If you own an Android phone or Android tablet without access to the Android Market (e.g., Amazon Kindle Fire, Barnes & Noble NOOK Tablet, and the like), you’re definitely missing out on a lot. Manufacturers of such devices usually provide their own restricted, limited, and curated repository of Android apps, although the Android Market arguably still has more apps than such restricted markets provide.
However, in most cases, there’s a workaround: sideloading. If you have access to the APK (Android Package) file of an Android app, you can sideload it to your device. Some app developers provide downloadable APKs of their apps. There are also third-party markets that provide downloadable APKs for apps. (Caveat: Use them at your own risk.) Or, you can use a Market-enabled device to install an app from the Android Market, extract the APK of the app through some tech wizardry, and sideload the APK to the non-Market-enabled device.
That’s three or so hoops that you need to jump through. But, thanks to APK Downloader, you won’t need to jump through hoops like those.
APK Downloader, to quote the developer, is “a Google Chrome extension that allows you to download Android APK files from Android Market to your PC.” The description pretty much reveals what APK Downloader does.
All you need to do is install the extension to Google Chrome and configure it a little bit. The extension works in Google Chrome version 17x upwards. See the steps below.
- Open Google Chrome.
- Using Google Chrome, download and install the APK Downloader 1.2 extension.
- Close Google Chrome.
- Create/modify the Google Chrome shortcut/launcher to disable SSL error warnings. According to the extension’s developer, the extension won’t work if you skip this step. Here’s how to do it:
- For Google Chrome on Windows
- Find the Google Chrome shortcut on your Desktop.
- Right-click on the shortcut.
- Select “Properties” from the pop-up menu.
- The shortcut’s Properties window will appear.
- Select the “Shortcut” tab.
- In the target field, replace “chrome.exe” with “chrome.exe –ignore-certificate-errors” (without the quotes).
- Close the Properties window.
- For Google Chrome on Linux
- Open a terminal window.
- Copy and paste this command (without the double quotes) into the terminal window and press the Enter key afterwards: “echo -e ‘#!/bin/bash\ngoogle-chrome –ignore-certificate-errors &’ > run-chrome-ignore-ssl-errors.sh“
- Type the following command (without the double quotes) and press the Enter key afterwards: “chmod +x run-chrome-ignore-ssl-errors.sh“
- For Google Chrome on OS X, see the developer’s instructions here.
- Run Google Chrome with the –ignore-certificate-errors flag:
- On Windows, double-click the shortcut that you modified in a previous step.
- On Linux, type the following on a terminal window (without the double quotes): “./run-chrome-ignore-ssl-errors.sh” and press the Enter key.
- After Google Chrome opens, click the wrench button and select Preferences from the menu. This opens the Preferences tab.
- On the left panel of the Preferences tab, click on Extensions to view the list of installed extensions.
- Locate APK Downloader 1.2 from the list. Click on the “Options” link to open the Options dialog for the extension.
- Fill out the required fields: email, password, and Device ID. To know your Device ID, dial *#*#8255#*#* on your phone. You will see some text displayed on the phone screen. Locate the line beginning with JID–this is your email. Locate the line beginning with Device ID — this is your Android device’s ID (use only the characters after “android-”). Alternatively, you can install the Device ID app and use it to determine your email and Device ID.
- Press the Login button after entering the required fields.
- On the next screen, you need to set your country and mobile carrier. Click the Save Settings button afterwards.
- To download the APK of a free app on the Android Market, just go to the app’s page using Google Chrome, then click the APK Downloader button on the right-most side of the URL bar (right beside the “Bookmark this page” button shaped like a star).
Once you set it up, you can use APK Downloader to fetch the APK file of a free app from the Android Market. Thereafter, you can sideload the APK file to your non-Market-enabled Android phone or Android tablet.