WhatsApp is a great app for keeping in touch with friends and family, allowing you to send messages, photos and video, and make voice and video calls all for free over a Wi-Fi or mobile data connection. The problem with WhatsApp is that you can only install the app on one device, and that is most likely to be your smartphone - it's always with you, and a phone number is required for account activation.

For that reason tablet users will not find WhatsApp in the app store, and it might therefore appear that it isn't possible to install the app on a tablet. That is absolutely not true.

Although Google would prefer that you stick to the confines of its Google Play app store for all the apps that you install, not least for security reasons, the truth is you can install any app on any Android device by sideloading its APK file - even 'unsupported' apps such as WhatsApp.

An APK file is best described as the equivalent of an EXE file on Windows. When you download and install an app from Google Play you are effectively downloading an APK file, but because that happens behind the scenes, all you see is a progress bar and are then informed when it is installed and ready to use. 

To install WhatsApp on a tablet, then, you simply need to source the WhatsApp APK file from the internet. A simple web search will bring this up. You'll have to allow your tablet the right to install apps from outside Google Play, and the app should then install exactly as it would on a phone.

So the process is not in itself difficult. But the main reason we wouldn't recommend installing WhatsApp on your tablet is that you cannot use the same account as you do on your phone. To create a second account you need a second phone number, which most people won't have, and then once set up your contacts won't know through which account to contact you.

If you intend to use WhatsApp only on your tablet and not on your smartphone then that last point is moot, but if what you actually want is to access your WhatsApp account on both phone and tablet then an infinitely better solution is to use WhatsApp Web.

If you decide to plough on ahead anyway, we'll walk you through the process of sideloading WhatsApp on to a tablet and suggest some solutions for obtaining that second phone number. If you're now thinking better of it, see our advice on how to use WhatsApp Web.

How to install WhatsApp on an Android tablet

  • Open Settings > Apps & notifications > Advanced > Special app access
  • Scroll down to and select Install unknown apps
  • Ensure whatever browser you are using (most likely Chrome) is marked as enabled - tap it, then slide the toggle to on
  • Exit the Settings menu and launch Chrome
  • Search for 'WhatsApp APK'
  • You should see results from the likes of APKMirror and APKPure
  • Select a site from which to download your APK file, then click through any prompts to download the file
  • Once downloaded you'll see a notification appear at the top of the screen - tap this to begin installation
  • Once installed you will see the usual WhatsApp setup process, which will require you to enter a phone number
  • When prompted to verify that number choose Call me, then enter the six-digit verification number you are told over the phone

How to get a second phone number

If you intend using your mobile number on another WhatsApp account on your smartphone, you're going to need a separate number for the account on the tablet. And while dual-SIM phones are increasingly popular in the UK, we're certainly not at the stage where most people are using separate numbers for work and play, or home and abroad.

There are a few other ways to get a second phone number, the easiest of which is going to be taking advantage of a free PAYG SIM offer, such as that currently offered by all the big UK mobile operators, including Vodafone, ThreeEE and O2. The problem with going down this route is the operator will cancel the SIM if you don't regularly top it up - usually within a six-month period. And that means you might have to keep changing the number associated with your WhatsApp account.

An alternative, should you know someone who doesn't use a smartphone or a WhatsApp account, is to borrow their number. But for anyone who has their number stored in their phone contacts, you are going to appear as them within WhatsApp, so expect some random messages.

Why has WhatsApp stopped working on my tablet?

A problem with sideloading apps from outside Google Play is they are not subject to the same automatic updates. Every so often WhatsApp updates its app, which causes older versions to stop working. If this happens, simply uninstall the app then follow the steps above to reinstall a more recent version of the APK file.

If you're looking for advice on how to install WhatsApp on an iPad, see the guidelines over on our sister site Macworld.