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How to sideload Android applications when they didn’t come from the Google Play Store [ANDROID 101]

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As longtime Android enthusiasts, sometimes it’s easy to forget that at one point, we knew next to nothing about the OS. And while we’re sure by now, most of you are experts, you no doubt have many friends and family who are either making the transition to Android from another OS, or simply aren’t as tech savvy as you.

For those, we’ve created a basic “Android how-to” guide. Here we will explain how to accomplish some of Android’s more remedial tasks (for the noobies), in an effort to save your sanity, and help everyone enjoy Android to its fullest. Now, let’s take a look at sideloading Android applications onto your smartphone.

What is sideloading?

“Sideloading” is just another word for installing an Android application onto your phone, from somewhere other than the Google Play Store. While this is generally a bad idea for beginners (you never know what kind of viruses you can catch on the internet), there are times when you need to test an app from a trusted developer, or even install a leaked version of something official (like a new Google Play Store, Google Maps, etc.).

Take heed. This should never be used as a way to circumvent paying for games or applications on Google Play. With Android being the most targeted mobile OS in regard to viruses and malware, stick to the Play Store if possible. This is actually one of the main reasons why Android doesn’t allow sideloading by default (but this can be turned off).

Step 1

Android sideloading 101 Unknown sources

Enabling app sideloading, is easy. Simply jump into your phone’s Settings application, scroll down and select the “Security” option. Scroll down again and press “Unknown sources.” As the description states, this will allow the installation of apps from unknown sources — i.e., somewhere other than the Google Play Store.

Step 2

How to Sideload Android apps

Now that we’ve done that, we’re ready to rock and roll. Occasionally, you’ll find apps we post here on Phandroid for upcoming app releases followed by a download link. Whether your viewing in our app, or in your Android web browser, click the link and the app will begin downloading.

Step 3

In most cases, the app will be placed in a “downloads” folder, stored inside your phone. You can easily access all downloads by jumping into the Downloads application located in your app drawer (where all your other apps are). From there, simply click the application that was downloaded (apps always have and end with “.apk” in their file name.

Sideload Android apps Downloads

Depending on your Android device, you’ll may see a popup asking if you want to verify with Google (to ensure there’s no malware), or install regularly. Always select the first option and proceed with the installation instructions. You’ll then be greeted with the apps permissions, and the option to install. Click install and if successful, you can then either click done to go about whatever it was you were doing, or open the app directly from here.

To be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to jump back into your settings, and turn off/uncheck the “Unknown sources” option. Sometimes malicious apps (even those downloaded from the Play Store) can use this to do all sorts of nasty stuff.

And that’s all there is to it. You are now a sideloading app master. As always, the best place for new Android users is in our Android Forums. There you can chat it up with other Android users, and find guides, apps, how-to’s and chat it up with other users sharing the same phone as you.




  • Jesse_Knight

    The best app not available is the Play Store is

    • Jesse_Knight

      *in the Play Store

    • https://plus.google.com/108596272537415356460/posts Jason Farrell

      Easy: the most vital app not available in the Play store is *AdAway*. Google banned the system-wide ad killers (if rooted) a while back, so now you have to get it from F-Droid.org’s repository of open source apps.

      F-Droid’s also got VLC, which Google Play won’t let you install in the USA for some stupid reason or other, and Transdroid Torrent Manager, which Google’s also banned for no good reason. Before F-Droid I was manually sideloading these apps, along with the system gapps, but the GooManager app even handles gapps for me, so I haven’t actually sideloaded anything in months.

      (FWIW, some people think that using ADB install via commandline is the only “real” way to sideload, but they’d be wrong, and related to comicbookguy.)

      • The Phatastic PhatmanXXL

        I’m kind of wary of using APK’s from “repositories” and file sharing sites and not just getting them from the developer’s sites themselves, that’s how you end up with malware on your phone.

  • mattpyles

    Wow, I think I may have a Masters in Android. But I do remember the day I learned how to do this, unlike real school, where I don’t remember anything.

    • DavidVarghese

      You can earn your Doctorate in Android if you can learn how to write code/make your own ROM and apps. I need to start working on that… :P

      • scoter man1

        Just hit up android boot camp on YouTube. That’s what I’m doing. The videos are long and many but are great. You don’t even start with code ’til the 6th one!

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        thank you for this. I have been a
        die hard android fan from my HTC hero days. I used to try so hard to
        get people on android. now I wish most of them wasn’t on android.
        questions on how to use features used to not bother me but now I have
        been asked to many times. I have rooted things for people and learned
        the hard way I should have left them alone. If you keep doing these 101
        videos I will keep sending them this way.

  • Christopher Woodruff

    Isn’t the notion of a virus a bit of a misnomer? I’ve yet to hear of an actual virus on Android. Malware certainly, but I’m pretty sure the sandboxed nature of Android’s Linux origins make that difficult if near impossible. Nothing is set in stone though and I imagine a particularly enterprising hacker could do something like this. However, mentioning it now just adds fuel to the antivirus fire that’s pretty much useless like a task manager.

  • Levi Urquhart

    How does everybody not already know how to do this?

    • mwradcliffe

      The average android (or mobile user) doesn’t know/use a ¹/⁴ the functions their phone is capable of.

      • JBrowne1012

        Nobody here is that user though an average user wouldn’t visit a android fan page.

        • anonymously_redacted

          True, but a poweruser may send this article to a typical user.

          • robjackson81

            This.

        • malcmilli

          not necessarily true. Ive been checking this site everyday for over 2 years and last week was the first time I successfully rooted my phone on my own. so although this particular tip I knew about there might be someone who didn’t

    • malcmilli

      there’s a time when every new user knows nothing about android and unless you have a tech friend who can show you the ropes, people get very sarcastic and annoyed at “noob” questions they post

    • timmyjoe42

      I’ve got people at work who have set up their phones but never set up google accounts, so they haven’t even downloaded 1 app yet, so I could see how there are people out there that don’t know how to do this…but they are definitely not the ones who will want to side load.

  • BigCiX

    Been doing this since my Samsung Captivate days.

    • what_eva

      You gotta pull the old man card on this one! (I had a cappy as well)

      Back in my day, AT&T didn’t let us install from unknown sources, so we had to *really* sideload, not this crap which isn’t really sideloading.

      • KOLIO

        I remember that,even though I’ve never been w/AT&T.
        About as popular as having to pay an extra fee to use the LAPDOCK w/the ATRIX.
        Anyway,what was done to work-around this? (I’m guesing root access)

  • Jeff

    The best android apps are from amazon.com, givemeapps.com and getjar.com amazon takes less percentage if you develop apps and givemeapps lets developers keep 100%

  • JBrowne1012

    Umm I’m pretty sure the demographic for people that don’t know how to do this aren’t on this web page they probably don’t know that their phone can even surf web pages.

    • Dan

      haha I agree, I was just thinking the same thing. I researched how to side load apps even before I bought my android phone

      • JBrowne1012

        I followed Android Since G1 so I didn’t miss a thing as to what android could do

    • malcmilli

      most people don’t need this but there are people who do… I started following this site before I knew what side loading was

  • KOLIO

    The only time I find a need to side-load an app is, strangely enough, from the GOOGLE PLAY STORE, when some apps that’ll load on my HTC ONE won’t load on my HISENSE SERO 7 PRO tablet (& vice versa),even though both are on JB. (4.1.2 & 4.2.1 respectively) Nothing unusual, or, graphics intense, just normal apps, such as USPS MOBILE/ADP MOBILE, & similar, seemingly simple applications. (Load on HTC ONE, not compatible on my tablet) If I side load an extracted copy from my HTC ONE, it works fine on the tablet.

    Another example is BEJEWELED 2 . Won’t load (not compatible) from GOOGLE PLAY STORE on my HTC ONE, but, I either have to side-load an extracted copy from my tablet, or, run the one I purchased from AMAZON, which loads just fine on both.

    Most of the time, I can use APK EXTRACTOR (from the GOOGLE PLAY STORE), send the apk to the non-compatible device, d/l the attachment & it loads w/no problem.

  • Ramsey0524

    I like http://www.androidgamesroom.com there are games on the site such as Enigmo that aren’t in the playstore or Amazon or others.

  • bbqsfire

    thank you for this. I have been a die hard android fan from my HTC hero days. I used to try so hard to get people on android. now I wish most of them wasn’t on android. questions on how to use features used to not bother me but now I have been asked to many times. I have rooted things for people and learned the hard way I should have left them alone. If you keep doing these 101 videos I will keep sending them this way.

  • socalrailroader

    Houston, we have a problem. :D All that is in this post is “Further Reading”, and none of that is about the post topic.

  • theain628

    tinyurl.com/nc6x6hg.