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How to Install Incompatible Android Apps from Google Play

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Some Android apps on Google Play claim to be incompatible with various devices. There’s a good chance that these apps will run fine on many of these devices – you can bypass this check with root access.

Some apps won’t actually work after you install them, but many will. This also solves problems with games that will install but refuse to play – for example, Gameloft games with the “this device is incompatible” message.

Setup

To perform this hack, you’ll need to root your Android smartphone or tablet. After you do, you should install ES File Explorer from Google Play.

Editing Build.prop

The build.prop file contains a few strings (bits of text) that identify your device model. If you edit this file, Google Play and other apps will think you’re using a different device than you actually are. Be very careful when editing this file – we’ll just be editing a few tiny parts of it. If you edit other parts, you could cause serious problems with your device.

First, launch the ES File Explorer app. Open its Settings screen and enable the Root Explorer and Mount File System options. You may also want to enable the Up to Root option on this screen, so you can easily tap the Up button and navigate to your root directory.

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Navigate to the /system/ directory on your device and locate the build.prop file.

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You should create a copy of the original build.prop file elsewhere – long-press on it, select Copy, and then Paste it into another folder – say, your /sdcard/ folder.

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Now you’re ready to edit the file. Long-press it, select Open As, select Text, and select the ES Note Editor app.

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Look for the ro.product.model and ro.product.manufacturer lines. These are the important ones.

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Change these lines to pretend your device is another model. For example, to imitate a Nexus S, use these lines:

  • ro.product.model = Nexus S
  • ro.product.manufacturer = samsung

After making this change, tap the menu button and select Save.

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Final Steps

Go into the Settings screen, select Applications, select Manage Applications, tap the All category, and select the Google Play app. Clear its cache and data, and then restart your device

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Open Google Play and you should be able to download apps that claim they’re not compatible with your device. Games that detect your device should also work, too – Gameloft games seem to be particularly guilty of this. Some apps may still not install or work with your device for other reasons — for example, Google Chrome won’t work on pre-Android 4.0 devices, and some apps may be restricted to certain countries.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 06/13/12

Comments (15)

  1. Paul

    I have experienced this problem big style.

    As I am new to this, what are the recommendations to change it *to*???

  2. James

    Change what to? The make and model? It’s right in the article, if that’s what you’re referring to.

  3. Citrus Rain

    This looks like something that should be backed up before attempting.

    @Paul

    Chances are, the best thing to change it to would be the Galaxy Nexus (as exampled in the article) since that’s the newest flagship android device.

  4. Chris

    This techneek dosen’t work all it does is change the model under settings – about. I have tried this on two diffrent roms with no changes to how the market works even after clearing it’s cache and updates.

  5. vimal

    Hi….i cant find the system in es explorer..how to do?

  6. Citrus Rain

    @vimal
    In es explorer, go to settings, and change the home/root folder from “/sdcard” to “/”

  7. vimal

    I have followed ur technics..but still i cant download the apps..pls help..

  8. TechGeek01

    I didn’t even have to root mine to do this, as my Kindle Fire (Yes, Kindle Fire) had to go through the process of rooting so I could install CyanogenMod 9 on it.

  9. Tony

    Excuse me? Is this hack available for the N-gage?

  10. martin gouveia

    how do I go about using the es editor in order to change the model and the manufacturers data? In other words how do I operate the editor?

  11. Gary

    I agree with Chris. The changes have no affect at all on my Samsung Mini (GT-S5570)
    Also, the settings in the Google Play store are not changed.

  12. Aaqib

    My ZTE Blade won’t boot after doing this. I have a copy of the original build.prop on my sd card. How do I restore it? Do I need to go through adb? What do I do?

  13. Anonimus

    I tried this and it didnt work on my alcatel ot 990 it fucked up my phone now i cant install games pls does some1 know how to solve this problem?

  14. Michael

    Tried this on my Mele A2000 and Google Play does show it as GT-I9300 but still shows the App I’m trying to install as incompatible even though I bought it for and it does work on my I9300.

  15. Patric

    Hi i did all the steps but it still doesn’t work im using samsung galaxy y

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