Apple doesn’t officially allow users to install third party apps on iOS devices unless they’ve been approved by Apple and posted in the App Store (although there are third party app stores for jailbroken devices). Google has its own Android Market app store, but most Android phones can accept non-market apps when you check a simple option in the settings menu. So what about Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 7?
It turns out that out of the box, Windows Phone 7 is at least as restrictive as iOS. The only easy way to install third party apps is to download them from the Windows Phone Marketplace — unless you pay $99 per year for a marketplace registration account (which basically gives you developer access… and clearly developers might need to install apps to test them before submitting them to the Marketplace).
But Long Zheng, Rafael Rivera, and Chris Walsh have developed a tool that lets anyone install apps without downloading them from the Market without paying for developer access. The process is often referred to as “sideloading.”
The tool is called ChevronWP7, and it’s a single executable file that you can be run from any computer running Windows XP SP2 and up. You will need to have the Zune Desktop software installed on your computer, and you’ll need to connect your phone to your PC with a USB cable.
Update: Microsoft has responded to the release of ChevronWP7, saying the company expected users to try to unlock functionality of their phones and explorer the underlying file system — but that doing so can void warranties, disable phone functionality, or brick a device. That’s kind of a given. The same is true anytime you run officially unsupported software on a smartphone with any operating system. But if you use common sense and let other users play the guinea pig before experimenting with your device, you reduce the risk and improve the chances that some kind soul in a user forum will be able to help you if you run into trouble.