Sometimes, you just can’t find the apps or games you are looking for in the Android market. Problem with Android is that there are a lot of markets out there for apps/games unlike Apple which only has the App Store. Or maybe a friend has some games that he wants to share to you and instead of downloading them from the market which might take time, why not install (also known as sideloading) them directly?
Here’s how you can install APKs (.apks are Android packages) on your Android device directly, bypassing the Market. Be warned though that there exists apps outside the market that would gain access to your private details. Before installing any apps, read the warning as to what phone data the app will be accessing before your decide to push through.
1. Make sure you allow apps from unknown sources to be installed. Go to Settings > Applications and check Unknown sources.
2. Transfer your .apk file to your SD card. You can simply connect it to your PC to copy the files. Or if the file’s not too big, send it to your Dropbox or E-mail and access it from your phone (if you do it this way, no need for step 3).
3. Since I copied a game onto my microSD, I need to access it from the phone. I downloaded a file manager (Astro) and browsed to my APK. Some phones like Samsung already have a built-in file explorer. If you have Documents to Go or any other apps that can open documents, you can also use that.
4. Found your APK? Good, just click it to open.
5. Read the warning. Everything looks kosher? Good? Go ahead and click Install.
That’s it. Your app should appear on your phone ready to use. Feel free to delete the install file (.apk) from your SD card to save space. If you’re downloading APKs from untrusted sources, don’t be surprised if the app or game won’t run properly. That’s what you have to deal with when installing non-Market apps.