You must have come across the term ‘sideloading apps’ and are probably wondering what it means. In simple terms, it means installing apps from a source other than the official Android Play Store. The official store does not feature every app and there are several other sources to find these hidden apps.
Android apps have the extension ‘.apk’ which can be searched throughout the web. But a few things need to be kept in mind before blindly installing these on your Android device.
But how does one go about sideloading apps, you ask? It’s rather simple. Firstly, you need to enable Allow installation of apps from unknown sources option in your phone’s Settings menu. An easier method to search this option is to type unknown source in your settings search bar. If your phone does not allow you to search settings menu, navigate your way to Security or Privacy (depending on your custom Android OS) settings and enable this option.
When you do so, your Android device will try and warn you about vulnerability. Do not panic, be brave and accept it.
Why should you sideload apps
Secondly, ask yourself – Do I need an app that is not available on the Play Store? There may be several reasons why you may want an app that is not available on the official source. Either the app was removed (e.g.: Flappy Bird) or the app is in its beta stage or it is an app not approved by Google, for one reason or another.
If you are an advanced user, there are apps which can empower control over critical aspects of your device. Android is an open source OS and sideloading apps will allow you to explore an uncharted world of possibilities.
Finding the right source
Thirdly, you need to scout for a trusted source to download your apps. This is a trial and error territory. There are APKs all over the internet and many are fake. Whenever you download these apps, try and crosscheck their developer and icon details.
If you want to play it safe, try installing Amazon’s App Store by sideloading it. Amazon features many paid apps for free with regular updates as on Play store. Alternatively, you could try browsing for apps at APKmirror or XDA Forums for some real gems that may not be available on the Play Store.
If you have rooted your device, there are several apps that can enhance your rooting experience. Such apps may not appear on the Play Store but can be found on the sites mentioned above. Go ahead, fiddle around and learn your way through the vast jungle of apps available across the internet.
Beware of Big Brother
Why limit yourself! Most importantly, avoid pirating apps, as doing so is unethical. Try and be as legit as you can. Sideloading apps isn’t illegal if you’ve got the .apk from a trusted and verified source. Be careful who you trust, though. For all you know, you are being watched.