How to transfer apps to your Android phone

When you’re looking for a new app to dedicate hours of your life to, the first place you go is the Google Play Store. This is understandable; the Play Store has tons of apps and games you can sink your teeth into. However, the beauty of Android is the ability to transfer apps to your phone.

Sideloading apps is an important part of the Android experience, and if you want to dive deeper into it, here’s a handy guide to get you started. We’ll look at how to sideload an app, but we’ll also look at what makes it great, what makes it dangerous, and how to stay safe while doing so. So let’s get started.

What is sideloading?

A guide on how to sideload apps wouldn’t really be helpful unless you know what sideloading is. As mentioned before, most people who use Android use the Google Play Store to download their apps. It’s an extremely secure store packed full of apps. However, it is not the only option for downloading apps.

You can install apps from different sources. There are other stores that allow you to download APK files installed by Android. They may come from third-party app stores installed on your device or from the Internet.

Sideloading happens when you install an app that isn’t from the proprietary app store. In this case we are talking about the Google Play Store. Therefore, when you download from the Galaxy Store, Amazon Store, Palm Store or any other store, it is sideloading. Installing an APK found on the Internet is also sideloading.

How to transfer apps to your Android phone

Now that you know what sideloading is, let’s talk about how to do it. Sideloading apps is a little different than installing apps through the Play Store. Downloading apps from the Play Store is as easy as hitting the install button. When it comes to sideloading apps, there are a few additional steps.

Enabling installations from unknown sources

Before you can sideload an app, your system must allow installations from unknown sources. Google refers to any app that doesn’t come from the Play Store as an app from an unknown source.

Since this is Android, the process of changing this setting may vary depending on the company that built your phone. In this guide, we’ll show you how to do this using stock Android, as most phones default to stock or near-stock Android.

Go to your settings and go to Apps page. There, scroll to the bottom and click on the Special App Access button. On the resulting page, tap Install unknown apps button. This is where you will be able to choose the app that can install apps from unknown sources. Make sure you choose the file manager you use to view the APK. Enable the setting.

Download in progress

After activating it, you are free to download the app and install it. When you actually download the app, you may receive a message that this file may be harmful to your device. Depending on where you are downloading the app, this could be true or false.

The thing is, Google 100% doesn’t like you downloading apps that aren’t from the Play Store. Therefore, the company posts that message to discourage you from downloading the APK. However, if you are downloading the app from a trusted source like APK Mirror and know that it is harmless, you are free to ignore the message and download it.

Installing update

After downloading the app, all you have to do is tap on the APK file. The system will give you the option to install the app or cancel it. Tap Install and you will see the system install the app. After that, the only remaining step is to enjoy the app!

When it comes time to update the app, it won’t automatically update like an app does via the Play Store. You may see a notification through the app itself letting you know that you need to update the app. When you choose to update it, the app will download the updated APK file. After that you will have to press the update button to install the update.

The dangers of sideloading apps

So, it’s easy to transfer apps to your Android phone, but it can turn into a nightmare if you’re not smart about it. The fact is, it can be dangerous. Google puts a lot of time and effort into making sure every app you download is safe. Malicious apps definitely creep in, but the problem would be exponentially worse if it weren’t for Play Protect.

When you sideload an app, you don’t have that protection; your safety is in the hands of the app store you are downloading from. If you download from the Galaxy Store, you’re as protected as Samsung lets you be. This means that if you are downloading an APK from a small website you discovered on the Internet, there is very little chance that it has been scanned or checked to make sure it is safe.

When sideloading apps, it’s best to stick with reputable storefronts that are committed to app management. If you are not, you run the risk of downloading malware. Considering that you keep a lot of sensitive data on your phone, it’s best not to let this happen. If you transfer an app to your phone and notice strange behavior from your device, uninstall it immediately.

Benefits of sideloading apps

Sideloading apps can be scary, but there are benefits to installing apps this way. For starters, it allows you to install apps outside of the Google Play Store. Sure, there are a huge number of apps on the Play Store, but not every app will have them. Expanding into other app stores will help you discover apps you’ve never seen before. Who knows what gems you will find?

Another advantage is the rediscovery of old apps. No app stays on the Play Store forever; companies decide to remove their apps from the list when they have achieved their purpose. When an app is listed, it won’t appear in the Play Store and you won’t be able to download it.

Well, if that app’s APK has been extracted and uploaded to an Android APK website, you can still transfer it to your phone. There are tons of old apps on different sites and storefronts. Being removed from the Play Store doesn’t mean you can’t install it on your device. Just know that if the app requires an internet connection, you may not be able to play it. Most likely, if a company deletes an app, it will also shut down its servers.

Finally, sideloading lets you reinstall older versions of your favorite apps. Some stores have multiple versions of the same app. Every time the developer releases a new version of the app on the Play Store, people will extract the APK for that version and upload it to the storefront.

Now, if the company releases an update that removes one of your favorite features or creates a broken experience, you can install an older version of that app. You can install the version before the update and continue using it normally.

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an expert in Apple iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks. With a deep understanding of Apple products, I have been assisting individuals and businesses in optimizing their Apple device experiences for years. Beyond my tech prowess, I am the proud founder of a Global (Expat) Online Gamers Advisory Firm, where I provide guidance and support to fellow gamers worldwide. As a long-time Playstation player, I am currently immersing myself in the world of gaming on the PS5. In addition to my tech and gaming passions, I am an IT professional, an armchair physicist, and a jester at heart, always ready to bring a smile to those around me.