Out of the box most Google Android phones and some Android tablets allow you to download and install apps from the Android Market. But one of the things that sets Android apart from other mobile operating systems is the fact that Google makes it easy to install non-Market apps. So if you find an .apk file from a developer’s web site, a user forum, or a third party app store, odds are you can install it on your phone — although you may not be able to download automatic updates.

Here’s all you have to do to enable support for third party apps that aren’t available from the Android Market:

  1. Hit the menu key on your Android device.
  2. Select “settings.”
  3. Choose “Applications.”
  4. Check the box next to “Unknown sources.”

That’s it.

Note that these instructions show how to enable support for unknown sources on a device running Android 2.3.3. The menu options may look a little different on other versions of Android, and AT&T currently doesn’t offer this option at all on its phones.

Once you’ve enabled support for unknown sources you can download and install apps using several different methods. You can grab apps from a web site using your phone’s browser and run the apk installer file from your list of downloaded files.

You can also download an apk on your computer and copy it to your device manually by connecting your phone or tablet to a computer and mounting your SD card or internal storage so that your device shows up as a USB flash drive. Or you can install a third party app store like the Amazon Appstore which makes the whole process of downloading nad installing apps almost as simple as it would be using the official Android Market.

Brad Linder

Brad Linder is editor of Liliputing and Mobiputing. He's been tinkering with mobile tech for decades and writing about it since...