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How to install third-party apps without the Google Play Store
Android is, for the most part, an open platform. You can use the Google Play Store to install apps and games, or you can go off the reservation and install APKs on your own. It’s not a practice we recommend. Google Play has so many security measures that it’s actually difficult to mess up your phone while using it.
That said, some folks may want to do it anyway for various reasons. There are currently two methods to install third-party apps without the Play Store. The first is through third-party app stores like F-Droid, Amazon’s App Store, and others. You can even install the Google Play Store, if your phone doesn’t have it! We have a list of the best app stores if you need it. The second is to download and do it yourself. Here’s how to do both.
Download the APK you want to install and tap the notification to begin the installation. Go into your Settings at the prompt and toggle on Allow from this source. Then, tap on Install. Alternatively, use a file browser to initiate installation, give the file browser permission to install APKs, and it should install fine.
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Editor’s note: Unless otherwise stated, these instructions were formulated using a Google Pixel 7 running Android 13. Some steps may differ depending on your device and software version.
How to install third-party APKs
Before we start, here’s how Google does this. It requires you to give specific permission to install APKs from the app initiating the installation. So, for example, if you use your browser to download the APK file and then tap the download notification, you’ll need to give your browser permission to install the APK. Similarly, if you use a file browser, you’ll need to give permissions specifically for the file browser.
How to install an APK on Android:
- Find the APK you want to download and then download it.
- Find the downloaded APK file. Select it to initiate the installation. Any file browser will do.
- You’ll receive a warning at the bottom of the phone letting you know that you must give that app permission to install the file.
- Tap the Settings button to proceed.
- On the next page, you’ll be asked to allow the app to make APK installs. In our case, it’s the Files by Google app. Toggle on Allow from this source.
- A prompt should pop up, giving you the option to Install the app. Go ahead and follow the instructions to install.
- Note — Sometimes, you may need to initiate installation again. For example, if you tap the notification and use your browser to do it, you sometimes need to tap the notification again to get the install prompt after giving the app permission.
From there, it works like any other app. You’ll find it in your app drawer, where you can open it and use it as you usually would. Some apps may not install due to device compatibility issues, and there isn’t much we can do about that. Otherwise, it’s pretty straightforward.
How to revoke installation permissions
You may want to revoke permissions after installing a third-party app, so no additional apps get installed without your knowledge. Most apps, like Firefox or Amazon, generally don’t abuse the privilege, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Here’s how to revoke permissions for app installations:
- Launch the Settings app.
- Go into Apps.
- Tap on Special app access.
- Select Install unknown apps.
- Find and select the app you want to revoke the permission for. For this tutorial, we will use Chrome.
- Toggle off Allow from this source.
How to install and use third-party app stores
Third-party app stores are the easiest way to install third-party APKs from outside the Google Play Store. Unfortunately, you’ll need to install a third-party app store in order to do it, but after that, it’s remarkably easy.
- Download the third-party app store of your choice and install it using the above method. It is a third-party APK, so you have to install it like one.
- Once the store is installed, open it up and surf for an app you want. Download the app and install it.
- When you click install, you’ll get the same warning from the previous steps about granting the app permission to install other apps.
- Hit the Settings button and toggle on Allow from this source.
- Return to the app and attempt to install an app again. This time, it should work.
You only have to go through this setup process one time. The app store should download and install apps without issue as long as you have the permission enabled for the store.
How to install APKs pre-Android 8.0 Oreo
- Download the APK you want to install and ensure you have a file browser installed.
- Navigate into your phone settings. Tap on the Security option.
- Scroll down until you see Unknown sources and check the box.
- Open your file browser and navigate to your download folder where the APK is. Tap the APK and follow the instructions to install the app.
- Once done, return to your settings and untick the Unknown sources box to prevent any additional unwanted installations.
Not every Android device can run every app. Most apps should work fine. However, for example, you can’t just install Samsung’s App Store on any phone. It requires a Samsung phone.
Actually, yes. Use the app Send files to TV (Google Play) to get the APK from your phone to your TV. Then, use a file browser on your TV to install the APK. You’ll need to grant permission to install unknown files, just like on a phone.
The most likely answer is that the app isn’t compatible with your device. Check your source to make sure there isn’t a different version you can try.
Not really. You trade the quality of Google Play’s ecosystem for freedom from Google’s ecosystem. A few app stores do better in some ways. For instance, F-Droid is great for open-source apps. However, by and large, Google Play is tied into Android and works the best with it.
The process of installing APK files manually is only slightly different on Samsung phones. You’ll also need to allow installation from unknown sources. Go to Settings > Apps, tap on the three-dot menu button, and select Special access. Select Install unknown apps and toggle on the apps you want to allow to install APK files.