How to sideload apps on an Android phone

Google Play is great, but sometimes, it puts restrictions on where an app can be installed. Say you’ve found an exciting new game, but upon accessing Google Play, you’re informed that it’s not available in your region. What are you to do?

While you could wait for the app to be rolled out to a wider audience, there is another way; sideload the app onto the phone yourself. It sounds intimidating, but it’s really not. In fact, the open nature of the Android OS means you are free to install apps from pretty much any resource – you just need to jump through a few hoops first.

So, whether you’re trying to get early access to a popular new game or want to download that extremely niche Android app you’ve been reading about, here’s how to sideload apps on an Android smartphone. 

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What you’ll need: 

  • An Android smartphone
  • An active internet connection

The Short Version 

  1. Download the APK you’d like to install.
  2. Tap Download Anyway.
  3. Open the APK.
  4. Tap Settings.
  5. Tap Allow From This Source.
  6. Tap Install.
  7. Tap Open to use your new app. 
  1. Step
    1

    Download the APK you’d like to install

    The first step in sideloading apps onto your Android smartphone is to acquire the app’s APK – essentially its install file. 

    There are no shortages of websites offering APKs for most Android apps, but you’ve got to be careful about your website of choice as it’s easy to slip something malicious into the code – you don’t have Google Play’s protections here, after all.

    That said, there are a handful APK repositories online that are trusted by the Android community. These include the likes of APKMirror and APKPure. Simply head to the website of your choice in Chrome on your smartphone, and search for and download the app APK you’d like to install.  Download your app APK

  2. Step
    2

    Tap Download Anyway

    Once you initiate the APK download, you’ll get a warning from Google Chrome that the file you are downloading could be harmful. If you’ve used a reputable APK storefront, there should be nothing to worry about, so tap Download Anyway. Google Chrome app install warning

  3. Step
    3

    Open the APK

    Once the download is complete, you should see a pop-up allowing you to open the newly-downloaded file. Tap Open to continue.App download complete

  4. Step
    4

    Tap Settings

    If it’s the first time you’ve installed an app downloaded via Google Chrome, you’ll need to permit Chrome to “install unknown apps” – aka those from outside the Play Store – to do so. To do this, tap Settings on the security pop-up that appears on the screen. Allow Chrome to install unknown apps

  5. Step
    5

    Toggle on Allow From This Source

    From the Settings menu, toggle on Allow from this source to enable Chrome to install the APK you’ve just downloaded. Enable Chrome to install apps

  6. Step
    6

    Tap Install

    Once you’ve enabled Google Chrome to install APKs, a pop-up should appear asking you if you want to install your newly downloaded app. Tap Install to install the app. Install unknown app

  7. Step
    7

    Tap Open to use your new app

    Once the installation is complete, tap Open to access your newly sideloaded Android app. 

    It’s worth noting that, if the app isn’t usually available in your region, you won’t be able to update it via Google Play like most other apps. Instead, you’ll have to download updated APKs for the app yourself.Open your newly sideloaded app

Troubleshooting

I can’t install the APK I’ve downloaded. What should I do?

Some app repositories offer atypical downloads that only work when installed via that repository’s Android app. Try downloading the storefront’s official app and try again.

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