AT&T to Allow App Sideloading on Older Phones: Report

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AT&T is reportedly doing the right thing by allowing Android phone users to install apps from outside the Android Market.

Starting today, an update will enable non-Market app installation — also known as sideloading — on the HTC Inspire 4G, HTC Aria and Samsung Captivate, Android Central reports. All future Android phones will also have this capability, starting with Samsung’s Infuse 4G. There’s no word on whether Motorola’s relatively new Atrix 4G will get this capability.

Sideloading may be a geeky feature, but it’s one of Android’s main perks, allowing users to install whatever they want on their phones. That could include Amazon’s Appstore for Android, a porn store or individual apps that were booted from the Android Market, such as Grooveshark.

You can even use sideloading to install unauthorized tethering apps and avoid extra monthly charges, although AT&T is cracking down on this practice by sending passive-aggressive warning letters to customers.

In the past, AT&T has explained its prohibition of sideloading as a security concern. Confining users to the Android Market “minimizes the risk of malicious apps harming customers and provides more protection to the customer’s private data stored on the phone,” the company said last June.

Why AT&T has changed its mind is unclear. It could be a move to appease Amazon, which launched its own Android app store in March, or it could be an attempt to make the carrier look more open as it aims to acquire T-Mobile. Or maybe AT&T just wants to make its nerdier customers happy.

In any case, you can enable sideloading on Android phones by going to Settings, then Applications, then checking the box next to “Unknown Sources.” It’s not as scary as it sounds, honest.