If you have an Android phone or tablet, you know that Google Play Store is one of the most important apps on the device. Technically speaking, Google Play Store is two apps: Google Play Store and Google Play Services. But when it comes to downloading and installing apps, it’s the Play Store that poses a bit of a challenge sometimes.
As in, how do you download apps if you don’t have the Play Store? And furthermore, how do you download Google Play Store if you don’t have a place to download apps from?
Downloading Google Play Store
Luckily, the Play Store isn’t the only way to download apps on an Android device (if it were, and you didn’t have it installed, you’d pretty much be screwed). Applications for Android devices are just program files, very similar to programs you would install on your PC, but with a different file extension.
Program files for your Android end in .apk, just like the ones for your computer end in .exe. That’s why most people call them “APK files”. Anyway, you can find these files on the Internet and download them to your device directly without going through the Play Store (although this is something that we really only recommend doing when installing Google Play Store itself or in other extenuating circumstances).
By downloading the Google Play Store APK file to your device and installing it, you’ll have the same exact official Play Store application (you just got it from somewhere else). If your device didn’t come with any native Google apps (usually because it was a clone device from China), once you have Play Store installed, you can use it to install any of the other Google applications that you want to have on your Android (Google Play Services, Gmail, Maps, etc.).
How to download and install Google Play Store
There are basically two ways to download Google Play Store manually: either to the Android device directly using the device’s built in browser app, or on your computer and then transferring it to your Android with a USB cable.
In both cases, you will need to make a minor adjustment to your device to allow the installation. Remember how we said we don’t really recommend downloading APK files off the Internet willy-nilly unless there’s a good reason (like downloading Google Play Store)?
Sometimes unscrupulous people stuff malware and other nasty stuff into APK files on the Internet (nasty stuff that the Play Store doesn’t let in, which keeps your device safer). For that reason, your device’s default setting is to reject installation of any application files (APK files) that came from somewhere other than Google Play. You’ll have to change that in order to install the Google Play file, whether you download it to your Android directly or transfer it via USB.
To make sure the installation works, go to your Android’s Settings and then go to Security. Scroll down until you find the option called “Unknown sources”, and then check the box next to it to enable it. When you finish installing the Google Play Store file, you can turn this option off again for security reasons; if you ever want to install an APK file from the internet in the future, just enable it again.
Download Google Play Store on smartphone or tablet
To download Google Play Store directly onto your smartphone or tablet, make sure you’re reading this post in the Internet browser on your device and tap on the Play Store APK download link included in the post.
Your device will probably ask if you want to Open or Save the file in a pop-up window. Click “Save”, and the application file will start downloading.
When it’s done, tap on the notification to open the file (it will open in a new program called Android Package Installer). All you have to do is click “Install” and give the app the permissions it needs, just like if you were installing from the Play Store.
Download Google Play Store on PC for USB transfer
If you don’t have an Internet or data connection on your device, your other option is to download the same file to your PC and then transfer it to your Android. This will require a USB cable. Click on the Google Play Store download link included in this post, and save the file to your computer (make sure you pay attention to where the APK file is being saved so you can find it later).
Then, connect your Android to your PC with a USB cable, and copy the Play Store APK file from your computer to the device, just like if you were moving a document to a thumb drive. On most PCs, this will be a simple matter of locating the APK file, dragging and dropping into the “folder” that is your Android device.
Then, just open the file on your Android and install as per the instructions above.