How to Side-Load Android Apps from “Unknown Sources” on your Chromebook

One advantage that Android phones have over iPhones is the ability to easily install apps that didn’t come from Google’s Play Store, without having to root, or jailbreak the phone. Many argue that it’s not a great idea, as it opens your phone up to certain risks, and those people would be right. Which is why the ability to do it is turned off by default, and turning it on prompts a scary warning.

But if you’re brave enough to enable it, and trust the source of the app you’re trying to install, it can be a handy feature that opens up some unique possibilities.

For instance, the ability to add a Microsoft Exchange account to your Gmail app on your Android device requires that you install an APK that’s not found in the Google Play Store. I don’t know why it’s not there, the APK was developed by Google themselves. But, whatever the reason, that’s were we are.

So, is it possible to side-load app APKs on a Chromebook running Android? Yes! Unfortunately, it doesn’t work right out of the box, it requires putting your device into Developer Mode (this is different from the Developer Channel. Developer Mode is a tad bit like rooting your phone. It requires disabling OS Verification, so, it does open your device up to vulnerabilities).

If you’re comfortable putting your device into Developer Mode, then installing third party APKs is just as easy on the Chromebook as it is on your Android phone.

  1. Put device into Developer Mode
  2. Go to your Chrome settings
  3. Scroll down to the Android Apps section
  4. Click on App Settings
  5. Click on Security
  6. Click on Unknown Sources
  7. Acknowledge the warning

Now that you’ve enabled installing apps from Unknown Sources, open your favorite Android file manager, navigate to the APK file, and open it. Just like you would on your phone or tablet.

I installed the Gmail Exchange Services APK, and am now able to add Microsoft Exchange accounts to Gmail on my Chromebook!

 

**UPDATE**

I just wanted to say that even though the installation of the APK was successful, and the option to add an Exchange account is now there in my Gmail app, the Exchange account I added did not work, because Chrome OS blocks certain (most) ports and so even though I added the account, it was never able to successfully pull any emails from the Exchange server. That’s a major bummer that I’m hoping will be addressed.

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