With Google’s ambitious plan to move from APKs to Android App Bundles (AAB) as the new standard for apps downloaded from the Play Store, you might be wondering how to sideload AAB files on your Android device. Is the process of sideloading AAB files as easy as installing an APK? This is exactly what we are going to discuss in this article and explain how to install App Bundles on Android device.

Installing Android App Bundles: A Step-by-Step Guide (2021)

We have added methods for downloading app bundles and installing them in this article, along with a brief explanation of what Android app bundles are. Be sure to read till the end to learn all about installing Android apps on your device.

What are Android app bundles and how do they compare to APKs?

Google first announced Android app bundles at Google I/O 2018 as part of its efforts to reduce the size of Android applications. With App Bundles, Google Play generates APK files based on different device configurations such as CPU architecture, DPI, and languages. These individual APK files serve a specific purpose are called split APKs. And Google Play then delivers the appropriate app configuration (the one that works best for your device) through a process called Dynamic Delivery.

What makes App Bundles important now is that Google recently announced its intention to start requiring new apps to be released as Android App Bundles (AABs) from August 2021. Going forward, new apps on Google Play will use the Android App Bundle (AAB) format instead of APK. Likewise, all apps will use Play Asset Delivery or Play Feature Delivery instead of OBB for expansion files, typically used in games. For more information, check out this in-depth explainer on APK vs AAB.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to guess that Google will eventually impose this requirement on existing apps. In fact, popular app makers like Adobe, LinkedIn, Netflix, and Twitter have already embraced the format. And with Google’s latest announcement, developers who haven’t expressed interest in app bundles so far are likely to jump ship to streamline the app delivery process.

So how does the switch to AAB affect app loading on Android devices? Well, with the rise of app bundles, the process of sideloading apps has become complicated. Instead of a single APK installer file, we now have different formats such as .apks (a combination of .apk file and all split apk files), .xapk (APK file + OBB data file) and . apkm (set of applications from APKMirror website).

Since the .aab files are directly downloaded from Google Play and you cannot install it directly using the native package installer, you will not easily find the .aab files of your favorite apps on Internet. If you are a developer, you can use Google’s bundle tool to generate APKs from a bundle of Android apps. However, we have also added a free application capable of installing .aab files at the end of the article if you want to test an .aab file.

How to Download Android App Bundles

As there is no official centralized repository to download AAB files on Android phones, we will have to rely on third party app hosting sites like APKMirror for sideloading application bundles. However, there is a catch when using APKMirror for app bundles. The APKMirror website uses its own format for app bundles called .apkm. Therefore, you will need to use the APKMirror Installer companion app to install the .apkm files.

To download an .apkm file, visit APKMirror (website link), find and open the list of the app you want to download, then click “Download APK Bundle”. The website will now download an .apkm file which you can install using the APKMirror Installer app.

Install Android app bundles on your device

Once you have downloaded an Android App Bundle, you can install it using a dedicated installer app. Now, if you want to install an .apkm file, you need to use APKMirror Installer. However, if you have the base APK and specific split APKs, you can use the open source Split APKs Installer (SAI) app to install an Android App Bundle.

Although APKMirror Installer is able to install .apks files, you will need to watch ads to install the app (you can get a subscription to remove ads). In a nutshell, if you install .apkm files, use APKMirror Installer and use SAI otherwise. That said, it’s worth mentioning that SAI added .apkm support for unencrypted .apkm files in a recent update.

Method 1: Install .apkm files using APKMirror

1. After downloading the .apkm file from APKMirror, open the APKMirror Installer app (Free, with in-app purchases). Next, select the .apkm file from the “Browse Files” option. Tap on the name of the .apkm file, followed by a tap on “Install Package” in the context menu.

2. APKMirror Installer will then show the app details. Next, tap “Install app” at the bottom, then tap “Install” again on the pop-up window to complete the process. If you are using the APKMirror installer for the first time, Android will ask for permissions to install the app. It will redirect you to the Settings app and you can enable this toggle.

3. Once the installation is complete, you can tap “Open app” to start using the app. That’s it. You have successfully installed an Android App Bundle on your device.

Method 2: Install .apks and split apk files using SAI

You can install unencrypted .apks, .xapk, split apk and .apkm files using Split APKs Installer (SAI). SAI is considered the gold standard for installing app bundles in the Android community. Here is how to use SAI app to install split apks:

1. Install SAI from Play Store (Free, with in-app purchases) and tap “Install APKs” at the bottom of the home page. You can now use the internal file picker or the system file picker to select the Android App Bundle you want to install. I recommend using the system file picker.

2. Choose Android App Bundle from the file chooser, and SAI will automatically choose split apks that match your device. You can also choose specific split APKs, for example if you need an additional language. Once done, tap on “Install”.

3. Press “Install” in the app installation prompt, and you will get a pop-up message as soon as the installation is complete.

Method 3: Install .aab files on your device using App Bundle Installer

Due to the nature of .aab files, a general user is unlikely to encounter applications with the .aab file type. However, if you manage to get your hands on an .aab file, you can use an app called App Bundle Installer to install it. In this demo, I will be using the .aab file from Power Menu Controls, a powerful app to customize the power menu of Android 11. Here’s how to install .aab files on your Android phone:

1. Install App Bundle Installer (Free, contains ads), and press “Select AAB” from the home screen. When the next page appears, press the “Select AAB File” button to choose your .aab file.

2. Choose the .aab file in the Android file manager of your choice, and then press the “Install file” button in the app to start the installation process.

3. The app will now show you a prompt to tell you how it works. It downloads the .aab file, converts .aab to .apk, signs the .apk file and downloads it to your device. Since this is a third-party implementation, proceed at your own risk.

4. Once the .apk file is ready, you will see the prompt to install the app. Tap “Install” to install the app and tap “Open” to launch the app after the process is complete.

Easily install AAB files on Android phones!

So that brings us to the end of our guide on how to install Android App Bundles (AAB) on your device. As you can clearly see, downloading apps as Android app bundles is not as easy as installing an apk file using the native package installer. It will be interesting to see how power users adapt to the move to App Bundles in the coming months. Now, if you’re interested in modding, go ahead and check out the articles on installing ADB on Windows, running ADB from your web browser, and removing bloatware from Android phones.