Updated on November 15th, 2016 by Riley J. Dennis.
There are a ton of apps available to install on Android, no matter how you look at it. A large amount of apps are freely available for anyone in the world with an internet connection. However, there are a few apps that are extremely useful but not available in all countries. Or maybe you’ll be in an area for a long period of time where you won’t have internet access.
Or the app you want might not even be found in the Google Play Store. No matter what the issue at hand is, it’d be great if you could manually install (or side load), apps onto your Android device. But how do you do this?
What Will We Be Doing?
In a quick summary, the easiest way to get apps onto your phone is to download the app itself in APK format and transfer it via a USB cable to your device’s internal memory or SD card. From there, you can use a file browser to open it and have the Android system install the app. The entire process is rather simple, but it does require a couple of steps, especially when you’re doing it for the first time.
Getting the APK File
First, you’ll need to download the APK file of the app that you’d like to install — and to do that, you’ll have to find it. APKMirror is a popular source for all kinds of apps. Amazon’s app store needs to be downloaded from its website. Just make sure you trust the website you’re getting it from, because apps installed from locations outside the Play Store is the number 1 cause of malware on Android.
So you can search the internet for the app’s APK, but be wary of any sketchy-looking sites. If you’ve had the app installed before or have a friend who does, you can also often get the APK through backup software like Titanium Backup.
Once you have the APK file in hand, go ahead and connect your device to your computer and enable mass storage or mount the SD card to the computer like you usually do. Then copy the APK file over to the device; it doesn’t matter where you put it as long as you remember the location. Then don’t forget to safely unmount before you move on to actually installing.
Before you can actually install the APK file, you’ll need to tell your device that it can install any apps outside of the Play Store without throwing a fit. You can find this switch under Settings > Security > Unknown Sources.
Once this is enabled, you’re clear to fire up your favorite file browser, locate the APK file, and open it. Android should take over, identifying that the APK file is an app, and ask you whether you’d like to go ahead and install it, all permissions accounted for. After a couple seconds, your app should be installed and ready to go!
Did That Work for You?
Assuming you can find an APK, you shouldn’t have any problems whatsoever getting that app installed on your Android device. There are other ways to manually install Android apps (such as transferring the APK file via Bluetooth instead of a USB cable), but the USB method is the easiest and most commonly used.
This sideloading method will also work for any other files you might want to transfer from your computer to your phone — including photos, videos, documents, etc. Sideloading is just fancy Android speak for transferring a file to your Android phone or tablet.
Do you regularly install an app manually? Are there certain apps you need that can only be installed manually? Let us know in the comments!