The Android Market is great, and only getting better. It is home to literally tens of thousands of great apps, many of which are free, and all of which are at your disposal with just a few taps of your finger. But sometimes, particularly when searching for apps that perform particular functions, we are met with an instance where we find an app we want somewhere on the internet that is not yet, or maybe never will be, in the Android Market. The reasons an app may not be in the market are numerous, including apps that are still in beta, apps that are sold, but who’s audience is not one that would look for the app in market, or apps that don’t necessarily fit into Google’s guidelines for sale on the market. When we come across one of these apps, we need a way to install it. Luckily, Google gives us the option to do so from within the Android OS, and with a few simple steps, we can enable it!
Don’t worry, it’s not a lot of preparation! The first step is to know what you want to install. Much of the time, this is done by necessity. You’re Googling for something you’d like your phone to do, but upon finding the solution, it’s not on the market. Lacking that, a cursory browsing through Droid-Life.com’s Downloads page will likely show you something you want that you can’t get on the market. The file you download will be a .APK file. This is an Android installer package, and will install all the files for your new app, and you can put it in any folder on your device that makes sense to you. I just leave mine in the browser’s download folder, as its just easier that way.
The second thing you’ll need to do is change a quick setting to make your phone allow installations from outside the Android Market. To do this, hit menu, and go to Settings. Then go to Applications, and check the top box called Unknown Sources. (If you’re being security conscious, you may want to uncheck this after installation, just to be safe.)
The next thing you’ll need is a third party app to run the install. There are a few apps that can do the job for you, but I highly recommend downloading ASTRO File Manager by Metago. This will give you an easy install for APK’s but has a ton of other advantages as well, including the ability to manage all your files, and do backups. ASTRO is free on the Android market.
Once you have that, and you’ve downloaded the APK you want to install, open ASTRO, browse to the folder you saved your APK’s into (which should be a quick flick down the first screen you see in ASTRO if you just saved the APK to your browser’s download folder), and tap the APK file. ASTRO will ask if you want to “Browse File” or “Open App Manager”. Select the latter, then click install on the top left side.
You’ve now got your app installed, and have an awesome new file manager to play with! If you have a better way to do this, or know of any cool non-market apps, tell us in the comments!