How to install Android Application Bundles (AAB) on your phone

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 load 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 an Android device.

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

We’ve added methods for downloading and installing app bundles in this article, along with a brief explanation of what Android app bundles are. Make sure to read until 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 processor architecture, DPI, and languages. These individual APKs have a specific purpose and are called Split APKs. And Google Play then provides the appropriate configuration of the app (the one that works best for your device) through a process called Dynamic Delivery.

Image courtesy: Google

What makes App Bundles important now is that Google recently announced its intention to start requiring the release of new apps as Android App Bundles (AAB) from August 2021. In the future, 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 extension files, which are typically used in games. For more information, check out this in-depth APK vs AAB explainer.

You don’t have to be a genius 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 shown interest in app bundles so far are likely to be stepping down 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 like .apks (a combination of .apk file and all split apk files), .xapk (APK file + OBB data file) and. apkm (set of apps from APKMirror website).

Since the .aab files are uploaded directly to Google Play and you cannot install it directly using the native package installer, you will not easily find the .aab files for your favorite apps on Internet. If you are a developer, you can use Google’s bundle tool to generate APKs from an Android App Bundle. However, we have also added a free app that can install .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 for downloading AAB files on Android phones, we will have to rely on third party application hosting sites like APKMirror for side loading of application bundles. However, there is a catch when using APKMirror for app bundles. The APKMirror website uses its own format for application bundles called .apkm. Therefore, you will need to use the APKMirror Installer companion app to install the .apkm files.

download apkm from apkmirror - Install AAB Android App Bundle files

To download an .apkm file, visit APKMirror (link to website), 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 app bundle installer app. Now if you want to install an .apkm file then you have 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 capable of installing .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 did support .apkm 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). Then select the .apkm file in the “Browse files” option. Tap on the name of the .apkm file, followed by a tap on “Install the package” in the context menu.

install the apkmirror package

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

install apkm - Install AAB Android App Bundle files

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

apkm successful installation

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’s how to use the SAI app to install split apks:

1. Install SAI from Play Store (free, with in-app purchases) and press “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.

pick file sai - Install AAB Android App Bundle files

2. Choose Android App Bundle from the file picker 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, press “Install”.

install split apk - Install AAB Android App Bundle files

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

install sai success

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

Due to the nature of .aab files, it is unlikely that a general user will 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 the App Bundle Installer to install it. In this demonstration, I will be using the .aab file from Power Menu Controls, a powerful application for customizing the power menu of Android 11. Here’s how to install the .aab files on your Android phone:

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

select the aab file

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

install aab

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, do so at your own risk..

confirm and download aab

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

install aab complete - Install Android App Bundle

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 adjust to the move to App Bundles in the coming months. Now if you are into modding then go ahead and check out the articles on installing ADB on Windows, running ADB from your web browser, and removing bloatware from Android phones.


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