We occasionally want to give one of our Android apps to a tester or reviewer without going through the Android Marketplace. These can be alpha or beta copies of new apps or preview copies of updates. There are several ways to distribute such apps. The instructions here apply to our preferred technique of providing a download url that navigates to a copy of the app sitting on our own website. If you are looking for more general instructions, you may want to check out one of the links at the bottom of this post.
To install an app from a link on our web page, you first have to tell your phone that it is ok to ‘install an Android app without the market’ — that is, from somewhere other than the official Android Marketplace. This requires you to change a setting on your phone if you have not already done so. From your Settings app, select Applications. If the Unknown Sources checkmark is not green, press it to turn this option on. Need a picture? Check out the screen shots at the top of this link (sorry for all the ads!). (You may want to come back to this setting, after you install our app, and turn it back off. It does represent a slight security risk to leave this setting on all the time.)
From the browser on your phone, navigate to the link for the app. This should be a url that ends with a .apk filename, such as:
If you enter the URL correctly, your browser will start a download as soon as you hit Enter. You should see a flashing green arrow in the notification bar at the top of your phone screen. When the arrow stops flashing, your download is complete.
(Note that your browser, after you’ve navigated to the .apk file and it is downloading, may display an Error 404 page since it isn’t looking at a normal html page. Just don’t close the browser till the download is complete.)
When the download is finished, pull down the Notification bar on your phone and look for our Download Complete entry. Select that entry and you will see one or more prompts from the app’s installer. Follow those to complete the installation.
If you’ve cleared your notifications before you are ready to install, run the Browser, press the Menu key, and from the More list, press Downloads. You’ll find the downloaded .apk file listed there. Select and run as above.
Generally speaking, installing a non market Android app consists of just three steps:
- Set up your phone to install from an Unknown Source (as described above).
- Get the .apk (executable file) on to your phone
- Run it (and it will guide you through its own install)
But the details for step 2 vary wildly depending on how the author of the app has decided to distribute the file. The following two links cover some of these cases and include screen shots that may be helpful. Note that we are not associated with these sites and have no control over their content, which may change over time. We also don’t get any kickback from all the ads they blast at you: