Google Play Store is the easiest and safest way to download apps to your device. However, sometimes there are reasons to install apps from other sources, as is the case with Fortnite for Android for example. Or you might just be looking for an app that you can’t find on Google Play or your local version. Whatever the reason, if you can find the APK, you can install it via sideloading. Read on to find out how.
Setting up your device
While there may be slight variations in where you’ll find this setting on your Android phone, it’s usually buried in the Security & privacy or Apps menu. These are the most common paths on Android Oreo:
- Go to settings.
- Find the Security & privacy option and tap on it.
- Scroll down and look for ‘install from unknown apps’. If not, try under ‘more’.
- You should be presented with a list of applications. Find your browser – Chrome, for example.
- Tap it and then select ‘Allow from this source’.
On most HTC phones (and some other devices) follow these steps instead:
- Open Applications then select application configuration.
- Scroll down. Find and tap advanced options or access special apps.
- Scroll to the bottom of the dedicated app access menu, where you can find the ‘install unknown apps’ option.
- Find your browser, (eg Chrome), tap it and select ‘Allow from this source’.
If you are still having trouble finding this option in the settings, you can simply use the search option and type ‘unknown’, which will save you time.
By ticking ‘allow from this source’, you should be able to install the downloaded APK file from your browser. You can always go back to the settings menu and disallow this, once you’ve finished installing the APK of your choice. Please note that there are additional security requests or instructions to allow installation of files from unknown sources on some devices or earlier versions of Android.
What are the risks of sideloading?
There’s a reason why installing APKs from unknown sources is disabled by default on Android: it’s not inherently safe to download random APKs from the web and install them on your phone. While that may seem counterintuitive to provide guidance on how to install from outside Google Play, as long as you know (and trust) where your app is coming from.
The efficacy of anti-viruses has long been debated, but if you think they are useful on an Android device, they often scan apps before you install them, providing another potential line of defense.
By leaving the installation of all unknown apps by default, you open the door for malware-infected or malicious apps to secretly download other malware silently in the background. If you don’t allow by default and only allow on a case-by-case basis, there’s much less risk than this.
Download and install APK
In this case, WhatsApp provides its own direct download page which you can visit on your desktop and then transfer the file to your phone, or visit it on your phone’s browser (requesting the desktop site from your browser settings) and then download it directly to your device.
Once downloaded, you can check Downloads in the app drawer and select the downloaded APK file. Clicking on that will start the installation process, and if required, will ask you to allow the app permissions to continue.
Sideloading APK from PC
Many apps cannot be downloaded directly from the company that makes them. In that case, you’ll want to check out one of the trusted app repositories like APKMirror. From there you can download manually vetted apps that use the same digital signature as apps on Google Play.
Where to get APKs?
If you can’t find what you’re looking for on the Play Store or APKmirror, there are alternative app repositories out there. Please search on Google.
Have you tried installing apps from outside the Google Play Store? Let us know what happened in the comments below!
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