How to fix slow Android app installations

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Image: Jack Wallen

Every so often the installation of Android apps slow to a terrible crawl. When this occurs, things get very frustrating very fast. No matter how many times you reboot your device, nothing changes. The problem persists even if you disable Wi-Fi—the most common reason why is a combination of two issues: DNS and Google Play cache.

Sometimes you can clear your cache and disable Wi-Fi, and the problem instantly goes away. However, when you do that, you’re using precious data. If you have a wireless connection, that’s not a smart use of your data plan. To avoid that problem, I’ll walk you through the process of fixing both issues.

SEE: Mobile device computing policy (Tech Pro Research)

Clearing your cache

First, we must clear two caches: Google Play Store and Google Play Services. I’ll demonstrate this on a OnePlus 3 running Android 6.0.1.

To clear the necessary caches, go to Settings | Apps | Google Play Store. Tap Storage and then tap CLEAR CACHE (Figure A). Your cache should immediately drop to 12.00 KB.

Figure A

Figure A

Clearing the Google Play Store cache.

Next, go to Settings | Apps | Google Play Services, tap Storage, and then tap CLEAR CACHE. Again, the cache should drop to 12.00 KB.

Now disabling wireless and installations from the Google Play Store (the only place you should be installing from) will go off without a hitch.

Changing your DNS

Every so often, a wireless network DNS does your Android device no favors. The problem lies in the fact that you don’t always have access to the necessary information to change DNS on a per-network basis. There’s a way to get around that.

By default, Android does not allow you to set global DNS. You can solve this issue by using a handy app called DNS Changer, which allows you to easily switch your DNS to one of the following:

  • Google DNS
  • Open DNS
  • Yandex DNS
  • Level3 DNS
  • Custom

DNS Changer works, without root, for Wi-Fi and cellular networks.

Read before installing DNS Changer: The developers have gone a rather distasteful route and require users to rate the app before being able to use it continuously (I think it pops up after five minutes of usage). They insist you must give them a five-star rating in order to continue using the app, but you do not—rate the app as you see fit to continue using the app. Also, the ads in the app can get annoying; the good news is you won’t have the app open long enough to be bothered by those apps.

To install DNS Changer, follow these steps. (Note: If you’re experiencing the slow install issue, turn off Wi-Fi before following these steps.)

  1. Open the Google Play Store.
  2. Search for DNS Changer.
  3. Locate and tap the entry by burakgon.
  4. Tap Install.
  5. If prompted, tap Accept.
  6. Allow the installation to complete.

You’ll find the launcher for the new app in your App Drawer, or on your home screen, or in both spots. Tap the icon, and DNS Changer will fire up. Before launching the app, I highly recommend you go to Settings | Wi-Fi, long press your current wireless network, and tap Forget Network. You’ll need to reconnect to that network before continuing.

From the DNS Changer main window (Figure B), select the DNS provider you want to use and then tap the START button.

Figure B

Figure B

Setting Google DNS for global usage.

When you tap the START button, you’ll be warned that DNS Changer wants to set a VPN connection that allows it to monitor traffic—this is standard for such a service. OK that warning, and you’ll see a VPN key icon in your notification area. At this point, your device is using the DNS service you selected, and the Google Play installation issue should be resolved.

What to do if this persists

Most of the time the steps I provided above work like a charm. But, if the problem persists, the issue could be with your service provider, and you’ll need to wait until the service provider resolves whatever issue they are having. If that happens, simply switch off Wi-Fi, install the necessary app, and then switch Wi-Fi back on. It’s a hassle but, in a pinch, it’ll work.

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