Sideload is a verb that describes a local file transfer. Unlike uploading and downloading, which take place over the Internet, sideloading involves transferring a file from one local device to another.

Common ways to sideload data are:

  1. through a wired connection (a USB cable)
  2. over a wireless connection (Wi-Fi or Bluetooth)
  3. from a removable storage device (an SD card)

While sideloading is possible between any two local devices, it most commonly refers to transferring a file to a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet. Sideloading is often used synonymously with installing an app outside an app store.

Sideloading Mobile Apps

The standard way to install an app on an iOS or Android device is to download it from Apple's App Store or Google's Play Store. Sideloading an app bypasses the app store, installing the app directly from a local device.

iOS does not allow sideloading except for developers, who need to test their apps before publishing them to the App Store. Android provides a setting in Security → Unknown Sources that, when toggled on, allows apps to be installed or "sideloaded" outside the Play Store.

Updated January 12, 2022 by Per C.

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