For various reasons that you can probably imagine, I usually don’t like to connect Android devices to Google accounts. Unfortunately, Google requires a login for the Play store. In most cases that is not a problem because I use the F-Droid store for most of my apps. However, some apps I (unfortunately) need on some devices are not available there because they are closed source. One way around this is to install ‘Yalp’ from the F-Droid store which can access the Play store without an account. Unfortunately this approach is a bit slow and unreliable so I had to look for an alternative.
‘Normal’ Android Apps
The alternative and much quicker approach I experimented with lately is to use a ‘burner’ phone with a Google Account to download and install the apps there, extract the apk files and then install them on other devices as required. Getting the apk file of an app can either be done over adb with a bit of effort or with the ‘APK Extractor‘ app in the F-Droid store which puts the APK files in the Download folder of the ‘burner’ phone. From there I upload it to my Nextcloud instance into a directory I have made available with a link. On the target device I then use the Nextcloud link to install the apps with a single click. Quick and easy!
Updating Manually Installed Apps
The one downside to this approach is that Apps are not automatically updated on the target device so every now and then I have to update the apk files on my Nextcloud instance and then repeat the procedure on the target devices. Data doesn’t get overwritten in the process so that is fine.
For one reason or another, some (but few) apps are split into several APK files. For these apps a different approach is required. Instead of installing them, I use Yalp. Yalp complains that it can’t install a multi-apk app without root rights but only after downloading the individual parts to the download directory. Fine for me, I just grab the files from there and then use adb on my notebook to install them on another device with the following adb command (hat tip to aslmx for the tip):
adb install-multiple com.name1.apk com.name1.split.apk com.name2.split.apk
Not quite so straight forward anymore but the approach works well in practice. Perhaps this can be refined by using adb instead of Yalp to extract the apk files of the app over USB!? An exercise for another day.