How to distribute a Google Cardboard app for Android outside of Google Play

So you created a Google Cardboard app for Android and want to distribute it to testers or partners without going through the Google Play store? Luckily this is rather easy. Essentially, you export your app as an .apk, copy it to your device, and install it.

The exact steps are:

  1. Build your Android app as an .apk file, which is the file you get out of Headjack when you select Local as Distribution Channel and then Cardboard Android as Platform
  2. Go to Settings > Security on your Android device and enable Unknowns sources (Note: in Android 8 Oreo, this setting has moved and you now have to give individual apps, like Chrome and My Files, permission to install unknown apps. See:
  3. Connect your device to your computer through USB and select File Transfer (MTP)
  4. Copy your .apk file to your Android device (on OSX you need Android File Transfer). Alternatively, you can also open the download link for your app directly in the phone’s browser to install it.
  5. Download a file explorer app, like ES File Explorer, to your Android device (Note: new Android devices usually come with a My Files app pre-installed, in which case you do not need ES File Explorer)
  6. Now navigate to your .apk file using the file explorer app, click on your file, and click install to start the installation

That’s really it! You can simply email your .apk to a tester or a partner and tell them to follow the above instructions to install it on their device. This way you can distribute a Google Cardboard app for Android outside of Google Play.

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