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Get Android Applications Without Using the Android Market

written by: Daniel Kolobaric•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 5/19/2011

Ever wondered how to properly sideload Android applications? Look no further as this guide explains in detail how to do it the simple way, as well as suggesting some alternative tools that make your sideloading life a bit easier.

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    The most common method of installing Android applications on your phone is through the Android Market (or Web Market). What makes Android unique, however, is that applications can also be sideloaded. What is sideloading exactly you wonder and how do I properly do it? Read on to find out!

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    The Simple Method

    Sideloading an Android App Using File Explorer (Astro) Android applications are packaged in an APK container. This is also the easiest method of recognizing an Android application. What sideloading essentially means is the installation of Android applications from any other source besides the Android Market. We have previously discussed alternative Android app stores as a means of finding Android applications. However, true sideloading means the manual installation of APK files, from whatever source that may be.

    The simplest method to sideload Android apps is by copying the APK files to the SD card. One important precondition here is that your Android device allows sideloading. To enable this setting, browse to Settings, then Applications and ‘Development Settings’. Here you have to allow installation from ‘Unknown Sources’. Afterwards the steps are as follows:

    1. Connect your device to your computer via USB and use it as a mass storage device to allow interaction with the device’s SD card.
    2. Copy the APK file to the desired location on the SD card.
    3. Unplug the phone.
    4. Make sure to use a File Explorer application and browse to the location of the APK. Any of the file explorer apps that are available in the Android Market will work.
    5. Press or long-press (depending on the file explorer app) the APK file and select ‘install’.
    6. Follow the on-screen steps for installation of the APK.
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    Using Dropbox

    Sideloading Android Apps Using Dropbox The above-described method is the most straightforward and unaided method to use. For Dropbox users, there is an even easier method. The steps using Dropbox for Android are as follows:

    1. Copy the downloaded Android APK to any folder within your Dropbox folder, as long as it gets uploaded.
    2. Wait for the upload to complete and use Dropbox for Android to browse to the location where the APK is saved.
    3. Select the APK and let Dropbox finish the download. Afterwards follow the on-screen instructions to installing the Android app.

    Using Dropbox for this purpose entirely omits the need to plug in your device as your computer gets synchronized with your phone.

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    Alternative Methods and Tools

    Sideload Android Wonder Machine by Android Central Although the practice of sideloading Android applications is not necessarily too difficult there are custom tools available to ease the process a bit. An interesting tool is called the ‘Sideload Wonder Machine’, developed by Android Central. You can use this tool to sideload apps as follows:

    1. Download the application from here. Install it on your Mac, Windows or Linux computer.
    2. Make sure that your phone’s drivers are installed for the computer to recognize it. Also make sure the USB Debugging setting is turned on, on your Android device.
    3. Start the Sideload Wonder Machine and select ‘Choose a File’ to search for your APK file.
    4. Once your APK file is loaded and your phone connected to your computer select ‘Go’.
    5. Now Sideload Wonder Machine will automatically install the APK on your phone so that you are ready to use the app straight away.

    The Sideload Wonder Machine is perhaps the easiest method to use. It is not only designed to just provide for the easy sideloading of apps but also to allow for sideloading in cases where your carrier has made it impossible to do so. This method works for both rooted and unrooted devices.

    Note. Rooted Android device users can also opt for Droid Explorer, which allows for batch installing APK files as well.

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    The Openess of Android

    The ability to sideload application is what distinguishes the Android mobile platform from other, more restricted, mobile systems. Although Google would ideally want you to stick to the Android Market, there is no denying the openness of Android. Not all developers offer their applications through the Android Market and some users are not capable of purchasing paid applications at all. For those and many other users the ability to install those apps using another method is truly a major benefit of the platform as a whole and a compelling reason to chose Android.

    Note. Have you found any other method of sideloading Android apps? Share it in the comments section!

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    • Astro File Manager,
    • Dropbox for Android,
    • Sideload Wonder Tool,
    • Droid Explorer,
    • All Screenshots by the author, except for Sideload Wonder Tool, courtesy of Android Central