You’ve undoubtedly seen the news about Google’s new smartphones, the Pixel and Pixel XL. Perhaps you’ve read a review or two. Maybe you’ve already double-checked your bank account and pre-ordered a unit. No matter which anticipatory stage you’ve reached, take comfort in knowing that some of the Pixel’s best features are based in software. Every Pixel admirer with an Android smartphone at his or her disposal can experience most of those features on the smartphone they already own, with a little patience, dedication, and electronic elbow grease.
No unsanctioned procedure is without risk, of course, and that goes double for a device as indispensable as a smartphone. We can’t stress enough: if “APK” (Android’s app file format) and “sideloading” (shorthand for installing apps from unofficial sources) sound like foreign turns of phrase to you, and if you find the the idea of dealing with instability, missing features, and all-around bugginess the slightest bit unappealing, this guide isn’t for you.
In the interest of covering our bases, there’s the elephant in the room: modified applications. Our guide links to apps that may or may not have been “messed with,” so to speak, at the code level. We’re taking care to source the files from a reputable website, but we can’t guarantee the apps in question don’t contain malicious or damaging code. Downloader be warned.
If none of that’s deterred you and you’re confident in your ability to navigate the technical webs ahead, proceed with caution.
Preparing your Android device
First things first: you’ll need an Android device running Marshmallow 6.0 or newer. You’ll need to prepare it by (1) installing a freely available file explorer (e.g., ES File Explorer), and (2) permitting the installation of apps from third-party sources.
Here’s how to allow the installation of apps from third-party sources:
- Open your device’s Settings menu.
- Scroll down and select the entry with the title Security or Lock screen and security.
- Tick or toggle the Unknown sources option.
- Press OK on the popup.