Your Android device is missing out on a whole world of new features if you only install apps from the Google Play Store. Android allows you to sideload apps from anywhere, unlike Apple’s iOS.

No matter how experienced you are with Android, sideloading is a useful tool to know. You’ll learn how to sideload third-party apps on Android and some safety concerns you should be aware of.

What Is Sideloading?

You can sideload apps and other files from sources other than the Google Play Store on your Android device. Most people use the term “sideloading” to refer to apps, but other media can also be sideloaded. Also, the process of sideloading apps involves downloading an APK file (Android’s installer package format) and manually installing it.

Since Android is an open platform, you’re generally free to install apps from wherever you want. An alternative Android app store to Google Play, such as F-Droid or the Amazon Appstore, can be installed if you don’t like Google Play. These app stores cannot be downloaded from Google Play, so you’ll need to find them elsewhere.

Downloading the APK files or app bundles

Official and unofficial app bundles exist. AAB is the official Android app bundle format, introduced by Google in 2018. From August 2021, all new Android apps must be published in AAB in the Google Play store. An AAB package can also be converted to an APK set archive, which uses the .apks file extension.

APKPure and APKMirror have created their own app bundles called APKM and XAPK, respectively, which are unofficial app bundles. Each bundle contains a base APK file and multiple resource bundles for different architectures, layouts, and languages.

How to Sideloading/installing the APK

Sideloading apps is a pretty simple process. Below are the three most popular methods. In most cases, apps installed outside of Google Play will not receive automatic updates. Alternatively, you can manually download the latest versions from a third-party app store.

Installing APKs directly on Android

Android allows you to sideload apps directly from your browser. You can download APKs by visiting a page that offers them.  you’ll see a warning that the APK could harm your device.

Upon downloading, you’ll see a banner with a shortcut to open it. Once you tap Open, the app will be installed. Further, you can reach it by tapping the Download notification or opening your Downloads app. The app can be opened like any other app once it has been installed.

Install app bundles Split APKs /APKM File

 You need to download and install the APKMirror Installer on your device to intall the split Apk. You can be downloaded and installed here

  1. Once APKMirror Installer is launched, tap on the Browse File button.
  2. Select the APKM file.
  3. At the bottom right, tap the Install package button.
  4. It will now load the APKM file and display all the corresponding APK files within that bundle. Make sure none of the APK files are unchecked (until the developer explicitly states so).
  5. Tap the Install app button at the bottom.
  6. APKMirror Installer will now take you to the Install Unknown App page. Hit the back button once after enabling the toggle next to Allow from this source.
  7. You will now see a popup box, click Install to begin the installation process.
  8. You will be notified once the installation has been completed. Launch the newly installed app by tapping the Open app button.

Installing app bundles with Split APKs Installer (SAI) 

You can Install the APKM and XAPK app bundles by Using Split APKs Installer.

  1. Download and install the SAI app from the Google Play store to install an APKM or XAPK app bundle.
  2. On the bottom of SAI, tap the Install APKs icon.
    sideload Android Apps
  3. To locate the app bundle, you can use either the app’s internal file picker or the system’s file picker.
    sideload Android Apps
  4. Your device will now be automatically selected from the bundle based on the resources in the bundle. The auto-selected resources will work in most cases. The resources can also be manually selected if you think something is wrong.
    sideload Android Apps
  5. You’ll have to allow the app to ‘install apps from unknown sources’ if this is your first time installing an app bundle through SAI.
    sideload Android Apps
  6. The app will be installed on your phone once you tap on Install again for confirmation.
    sideload Android Apps
  7. Click on Install to begin.
    sideload Android Apps
Split APKs Installer (SAI)
Split APKs Installer (SAI)

ReadMore: How to Sideload an Android app on Windows 11 using WSATool