Can I get an app (or an app update) early, even if it’s not yet available to me or my device via the Google Play Store?
Yes, absolutely. If you’re still willing to accept the risk that comes with enabling app installs from unknown locations, the solution is very simple. You just need to sideload the app APK to your device and install it manually.
Here’s how to do it:
Go to Settings -> Security and scroll to ‘DEVICE ADMINISTRATION.’ This is where you’ll give your phone permission to install apps from sources other than the Play Store. Check the box labeled ‘Unknown sources.’ Google will warn about the scary things that can happen when downloading apps from sources other than Google. This warning is not to be ignored. Proceed at your own risk. For the record, we recommend unchecking this box once you’ve installed your APK of choice.
Locate the APK file for the app you wish to install and download the file. We’re installing the Google Docs app via an APK that we’re downloading from Dropbox, but you can just as easily download from another source on the web. Just click the link and your phone will download the APK to ‘Downloads.’
Open up the ‘Downloads’ app on your phone. If you haven’t downloaded anything else between steps two and three of this guide, your APK will be at the top of this list. Open up the file and it will launch the installer.
The installer will tell you all about the permissions the app requires and the data it will have access to. Read all of this very carefully, as it changes depending on the application. Once you’ve made peace with those facts, hit ‘Next’ and then ‘Install.’ If the install is successful (and your phone will let you know whether it is or not), you’ll be able to launch the app right away, or from the app drawer on your device.
Though the above is clearly not very complicated, we do advise you exercise caution if you decide to go down this road. If you’re just trying to get the latest version of Google Maps a couple of days ahead of schedule, you’ll probably be fine. However, it’s important to remember that Android malware is on the rise and the safest way to install applications is still through the Play Store.