Should Google remove the option to sideload Android apps?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Should Google remove the option to sideload Android apps?
The problem with Android app piracy seems to be escalating lately, with more and more developers expressing their negative opinion towards the platform's little to no protection against this problem.

App piracy on Android is nothing new. The percentage of pirated apps versus bought ones has always been higher on Android than on iOS, and developers have not once brought this issue to the public's attention. Up until now, this was something that devs put up with. They didn't expect wonders from Android, because Android seemed more like a work in progress, rather than a finished product. This was until Ice Cream Sandwich came into the scene.

Growing up

With Android 4.0 ICS, the OS suddenly started to feel complete. It got rid of its old, ugly clothes, put on a stylish suit and became much more faster and smoother. The newest version, 4.1, is building on this already strong foundation. However, while Google managed to make significant progress with the OS itself, thanks to clever and talented guys like Matias Duarte, it looks like the app ecosystem is currently trailing behind. We know that good-looking and polished apps are more than possible on Android, but the majority of apps are still quite amateurish, at least in terms of their design. Maybe that's because developers don't think the investment is worth it?

Game developer MadFinger, which is responsible for hit titles like ShadowGun and Dead Trigger, recently came out with a statement complaining of the "giant" piracy rate for its latest game, which eventually forced it to offer it for free, instead of with a price of $0.99. Apparently, 1 buck was too much for some people to pay for one of the hottest games on Google Play. Another developer, Matt Gemmell, who makes a living as an iOS and OS X dev, says that the high piracy levels on Android are ultimately due to the platform's extreme openness. He even goes as far as to say that "Android is designed for piracy." Of course, what this means is that the way things stand currently, it's way too easy to pirate apps for the platform.

Many Android-defenders would say that you can also install pirated apps on iOS. That's true, but have you actually tried to do it? The process requires you to jailbreak your iPhone or iPad, which isn't very easy these days even for people who are into technology, let alone for the regular customers. Actually, a normal user (read: non-geek), would never even think about jailbreaking their device. It's that complicated (for a normal user). The thing is that there's absolutely no way you can install a pirated copy of an app without having your iDevice jailbroken. On the other hand, with Android, you only have to go to Settings -> Security -> check Unknown sources. And you're ready to go. You can simply find a pirated app copy using Google search, download it to your computer, copy it over to your mobile device's mass storage, and then execute it. Alternatively, you can just find and download it using your Android device's browser, and then execute it. Congrats, you have installed your pirated app. No rooting required, no jailbreaking. It's like app piracy has been built into the system from the get go.

At PhoneArena, we've been expecting Google to get rid of that option with every new release, but it's still sticking around. The problem with this is that Android is no longer the OS for geeks it once was. It now has a lot of market share, and a lot of normal users are buying Android devices, because they like a particular model, or need a slightly more affordable device, or something like that. This means that there's real opportunity for developers to make money on Android, but they don't, because it's so easy to install apps without having to actually pay for them.

Closing Android (is not evil)

The solution to all this seems quite simple to us - get rid of the option that allows you to install apps from sources other than the Google Play store. Of course, Android is open and tech-savvy people will quickly find a workaround for that, but in case Google tries hard to make this workaround complicated enough, the vast majority of users will never bother to implement the workaround. As a result, people will just stick to getting their apps from the Play Store. Still, Google is yet to make this move, and there are no indications that it's going to happen anytime soon.

We are aware that such a transition will be hard at first, and probably many hardcore Android users (those who helped Android pick up speed) will be pissed off, but the question is, should Google bother about those users? Google has always tried to be good to its customers, to not be evil, but now this kind of generosity is going against its own ecosystem. Developers are getting hurt financially, and are finding it increasingly hard to stay afloat due to this whole "open", and "don't be evil" mantra. Google will not become evil, if it closes that part of Android that makes piracy so easy. As a matter of fact, it should feel obliged to do so, because these devs are the same devs that made Android a worthwhile experience.

With all this in mind, here's a question for you:

Should Google remove the option to sideload Android apps?

Yes, app piracy shouldn't be that easy on Android.
No, I like my freedom.



1. loken

Posts: 462; Member since: May 09, 2012

"No I Like my Freedom"

46. Firedrops

Posts: 254; Member since: Sep 06, 2011

Yeah. How am I supposed to test my apps on my phone if I can't sideload them? I probably can't used my personalized versions either, even if the original app is free.

65. buccob

Posts: 2968; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

I also voted for this. I have to admit that I have sideloaded pirate apps, such as Apparatus to try it first.. and then I bought it full price ($6.99) Grand Theft Auto 3 is not available in my country and I was more than willing to pay for it. So I also sideloaded that, but only after trying to reach Rockstar to open the game worldwide, but I got no reply. It is a matter of education and consciousness about what you are given and what you should give in return to devs. If I like an app and consider that it is worth what you pay for, then I pay for it... but I have come across some expensive apps (cough Aftermath cough) that really disappoint, or lack compatibility, and I feel ripped. I am not in favor of piracy, but depriving our freedom does not fix the issue. Apps like Power Amp have a good anti-piracy check system.

79. crankyd00d

Posts: 191; Member since: Oct 17, 2011

Where's the option "I have bought 100+ Apps and it wouldn't be fair for me to get my freedom compromised because of the cheap parasite assholes" lol Freedom ftw

82. aikonix

Posts: 60; Member since: Apr 08, 2012

couple of things here i want to express... first of all, developers can create some sort of valid authentication license in their app that requires the proof of purchase, i have seen this on some games. also, second off, i personally believe developers should give out more "trials" like play this game up to level 5 and if u want up to level 25 u have to buy it. things like that would make a big deal to a lot of people. and thirdly, yes, google should have google play store gift cards that u can buy everywhere like u can itunes cards. just my 2 cents

106. OSFantasma

Posts: 119; Member since: Sep 27, 2011

seems like a great way to improve the system we all share and love. as for the iOS crowd I have bought apps that work and when the system was updated the app never was it became a pile of code sitting on my iDevice. i feel like the Play store has a better communication system between devs and users. anyway Google Play Gift Cards sound like a great way of changing the landscape of Android.

101. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 2010

I agree.

2. deacz

Posts: 162; Member since: Nov 02, 2011

yea wow horrible idea, lets remove the main reason to go with andriod...idiots

34. absolete

Posts: 12; Member since: Apr 04, 2012

Yea keep android open, if you lock everything up you'll end up with iOS... YUCK haha What they should do is those verification checks! In Kairosoft's software such as mega mall story even if you get a pirate apk, it wont work because it has to be verified by the play store... Trust me, I tried :P I think a system like that would be much better

3. denied911

Posts: 361; Member since: May 31, 2012

open source is open source, you can't delete the option

4. Ray.S

Posts: 457; Member since: Jul 19, 2011

Won't Android remain open-source, if you can't install apps downloaded from random websites?

24. SonyFTW2020

Posts: 311; Member since: May 03, 2012

Wow people are stupid! its not taking away the freedom of android its just removing the piracy off of random websites... you will still be able to customize your phone the way you want and still download apps from the google play store....Did any of you read this article correctly?? removing the piracy will help the devs make a more confined and mature platform...they are in no way trying to make us like apples ios(restricted) if thats what everyone here is thinking..

31. nyuvo

Posts: 72; Member since: May 10, 2012

Exactly, as much as everybody likes the idea of having free apps.. I would rather piracy was limited to say those who root their phones (as with jailbreak) and have a tighter system. This would bring the overall quality of apps up as more money would be given to developers. Of course I guess people are just to tight to spend $1 on an app, when the truth is, its really not that much money.

36. SonyFTW2020

Posts: 311; Member since: May 03, 2012

well if an app is average and has average feed back letting everyone know that its an "ok" game, then you shouldn't have to pay a dollar for it. But if the app has a lot of popularity and is a really good game, then we should give credit where credit is due right?

75. MobileCaseReview

Posts: 242; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

App devs should be allowed to earn a living off their work many users are enjoying regardless of OS. My econ professor always said, "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch". The question to your statement is, would you constantly spend time developing a game without earning wages just so everyone can enjoy it, even if it's rated as average?

104. OSFantasma

Posts: 119; Member since: Sep 27, 2011

as in my previous post. If a developer had a Encryption system drm like that google can develope it would not really matter if you download that app by side-loading it won't work because it can't be authenticated thus allowing dev's to show there true skill set and for dev's that offer there apps through direct download link(i.e. Netflix, and Opera) it would not be affected as there app would be designed in a way that side-loading would be possible therefore a great solution is found.

5. smallworld

Posts: 517; Member since: Jul 13, 2012

OMG this is such a dumb poll since you perfectly know that 80% of people are going to vote NO !!!

100. Darkerm

Posts: 322; Member since: Jan 31, 2012

Great Comment Mate ;)

6. Sniggly

Posts: 7305; Member since: Dec 05, 2009

I had to answer with the option that led to decreased piracy. I would prefer for Android to remain as open as possible, but there has to be a way Google can discourage piracy without killing the openness of the platform.

8. Ray.S

Posts: 457; Member since: Jul 19, 2011

Thumbs up for that, you've made the right choice.

15. PackMan

Posts: 277; Member since: Mar 09, 2012

And who are you to decide what is right and what is wrong for someone else? The answer to the above question is NO.

17. Sniggly

Posts: 7305; Member since: Dec 05, 2009

The question itself isn't flexible enough. No one who uses Android wants it closed off, but people like me feel that the devs should be rewarded for the hard work they put into their programs.

20. Ray.S

Posts: 457; Member since: Jul 19, 2011

The thing is, if people actually bother to read the article, they will notice that I don't say Google should close Android, but simply close that part of it that allows users to install pirated apks so easily.

22. Sniggly

Posts: 7305; Member since: Dec 05, 2009

I understood the article just fine. However, the poll question itself is written poorly. Sideloading can be useful for purposes other than piracy; what Google needs to do is have a process that reads newly installed software to see if it matches three conditions: 1) is it on Google Play? 2) is it a "paid" app or free one? 3) if it's a "paid" app, is it on the list of apps that the user has paid for? If the first two conditions are met but not the third, then the device simply blocks the use of that app with a message asking them to buy the official version.

25. SonyFTW2020

Posts: 311; Member since: May 03, 2012

wow someone with brains and can actually read...Phone Arena please give this man an award....seriously cause majority of people here did not understand this article...LOL

44. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

Yes I was going to say the same thing. On Android is way too easy to load a pirated app. Look at Dead Trigger. Google needs to protect the developers & make a new system so it can't be so EASY to side load a pirated app. To remove that feature all together is not the answer, Google has to get on the ball & finally address this issue.

32. kanagadeepan

Posts: 1260; Member since: Jan 24, 2012

Very TRUE sir... Google should allow to side-load FREE apps and my old purchased apps... Thats much much better than firing a house to kill the bl00dy rats...

49. Aeires unregistered

Or the app itself can have a verification process. Every time I buy a new device or root, I have to verify Documents To Go the first time I launch it. A one time verification isn't going to kill anyone.

50. protozeloz

Posts: 5396; Member since: Sep 16, 2010

there is a piracy protection method ON the android market.... and is kinda similar to that.... but some devs are quite lazy in implementing the method

109. OSFantasma

Posts: 119; Member since: Sep 27, 2011

your right and with it was introduce with jelly bean but is compatible with the latest Google play store.. I Knew I saw that somewhere. Google has had there Engineers working on a solution.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit for samples and additional information.