You may have heard about sideloading and APK files before. All it really means is installing an app from outside the Google Play Store, or, in the case of an Amazon device like a Fire tablet, installing an app from outside of the Amazon Appstore.
Sideloading is bypassing the usual app store and APK stands for Android Package Kit, which is the file format used by the Android operating system for distribution and installation of mobile apps.
There are various reasons you might want to sideload an APK. Perhaps there is an app or version of an app that you can’t get from the Google Play Store, maybe you want to try out an alternative Android app store, or perhaps you’re seeking access to Google’s goodies on an Amazon device. Luckily, it’s relatively easy to do, but before we explain how, here is a quick word on security.
Whether you believe Android is insecure or not, it’s still wise to take precautions and be careful. The Google Play Store has several security measures in place and apps are scanned to try and prevent malware from spreading. That may not be the case with an alternative app store or with a website or forum hosting an APK file.
Consider installing one of the best Android security apps to reduce your risk of malware and be wary of the source of your APK.
How to allow installation from “Unknown sources”
By default, your Android device won’t allow the installation of apps from outside of the legitimate App Store, whether that’s the Google Play Store or the Amazon Appstore. The steps for removing this protection are slightly different on different devices, but here are a few examples:
On most Android phones, you should pull down the notification shade and tap the gear icon to enter Settings, then find Security and scroll down to Unknown sources. Tap to toggle on Allow installation of apps from sources other than Google Play Store and tap OK in the box that pops up.
On a Samsung Galaxy go to Settings > Lock screen and security > Unknown sources to Allow installation of apps from sources other than Google Play Store and tap OK in the box that pops up.
On an Amazon Fire tablet go to Settings > Security and toggle on Apps from Unknown Sources to Allow installation of applications that are not from Appstore and tap OK in the pop-up box.
On an LG phone go to Settings > General > Fingerprints & security and toggle on Unknown sources to Allow installation of apps from sources other than Google Play Store and tap Allow in the box that pops up.
How to get APK file onto your phone
The easiest way to get the APK onto your phone is to navigate to the trusted source on your phone and download it directly. Most Android phones have a built-in files organizer now, and by default, the APK file will go into the Downloads folder.
On a Samsung Galaxy, you will see an app called My Files in the app drawer. On an LG phone, there should be an app called File Manager. On a Lenovo Moto phone, you should see an icon for Downloads in the app drawer.
If you can’t find a files or downloads option on your device, then install a free file manager app — we recommend ES File Explorer File Manager.
How to install an APK
Once you have found the APK file all you need do is tap on it to trigger the install screen. Review the permissions and tap Install if you want to go ahead with it.
When the app is installed, we recommend going back to the settings on your phone and toggling Unknown sources back off again. You may also want to navigate back to the APK file and delete it to keep things nice and tidy.