October 4, 2019

Play Store Apps for Free

'Can I use Raccoon to download paid apps for free?' - Ok, it's a question that pops up now and then, so we probably have to talk about it.

Raccoon is a privacy, not a piracy tool! You can use it to download apk files that must be paid for, after you have made the payment (I recommend using Gift Cards and ordering from the Play website).

I guess, people keep asking that question because they assume, Google would simply store all the APKs somewhere on a webserver and you only have to know the correct URL in order to grab them. It goes without saying, that this would be a really stupid idea. Curiously, it’s also pretty much exactly what Google does.

Wait, what?!

Yep, in a nutshell that is how it works. The Google Play app is something like a stripped down webbrowser (it uses protocol buffer instead html files, though) that will look up download urls for APK files. The actual download can then be done by pretty much everything that speaks HTTPS. Curl, for example, is perfectly capable.

So, does that mean that you could download paid apps for free? Well, yes and no. The first problem would be to tickle an URL out of Play. Naturally, you won’t get that unless the app in question is bound to your account (i.e. you have legitimately bought it). The URL also expires after a few days, so kiss the idea of some hacker, building a bookmark database, good bye. Finally, paid apps are transport encrypted. Knowing the download url alone only gets you garbage files.