How To Download Apps on Android Without Google Play
If you are an Android user, the Google Play Store is the most secure and convenient way to get apps, but not to take that notion as perfectly safe and secure. Google has security holes, too, as proven with all the deleted malware and spyware apps in 2020 that copied other apps, changed their names, and injected malware. However, there are several ways to obtain what you need if you despise the Play Store, or it doesn’t have the app you desire.
This article will explain how to download your Android apps from sources other than Google Play.
Modify the Settings
The Android operating system doesn’t allow you to download any apps outside of Play Store by default. After all, why would Google want that option? Since all other methods are not as reliable, you should venture beyond the Play Store with care.
Before you start sideloading apps, you have to modify the system settings on your Android device. There are two different methods, depending on your Android version.
Method 1: Install from Unknown Sources in Android 8.0 Oreo or Newer
- Go to the “Settings” in your app menu.
- Find and select the “Apps & notifications” menu.
- Tap “Advanced.”
- Select “Special app access.”
- Tap “Install unknown apps.”
- Choose the internet browser that you will use for the third-party stores.
- Turn on “Allow from this source.”
The above steps enable your browser to get apps from sources other than Google Play. Android 8+ controls the installation permissions through individual apps rather than all of them at once, so you need to allow the browser to perform installations.
Method 2: Install from Unknown Sources in Android 7.0 Nougat, 6.0 Marshmallow, or Older
With older Android versions (7.0 Nougat or lower), the system doesn’t split the sources. Instead, you have to trigger an option for downloading files from all available sources.
- Go to “Settings” from the menu.
- Tap “Security.”
- Turn on “Unknown Sources.”
Using the above steps, you will have access to any APKs you want to install, as long as they are compatible with your device. This option can put your device at risk since it allows all unknown sources to store files rather than on an app-by-app basis. If your smartphone is not protected enough, it could get infected.
NOTE: You CAN disable unknown sources after the third-party installation is complete. However, updates for the app may require the option to be enabled again.
Where to Sideload an APK file
An Android Package Kit (APK) is an executable file that installs an Android app. The Play Store downloads and installs them automatically for you. When using the sideloading technique, you will have to find a suitable repository.
The Top Four Android Third-Party App Stores/Repositories
- APK Mirror is a reliable website where you can find legal APKs. Most of them are older versions of current Play Store apps. They are entirely legal to download and usually risk-free.
- Aptoide is a gigantic APK database where you can find stuff that doesn’t exist on the Play Store. This place is decentralized and presents potential security risks, so you should always double-check each download before opening the file.
- Amazon’s official Appstore offers countless paid and free apps. You can also get some premium apps for free with specific Amazon giveaways and promotions.
- APKPure has more categories than Google play Store and carries many popular apps, such as TikTok, PUB Mobile, etc. There are many filters to choose from, and it features a friendly 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. Occasionally, the APK will save into your smartphone’s download folder, which you can activate yourself, assuming you were not prompted to install the app.
To access the default download folder on most Android versions, do the following:
- Tap on your default file explorer app from within the app menu.
- Navigate to the “Downloads” folder. Here you will find all of your latest downloaded files.
- Click on the app’s APK file to start the installation process. Follow the prompts.
NOTE: Android cleaning apps may delete APK files by default to save space. If you use one, be sure to exclude your download folder or APKs in general.
In closing, the potential risks of installing third-party applications are 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 is not bulletproof when it comes to security. Regardless, you may not have a choice if you are looking for an app that is not available on the Play Store.
Common APK Installation FAQs
Why would you want to install apps outside of the Play Store?
One reason to use a third-party app store in Android is that certain apps do not comply with Google Play’s terms and requirements, but that does not mean that they are risky or dangerous. Another common reason is that the developer saves money using third-party app stores. After all, Google obtains a big chunk of commissions and other expenses, partially because of its dominance in the operating system. Regardless, there is still a risk whenever you install an app outside of Google Play. Downloading an app from places other than Google Play is referenced as sideloading.
Recently, interest in sideloading rose again with the global popularity of the game Fortnite. The game is available for Android, but you need to download it from the official website instead of the Play Store. Of course, this decision was by choice due to Google’s policies and costs.
How Safe Are APK Files?
APK files are generally safe if you download them from reliable sources. For example, APK mirror contains secure APK files, but they are older versions of Play Store apps.
On the other hand, Aptoide is an open-source downloader that isn’t screened or controlled. Therefore, malicious files can slip through there.
You can always scan the file with an antivirus app on your device before you open it. However, the reliability of an antivirus scan is never 100%, and each security app has different detection methods and threat databases.