How to Join a Beta and Download Early Versions of Android Apps

Back in the earlier days of Android, if you wanted to beta test an application, you generally had to sideload it alongside the current stable version of the app. But now, Google has “beta channels” in the Play Store, making it a lot easier to give beta apps a shot.

Instead of these beta builds running alongside their stable counterparts, however, when you enroll in a beta through the Play Store, you’re effectively opting to use the beta instead of the stable version. There are some exceptions here—like Chrome, Chrome Beta, Chrome Dev, and Chrome Canary, all of which have their own Play Store listings. For the most part, however, beta channels in the Play Store work exactly as Google intended them.

For example, let’s take a look at the official Facebook app. Facebook leverages beta channel access to allow curious users to get a glimpse of what the company is working on behind the scenes if they so choose. In turn, of course, these users are effectively testing the app for Facebook, helping the company find bugs before the build moves into the stable channel. While the company technically calls these early builds “alpha” builds, the point is still the same: they’re using Google Play’s testing program to provide access.

How to Find Apps that Offer Beta Access

You may or may have enrolled into a testing program for a beta application at some point, but either way, you’re probably wondering the easiest way to find out if an application offers access to a beta build. In short, there really isn’t a simple way to help with this without just digging through a slew of app listings. You sort of have to be in the know. Yeah, it sucks.

If you don’t mind the grind, you can find whether or not an offers access to a beta testing program by scrolling all the way to the bottom of the app’s page in the Play Store on your device. You’ll see a box that reads “Become a beta tester” if beta program access is offered.

Tap “Join in,” then confirm in the following popup. Boom, you’re in.

Still, that’s a lot of work just to see if an app even has a testing program. The good news is that there’s an excellent solution by way of a Chrome extension called Toolbox for Google Play Store. This extension will not only let you know if there’s a testing program available for a specific application, but also offer links to AppBrain listings, Android Police coverage of the app, and APK downloads from APKMirror. You can also toggle each of these options in the extension’s Settings page.

If you find an app that you may be interested in testing, just click the “More Info” link on the app’s Google Play page, which will redirect you to the testing page. Just click the “Become a Tester” button to get started with that.

If you already have the app installed, it will automatically update to the newer build—no input needed on your part. It’s cool.

How to Manage Your Beta Applications

You’re free to leave the beta testing program at any point, which will roll the app back to a stable build once you’ve left the testing program. There are a couple of different ways to do that.

First off, you can just jump back into the testing page from Google Play on the web (again, with the Toolbox for Google Play extension installed) and use the “Leave the Program” link to opt out. Easy peasy.

You can also manage all of your beta applications directly from your device. Fire up Google Play and open the menu by sliding in from left to right (or just tapping the three lines in the top left). Then choose “My apps & games.”

The last tab in this interface is “Beta.” Tap it to see all the apps you’re currently testing.

 

When you tap on an app from this list, you’ll notice a banner near the top of the listing page letting you know that you’re a beta tester for this app. The thing is, you can’t tap it or interact with it in any way—it’s really just there to remind you, I guess.

To unenroll from the testing program, you have to scroll back to the bottom of the page (just like enrolling). There, you’ll find a box that will let you leave the beta channel. Alternatively, you can tap “Learn More” to get more information about Google’s beta testing program.


The Google Play testing program is a really cool way for users to get eyes on the newest stuff cooking in their favorite apps (assuming they offer beta access, of course). If you’re all about trying new things before they hit the masses, I definitely recommend seeing if your favorite apps offer a testing program. Just remember: these are beta apps, so they may cause issues.

Cameron Summerson is a die-hard Android fan, Chicago Bulls fanatic, metalhead, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys here at HTG, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, spinning legs on the bike, chugging away on the 6-string, or being disappointed in the Bulls.