Updating a Non-Market APK on Android Devices

Updating a Non-Market APK on Android Devices

22 April 2024 Stephan Petzl Leave a comment Tech-Help

When managing Android applications outside the Google Play Store, developers and testers often need to update an APK file without affecting user data or settings. This is particularly relevant for apps in development, testing phases, or distributed through enterprise channels. In this article, we’ll explore how to update a non-market APK on an Android device using Android Debug Bridge (ADB).

Understanding ADB Install Commands

Android Debug Bridge (ADB) is a versatile command-line tool that allows you to communicate with a device. The ADB command facilitates a variety of device actions, such as installing and debugging apps, and it provides access to a Unix shell that you can use to run a variety of commands on a device.

Using the ADB Install Command with the ‘-r’ Option

The adb install command is the standard way to install APKs on Android devices. To update an existing application while preserving its data (like databases and preferences), you can use the -r option:

adb install -r YourApp.apk

This command performs the update without removing the existing data. It is effectively the same as an update you would perform through the Google Play Store, where user data is retained after the app is updated.

Reinstalling a Downgraded Version of an App

In some cases, you might need to reinstall an older version of an app. The -d option allows the installation of APKs with a lower version code than the currently installed app:

adb install -r -d OlderVersionApp.apk

It’s important to note that attempting to install an APK with a lower version code without the -d option will result in an error.

Uninstalling an App but Keeping the Data

If for some reason the -r option does not achieve the desired outcome, you might consider uninstalling the app while keeping its data:

adb uninstall -k com.yourapp.package

This command will remove the application while preserving the user data and cache directories. Afterward, you can reinstall the app using the standard install command:

adb install NewVersionApp.apk

Note that this approach requires root access to the Android device.

Streamlining App Updates with Repeato

While the methods described above are effective for updating non-market apps, they require manual intervention and can be time-consuming, especially when dealing with multiple devices or frequent updates.

Enter Repeato, a no-code test automation tool designed to streamline the testing process for iOS and Android applications. Repeato not only helps create, run, and maintain automated tests with its intuitive interface and reliance on computer vision and AI, but it also simplifies the testing workflow with its built-in ADB capabilities.

Repeato can be particularly useful in scenarios where app updates need to be tested across various frameworks like React Native, Flutter, or Unity. Its ability to execute ADB commands through script steps allows for seamless integration of app update processes within the test automation workflow, ensuring that the latest app version is always being tested without manual intervention.

Final Thoughts

Updating non-market APKs is a common task for Android developers and testers, and ADB provides the necessary commands to accomplish this. By using the -r and -d options, you can ensure that your app updates are installed correctly while preserving user data.

For those seeking a more integrated and automated approach to app testing and updating, Repeato offers a robust solution that can enhance efficiency and accuracy in your development pipeline.

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