According to an email Google is sending out to Wear OS developers, sideloading apps that aren't available on the Play Store is about to get a lot more complicated starting March 10. You'll no longer be able to sideload apps from your phone via the Play Store -> Apps on your phone section on watches, making it next to impossible to add unapproved apps to your watch without turning to tools meant for developers, like the Android Debug Bridge (ADB).
When the Pixel 5 and 4a 5G were released, Google also updated a few of its first-party apps — the Camera and the Recorder, to be specific. But when people with older Pixel phones tried to sideload these to their phones, some ran into an odd INSTALL_FAILED_VERIFICATION_FAILURE error message even though the cryptographic signature matched and there should've been nothing standing in the way. We quickly found a workaround, but we never really understood why the error was popping up in the first place. Thanks to an investigation by our friends over at XDA, we now have an idea of what causes the problem.
Installing apps on Android TV in general, and the Chromecast with Google TV in particular, is usually a simple affair. There are, however, limitations to what you can install directly from the Play Store, as only approved software makes it onto the platform. If you want to color outside the lines and load apps that aren't officially supported, or if you want to force-update an app, you need to use APK files. Sending them to the Chromecast and installing them isn't straightforward, so we'll take you through the process step by step.
A few months ago in June, a Stadia app update added (unofficial) support for Android TV. To get it up and running, you need a mouse, a Bluetooth controller, and you have to sideload the Stadia phone app including some weird scaling, all of which makes it more of a proof of concept right now. The latest Stadia update to version 2.26 doesn't quite fix any of these gripes, but at least you don't need a mouse to navigate the Stadia store and game selector anymore — controllers are finally supported for that.
Televisions, streaming sticks, and set-top boxes with Android TV have access to millions of applications through the Google Play Store. However, there are some situations where you might want to sideload your own applications (APKs). Maybe you want the latest app updates quicker than the Play Store rolls them out, or you want to try an application that isn't officially available for your specific device.
Sony uses Android TV across all its smart TVs, which means you get a full-fledged operating system without extra boxes or streaming devices. Android TV also gives you access to the Google Play Store, a library of thousands of TV-optimized games and applications. However, sometimes the app you want might not be available through the Play Store — maybe Google hasn't approved it yet, or you want to install the latest updates before everyone else. That's where sideloading comes in.
Amazon's Fire TV devices run a heavily-modified version of Android, which means you can install some Android applications on it. While the built-in Amazon Appstore does have a wide selection of apps and games, you can still install software not available through the official store (like the Kodi Media Center) if you have the APK file.
You may be aware of Google's Advanced Protection Program, which allows customers to opt-in on additional security protections and restrictions for their Google account, like a forced two-factor hardware security key requirement without fallbacks, and reduced account access for third-party apps. In addition to enhanced security, it also comes with other recent perks. According to details revealed in a recent teardown by 9to5Google, the Advanced Protection Program may expand to blocking apps from being installed from outside the Play Store.
Battle Breakers has been in testing on the Play Store since 2017, but Epic has unceremoniously turned the servers off for the Play Store version, most likely because the game has been officially launched through the Epic Games launcher, a third-party app that was previously known as the Fortnite Installer. If you're unfamiliar with Battle Breakers, it's a free-to-play RPG that contains hero collection mechanics. The story revolves around menacing monsters from space that have trapped the world's heroes inside of magical crystals, and of course, it will be your job to free these heroes by fighting these monsters in an RPG setting.
According to some super sleuthing by Kevin Tofel over at About Chromebooks, one of Chrome OS' most requested features — installing Android apps from outside the Play Store without resorting to Developer mode — may actually, finally be on its way. Based on a comment provided by a developer in the Chromium bug tracker, it could make its way to users as early as the Chrome OS 74 or 75 releases.