Installing the same apps time and time again is not exactly an experience that many people have lived through but those who have will gladly tell you that it is not fun at all. If you constantly switch ROMs or regularly test new Android devices then using flashable ZIP files to install your apps really is the only way to go. We will be taking a look at various methods you can use to create flashable ZIP files, both by using your computer and by using your phone only.
For the purposes of this guide it will be assumed that you have installed a custom recovery in your device such as TWRP or CWM and that you know how to use them, at least for basic stuff. Furthermore, and as I am sure you already know, creating a backup of your Android device is highly recommended, especially since we are going to be using custom recoveries now. There are a few technical details and terms mentioned in this post so if you have any questions, make sure to drop a comment down below or visit the forum for more in-depth discussions on apps, custom ROMs and anything else you want.
Create a flashable ZIP in your computer
The first step of the process requires you to download a flashable ZIP template which already contains some necessary files to get you started. You can find such templates in various places but I would recommend sticking to this one from the XDA forums made by user MrSmith317.
Open the ZIP template using your preferred program. If you do not have one already then I would suggest grabbing 7-Zip, WinRar or WinZip as they are widely considered to be the best in their categories. I would not really recommend using a system-provided archiver for this because they are notorious for failing.
Now, unto the files themselves. At this point the only thing you need to do is locate the apps you want to install and put them in the \system\app folder. Do note that the apps need to be in the form of APK files in order for this to work. Make sure that you save your progress and that you do not touch anything outside the specified folder unless you know what you are doing. Flashable ZIPs can also be used to add custom animations and other theme elements so you can do it all at once if you want. Just keep in mind that you have to use specific folders for each type of content.
Alternatively, you can use one of the tools created by XDA members such as Nikhil’s Android Flashable Zip Creator and or OrglCe’s ZipCreator. The first one works with a limited number of devices but has been thoroughly tested while the second one works with virtually any Android KitKat 4.4 and lower device though results may vary. Do note that you also need to install Microsoft’s Visual Basic Power Backs for ZipCreator to work by including the “Microsoft.VisualBasic.PowerPacks.Vs.dll” in the application’s folder.
Create flashable ZIPs with your phone
Though there are several ways to create flashable ZIPs in your phone, the best two apps that I am aware of are Titanium Backup and ZIPme. Both apps require root access and a custom recovery so that you can actually flash the files. The difference is that Titanium Backup holds the feature in the paid version while ZIPme is entirely free. The decision lies in whether you want to use Titanium Backup for other purposes too or not. If you do not then ZIPme is the better choice of the two simply because you can get it for free. Make sure that you also turn debugging mode enabled to avoid any potential issues.
For Titanium Backup, go to the Preferences menu and open the Backup settings. Choose a backup folder location and tap on the batch backup icon at the top right corner. The app will give you a selection of options at this point but you want the one that reads “Backup all user apps + system data” as restoring system apps and their data is not really a good idea. Depending on the number of apps you currently have installed in your phone, the process may take a while. When the backup is done, tap on the batch backup icon again, find the Recovery mode menu and tap on the “Run” button. This should create an “update.zip” file at your targeted location so grab it from there and flash it whenever you feel like it.
ZIPme is even easier to use because it only serves this dedicated purpose. Once you open the app, start adding apps via the plus (+) icon. When you have everything you need, tap on “Done” and then “Create”. Give your new flashable ZIP a name and sit back while the app takes care of everything else. I would suggest grabbing the newly created ZIP file and storing it in a secure location until you are ready to flash it.