If you are an Android user, the Google Play Store is the safest and most convenient way to get apps. Google also has security vulnerabilities, as evidenced by all the malware and spyware apps removed in 2022 that copied other apps, changed their names, and injected malware. However, there are several ways to get what you need if you despise the Play Store or it doesn't have the app you want.
This article explains how to download your Android apps from sources other than Google Play.
Modify the parameters
The Android operating system does not allow you to download apps outside of the Play Store by default. After all, why would Google want this option? Since all other methods are not so reliable, you should venture beyond the Play Store with caution.
Before you start sideloading apps, you need to change the system settings of your Android device. There are several different methods, depending on your Android version. We'll go over the methods for the different versions below.
Method 1: Install from unknown sources in Android 10
- Swipe down from the top of your screen and tap the Settings cog.
- Scroll down and tap "Biometrics and security".
- Tap "Install unknown apps".
- Tap the app you'll use to download the files.
- Tap the toggle switch next to "Allow from this source."
Method 2: Install from unknown sources in Android 8.0 Oreo
- Go to "Settings" in your app's menu.
- Find and select the "Applications and notifications" menu.
- Tap " Advanced. »
- Select “Special app access. »
- Tap “Install unknown apps. »
- Choose the Internet browser you will use for third-party stores.
- Light up “Allow from this source. »
The above steps allow your browser to get apps from sources other than Google Play. Android 8 controls installation permissions through individual apps rather than all at once, so you need to allow the browser to perform installations.
Method 3: Install from unknown sources in Android 7.0 Nougat, 6.0 Marshmallow or earlier
With older versions of Android (7.0 Nougat or lower), the system does not split sources. Instead, you should trigger an option to download files from all available sources.
- Go to "Settings" from the menu.
- Tap " Security. »
- Light up “Sources unknown. »
By following the steps above, you will have access to any APK you wish to install, as long as they are compatible with your device. This option can put your device at risk because it allows all unknown sources to store files rather than on an app-by-app basis. If your smartphone is not sufficiently protected, it could be infected.
NOTE: You CAN disable Unknown Sources after the third-party installation is complete. However, app updates may require the option to be re-enabled.
Where to sideload an APK file
An Android Package Kit (APK) is an executable file that installs an Android application. The Play Store automatically downloads and installs them for you. When using the sideloading technique, you will need to find an appropriate repository.
Top Four Android Third-Party App Stores/Repositories
- APK Mirror is a reliable website where you can find legal APKs. Most of them are old versions of current Play Store apps. They are completely legal to download and generally risk-free.
- Aptoide is a gigantic APK database where you can find things that don't exist on the Play Store. This place is decentralized and has potential security risks, so you should always double-check every download before opening the file.
- The official Amazon Appstore offers countless paid and free apps. You can also get premium apps for free with specific Amazon freebies and promotions.
- APKPure has more categories than Google Play Store and offers many popular apps, such as TikTok, PUB Mobile, etc. There are plenty of filters to choose from and an easy-to-use Graphical User Interface (GUI).
Where to find sideloaded APK files
Most APK downloaders like Aptoide or APKPure will automatically install the app once you download it, just like the Play Store. From time to time, the APK will be saved in your smartphone's download folder, which you can activate yourself, assuming you weren't prompted to install the app.
To access the default downloads folder on most versions of Android, follow these steps:
- Tap your default file explorer app from the app menu.
- Navigate to the "Downloads" case. Here you will find all your latest uploaded files.
- Click on the APK file of the application to start the installation process. Follow the prompts.
NOTE: Android cleaner apps may delete default APK files to save space. If you use one, be sure to exclude your download folder or APKs in general.
In conclusion, the potential risks of installing third-party apps is why Android does not allow you to download files from unknown sources by default. Google Play Store is still the most reliable way to get your apps, but it's not bulletproof when it comes to security. Either way, you might not have a choice if you are looking for an app that is not available on the Play Store.
The Galaxy Store
Samsung users have an alternative to Google Play Store called Galaxy Store. When you don't want to use the Google Play Store, you can go to the Galaxy Store and download your favorite apps without having to install an .APK.
To download the apps, just locate the one you want and tap the download icon. Then you will find the app in your app drawer.
Common APK Installation FAQs
The Android operating system has a lot of features. Especially when it comes to installing apps. We've included this section to look at some of the most frequently asked questions.
Why would you want to install apps outside of the Play Store?
One of the reasons for using a third-party app store on Android is that some apps do not comply with Google Play's terms and requirements, but that doesn't mean they are risky or unsafe. Another common reason is that the developer saves money by using third-party app stores. After all, Google gets a lot of the commissions and other expenses, partly because of its dominance in the operating system. Anyway, there is always a risk every time you install an app outside of Google Play. Downloading an app from places other than Google Play is called sideloading.
Recently, the interest in sideloading has increased again with the worldwide popularity of Fortnite game. The game is available for Android, but you have to download it from the official site instead of the Play Store. Of course, this decision was made by choice due to Google's policies and costs.
How secure are APK files?
APK files are generally safe if you download them from trusted sources. For example, APK mirror contains secure APK files, but these are older versions of Play Store apps.
On the other hand, Aptoide is an open source downloader which is neither filtered nor controlled. Therefore, malicious files can slip into it.
You can always scan the file with an antivirus application on your device before opening it. However, an antivirus scan is never 100% reliable and each security application has different detection methods and threat databases.
What if I accidentally deleted the Google Play Store?
Luckily, it's only possible to disable the Google Play Store and not actually delete it. If you don't see the Google Play Store in your app drawer, you need to go to your settings and enable it again. To do this, tap "Apps" and then "Disabled" to quickly locate the Google Play Store. Tap it, then tap "Enable."