How to install apps on Android without the Google Play Store

One of the most sensible security features on Android devices is that you are not allowed to install apps from outside the Play Store. Not by default, however. But seeing as there are a ton of great apps that you can find outside of the Play Store, you should venture beyond that wall every now and then.

Fortunately, it is quite easy to install apps from unknown sources on Android, although the method varies depending on which version of Android you are on. One rule applies to people using Android 7 and later and another to Android 8.0 Oreo and Android 9.0 Pie (and later). Here we will show you both ways.

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Install apps without Play Store on Android 8.0 Oreo and Android 9.0 Pie

Starting with Android 8.0 Oreo, the method of installing apps from unknown sources has changed. Instead of the previous method where you gave permission to download APKs via any existing app on your phone, this version forced you to grant permission to specific apps that are allowed to install APKs from unknown sources.

To set these permissions, go to “Settings -> Apps and notifications -> Advanced -> Special app access -> Install unknown apps”.

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Here, select the app (usually your internet browser) that you want to grant permission to install from unknown sources. Then after tapping on it, tap “Allow from this source” to enable unknown sources for that specific app.

Install apps without Play Store on Android 7.0 Nougat and earlier versions

The Android app packages are packaged in APK files which can also be downloaded from outside the Play Store (for example via the web browser). However, before you try to install the APK files, you must first allow the phone to be installed from “Unknown sources” (eg non-Play Store apps).

To do this, go to “Settings -> Security” and check the “Unknown sources” box, then tap “OK” and “Trust”.

Find APKs outside the Google Play Store

Once you have enabled the installation of APKs from unknown sources, it is time to download the desired APKs. Maybe you already have a site you trust for APK download. If not, we recommend APKMirror as a good place to find legal APKs of new and old versions of Play Store apps, free apps, and so on.

You can download the APKs directly through the web browser on your phone, at which point you will get a message saying "This type of file can damage your computer." Don't worry if you get your file from APKMirror or another site you "trust", your phone is perfectly safe.

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Download the file, then open the APK from the notification drop-down menu on your phone or by browsing the “Downloads” folder on your phone's file manager. Tap Install and your awesome app should be ready shortly.

You can also download APKs through the browser on your PC, at which point you will need to transfer the file to your phone via microUSB or wirelessly and install it from there.

Install using Google Drive, Dropbox, and other cloud services

Alternatively, if you download the APK on a device other than your phone, you should be able to browse the device, then upload it to a cloud service like Google Drive or Dropbox. After doing that, you can access it via Drive or Dropbox on your phone and open it directly from the cloud service, starting the installation procedure.

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