of Android, it may not be compatible with some applications. Whatever the case may be, that will be indicated in the Play Store, as your phone will be listed as "incompatible". In fact, if an app is not compatible with your device, you will not even pop up in the search results. You can still find it via your web browser, manually, and access its screen. If you do that, the aforementioned "incompatible" message will pop up.

Are Android applications identical on smartphones and tablets?

Most of them are, yes. Some developers, though, decided to optimize their applications for tablet. Don’t get us wrong, if an app is not optimized especially for tablets, it will still run perfectly fine, but it will look the same as it does on a smartphone.

Many would say that this is not ideal, and that is probably true. An enlarged app for smartphones may not be as functional on tablets, despite the fact smartphones are quite large these days.

If a developer decides to change up UI of a particular app for tablets, that app can become a lot more useful. Why? Well, because it can take full advantage of that large display on tablets. Not many developers did that, though, and not many will do it in the future. Tablets are not as popular as they used to be, not even close.

Are applications for Android and iOS identical?

No, they’re not. iOS is Apple’s operating system, and is completely different than Android OS. It is actually developed in a completely different programming language. iOS also has a different design language that is usually used for apps.

Many developers, however, tend to release similar-looking apps for both platforms. That makes them easily recognizable. Some developers tend to differentiate apps for Android and iOS, while others develop apps only for one of the two platforms.

The bottom line is, apps for these two platforms may look similar, if the developer decides to do so, but they’re far from being the same. Applications for these two platforms also feel different to use, if we’re talking about similar-looking apps.

In some instances, apps may look almost identical in terms of the UI, and on one of the two platforms, and app may perform better / worse than on the other. The reason is usually quite simple. Some developers invest more time in developing a particular app for one OS, than they do for the other.

What are the most popular Android applications?

There are tons of Android applications available in the Google Play Store. That fact alone suggests that there are quite a few popular ones available. Well, luckily for your, the Play Store is actually highlighting the most popular applications. In fact, there are a number of different app categorizations that you can access via the Play Store.

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Most popular Android applications, Play Store

There is a literal "Popular Apps" list in the Play Store, which lists the most popular applications at any given moment. At the time of writing this piece, the very top apps were WhatsApp, Viber, Shazam, Revolut, and Bolt. Those were at least the top five, you can check out the provided screenshot for more. You can also access this list via your Play Store app, of course.

There are also other categorizations available in the Play Store. You can check out Top Grossing apps, Trending apps, Top Selling apps, and so on.

What are "Progressive Web Apps (PWA)"?

You may have stumbled upon the expressive "Progressive Web App", or PWA for short, at some point. That may confuse you, but first and foremost, you have to realize these are not applications per-se.

There is a reason why they have "web" in their name. Progressive Web Apps are basically websites which both look and feel like an app. That means that you don't have to install them, or anything of the sort, they're just made that way when you navigate to a specific website.

Progressive Web Apps essentially use modern web technology in order to deliver an app-like experience to the end user.