Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Testing Android Apps Without Jailbreaking Your Phone

I've been hard at work developing the next update of Bites, my cookbook app for Android phones and now I want to start testing on a physical device not just the sdk emulator.

I don't like the idea of jailbreaking my phone, it is still my main source of communication and I don't want to risk paying out the rest of a 24 month contract while having a useless bricked phone. So last night I found that I can test an app update without releasing to market. Here is what I did:
  1. Export the signed .apk as per a market release
  2. Post the .apk on my code hosting site as a testing release
  3. Navigate to the .apk using my phone browser and click to install
  4. The phone tells me it cannot install apps from outside the market then allows me to go to a settings page on which I can tick a box allowing apps from outside the market
  5. Try again and the app installs

I'm assuming this will only work with apps that have already been released to market. I tested this with an unsigned .apk and my phone would not install it, so it looks this is a neat little backdoor for honest developers.

There is a potential for security problems but only if a developer turns bad or an app signing key is liberated.

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