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Sideloading

Sideloading

Sideloading definition

Sideloading is downloading and installing an application or program from a third-party source rather than the official retailer. Third-party sources are often unapproved apps from an unknown developer.

Though sideloading offers mobile device users the freedom to download apps not available through official app stores (like Google Play and App Store), it poses serious risks. Official app stores check apps for malware and other threats, while unofficial sites may not. Apps downloaded from these sites may contain malware or be pirated.

How sideloading works on different devices

  • Android OS: A user needs to check a box in the operating system settings to enable sideloading.
  • Apple iOS: An iPhone user can’t enable sideloading on their device without jailbreaking it (unlocking the device's operating system).

What are the risks?

  • No quality control of sideloaded apps. On official app stores, apps undergo a quality check before they are listed. This check includes making sure they don’t have malware or breach privacy practices.
  • Sideloaded apps may require manual updating. With official app store applications, you receive automated updates – or nudges – to update your app to the latest version. However, with a sideloaded app, you may need to check if updates are available and do them manually.

Further reading

Ultimate digital security