By default, your Android phone will only install applications from the official Android phone. But with a few simple tweaks, and no hacking involved, you can also enable application installs from unknown sources.
This is not just useful for those of you who have rooted their phones. Software that’s still under construction, such as Mozilla’s Fennec browser, is not yet available in the Android market.
Other software might have long disappeared from the marketplace, or you can install an older version of software that’s readily available, giving your phone’s hardware a much-deserved break and allowing you to cling to classic interfaces.
1. Allow Install of Android Apps From Non-Market Sources
Most importantly, we need to tell Android it’s OK to take candy from strangers. Press the Menu button on your phone and open the Settings pane. About halfway down the list, you’ll find an Applications menu. That’s where we need to be.
Make sure you’ve got the first item in the Applications menu – Unknown sources – ticked. This will allow installation of non-Market software.
Of course, taking candy from strangers can be bad for your health. You’ll be met with a disclaimer, warning you about the risks of installing unknown software and asserting that you yourself will take the blame if your phone gets damaged in the process. Likewise, MakeUseOf will not be held responsible for what you install on your phone – but if you remain suspicious of shady sources, you should be alright.
2. Download (& Transfer) The APK
APK files are Android software installations – similar to the ones you’ll get from the Marketplace. You can find interesting software in the xda-developers forum. There are two different ways of getting those installation files onto your phone. We’ll discuss each one.
The easiest perhaps is to enter the link in your Android browser and download it directly to your phone. If you’re on a wireless network, this will be the fastest and most convenient option. Be careful of downloading it via your carrier, though. With the wrong data plan, you’re possibly looking at ridiculous charges. When the file has finished downloading, tap it to open.
The second method is to download it with your home computer and transfer it to your Android phone over USB. The major drawback here is that you won’t be able to easily locate and install the file later on; you’ll first need to install a file manager. ASTRO File Manager can be downloaded for free (ad-supported) and is available on the Android Market.
Transfer your installation file to a convenient location so you’ll be able to easily reach it on your phone. Fire up ASTRO File Manager and open the APK. When prompted, choose to open it with the App Manager.
You’ll see a summary and some technical details on the application you’re about to install, including the file version, file size, label and description. If you’re absolutely sure you want to install (read: you found the APK in the trustworthy reaches of the web), tap the button, wait, and you’re done.
Tell us how it went, and direct any questions to the comments section below.
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