As excited as I am about the slew of Android-driven tablets and other non-phone devices coming out in the new few weeks and months, the lack of the official Android Market on many of them is dampening my enthusiasm. Android is a great OS, but without apps it's pretty limited. The manufacturers behind these devices usually offer their own app stores, but it takes time to build numbers. Just ask Palm.
So what's an Android lover to do? Don't despair, there are ways to install your favorite apps on your tablet, eReader, or other large-screen device. You just need to find the app's APK (installation) file. Once you have it, you can just click to install and you're set. No promises that the app will install or work, but at least you can try.
Here are 5 easy ways to find your favorite Android apps:
- Download the APK from the developer's website. Some developers allow users to download the file from their websites even if they're available through the Android Market. Depending on the developer, you may also find versions of the app optimized for larger screens.
- Search third-party app stores. No, the official Google Market isn't the only one. There are many independent repositories such as Get Jar, AndAppStore, SlideME, AndroidFreeware.org, Brothersoft, and Androlib. You should also check out the app stores created for specific devices, as they may allow you to search and download from a web browser, like the Camangi Marketplace. Some of these markets have a store app that works similarly to the Android Market, installing the apps for you.
- Haunt device-specific forums and websites. If an Android gadget is lucky enough to have gathered a fanbase, those dedicated users are likely on the hunt for their favorite apps, too. You may be able to find a forum topic, FAQ, or a wiki with links to APK files for popular free apps or repositories. For instance, the users at ArchosFans have had months to find and test a variety of apps they can't find in Archos' app library. They've even created a dedicated wiki page for them with download links.
- Google It. Sometimes the easiest thing to do is simply search for [app name] APK and see what comes up. You might find it on a buried page on the developer's website or repository. Be careful, though, because many hits will come from anonymous uploads on file storage or torrent sites. Don't download a virus in your zeal to obtain your favorite note-taking app.
- Get them from your Android phone. If you have access to the official market then you can grab almost any APK from your phone. First, download something that will allow you to make backups of your apps. I like Astro File Manager because it allows me to choose which apps to back up. On the app's main screen, tap the Menu button > Tools > Application Manager/Backup. Choose the apps you'd like to move to your tablet, then tap Backup. Once that's done, connect your phone to your PC, find the 'backups' folder, then copy the APK files to your computer or storage device, then transfer them to your Android device. You may not be able to make copies of every app, and transferring paid ones may break the TOS or EULA, so be mindful.
Using your favorite apps on all of your Android devices is the first step to Android bliss. If there's one you can't find or discover doesn't work with your gadget, drop a line to the developers. The tablets are coming fast and furious this year, and Android's life outside of phones may be more robust and rewarding than they realize.
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