How to Side Load an App on an Android Tablet

Last Edited: October 8, 2017 | Published: October 8, 2017 by

We all know that the Google Play Store has more apps in it than you can shake a stick at. In fact, it has more apps than any other App Store out there, including Apple. Still, that doesn’t mean that every app that has been created for Android is available on that store. There are many great apps out there that don’t come to the Play Store. So how do you get them? Thankfully, Google has made it easy for you to load whatever app you want on your Android tablet.

Why Aren’t They Available?

There are many reasons why apps don’t make it to the Play Store. Here are some of the most common reasons below:

  1. The Developer never bothered going through the approval process to get it listed.
  2. The App exists in a gray area that prevents it from being on the Play Store but doesn’t make it illegal.
  3. Google prevents the app from being listed because of their policies. Some Google apps even fall in this category such as apps designed specifically for Google devices.
  4. The apps are bad or contain illegal content.

A Word of Warning

Before you begin, I must caution you. Sometimes, apps don’t make it to the Play Store for good reason. Ultimately, you don’t know what someone has done to the APK file that’s used to install apps on your Android device. So you must use caution. These apps have been known to contain spyware and viruses that can steal your information and really ruin your experience using your tablet. Make sure you trust the site where you are getting the app from and make sure it is a legitimate version of the app before you download and install it. Don’t just download them from anywhere.

Safe Places to Find Apps

A simple Google search will turn up a lot of results for APK files you can download and install. Some of my favorites are:

This is by no means a be all, end all list. There are many other great sources for APK files online. These, however, only list apps that can be trusted. Remember, if you aren’t sure, don’t install it. But any app listed on these sites should be perfectly safe.

Side Load an App

Learning how to side load an app is easy and only takes a few taps and swipes of your finger to do it. To install an app that’s not on the Play Store, you will need to download an APK file from the Internet and then manually install it. Don’t worry, the process is very easy to do.

1. Enable Unknown Sources

By default, you won’t be able to install APK files until you make a little settings change on your Android tablet. Where this setting is will vary from tablet to tablet, but on most you will be able to find it by tapping on Settings and then tapping on Lock screen and security. Some tablets may list it as just Security. Still, it should be easy enough to find.

Once there, look for a choice called Unknown sources and switch it on. This will allow you to install APK files and even download from other third party store.

2. Download and Install the App

Now for the fun part. Visit one of the sites I suggested above or go find your favorite APK file. Download the file. When the download completes, open up your File Manager app of choice and then tap on the file. It will run and ask if you if you want to install the app. Click Install and wait for the installation process to complete. It may take a minute or two if it is a large app, so be patient. Once the installation is finished, you are ready for the next step.

3. Launch the App

Once the app is installed, you want to test it. Tap on your Apps icon on your Home screen and find the new app in your list of apps. Tap on the app and run it. If it runs okay, try using the app for a minute or two to make sure it doesn’t crash or freeze. If the app seems to be in good order, you can proceed to the next step. If it doesn’t, I recommend deleting the app and looking for another one.

4. Add the App to Your Home Screen

Once you have tested the app and it works, it’s time to add it to your Home Screen. To add it to your Home Screen, simply tap on the Apps icon, find the App in your list and then tap and hold it. It will then let you drag and drop it onto an empty location on one of your home screens.

5. Enjoy Your App

Now that you have the app installed and added to your Home screen, you can enjoy the app like any other. Just remember, this app won’t automatically update like your other apps will. You will need to return to where you got the app and manually download the updated versions.

Parting Thoughts

One of the best parts of Android is being able to control what you do with your tablet. Unlike Apple, Google has made it easy for you to install what you want on your Android tablet, whether it is available on the Android store or not. By following this guide, you will find some of the best apps available for Android that never make it to the Play Store. Just be careful where you get your apps, as APK files can contain nefarious software that you don’t want on your tablet.

What apps have you installed on your Android tablet that you couldn’t find in the Play Store? Tell me which ones in the comments below.

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