Installing Android apps from “Unknown Sources” – Checked

This morning waking up early while still fighting Jet-lag symptoms and decided to find out a bit more about installing Android applications from “Unknown Sources”.

This Android feature is particular interesting since it allows Android developers and enthusiasts to try applications before they officially hit the “Android Market“. Most of the time this is necessary for validating the application on real HW before committing to release to the massive distribution channel and in particular it allows to run the so called “Beta programs“. Most mobile development platforms would allow you to do this some more restricted than others well, iPhone platform is an exception since there is not a lot of different HW options to try your application on anyways.

Some times a development team has reached a certain level of maturity on building and testing a given application but it is also well known that it is impossible to test 100% of software vs HW interactions and this is particularly true when dealing with mobile device’s coming from hundreds of HW vendors, a variety of wireless carrier services (imposing its very own limitations) and the different versions of the underlying mobile device operating system in this case Android OS.

So “Beta” programs usually aim to a rare kind of users; the so called “early adopters” whom are usually willing to try the application and to provide feedback to the software developer or provider. These beta testers are normally more resilient dealing with bugs and typically proud to find them and get them reported back to the source. This is not trivial since the software bugs must be reported detailing the specific HW and Mobile OS and the event that cause the problem. Not all reported “issues” will be fixed so most of the time when those bugs gets fixed there is always a feeling of participation from the beta tester which is what drives most of us. Some “Beta users” are also open source developers and can also provide software code or solutions to the given problem which makes the adventure even more fulfilling.

OK, this time I am installing from “Unknown Sources” on my Nexus One. It is not that I believe it will be any problem with it; actually I did expect it to work flawlessly since this is one of the reasons I decided to buy an open and unlocked Android development phone instead of a subsidized one from my wireless carrier.

It is pretty handy that “Linkedin for Android” just went on “Beta program” last week and as expected they have not uploaded their application to the “Android Market” just yet, instead “Beta” users are given the option to install it directly from Linkedin.com but for that it is necessary to enable “Unknown Sources” from your Nexus One before attempting the install.

This is an easy task. Just go to “Settings” -> “applications” and click on “Unknown Sources” to get it enable. For the most part this action is recommended to be set temporarily; basically to install the desired application and disable it right after installation is completed. You do not want any other misbehaving application installing stuff on your phone without even noticing it so play it safe and shut the door after you have gotten your goodies.

In my case I did try “Linkedin for Android” beta application. Just followed the easy instructions provided by Linkedin.com and everything went just fine, now I am “Beta” testing this application, let’s see if I can get a bug or two before this app hits “Android Market“. In this case the way to report issues is to get enrolled and participate in the “Linkedin for Andoid” group which is a sub-grup of “Linkedin Mobile” and of course you would need to be a Linkedin.com user. When ever you try any beta program for one of your applications remember to set up a way to receive and manage the feedback from your beta testers/users.

Be aware that “Unknown Sources”  are just not “Android Market” released applications so they may come from a non certified source  so please be aware that not all APK’s available in the network are either safe or non-malicious so make sure you know who are you downloading applications from before proceeding.

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