(Credit: Screenshot: Download.com/Tom McNamara)

Fortnite is finally coming to Android phones -- but it won't be coming to the Google Play Store. In a surprise move, Fortnite's publisher has elected to provide the installer file directly on its website, and owners of certain Samsung phones and tablets got an advanced peek at the game before the beta started for the rest of us on August 12.

SEE: How to avoid downloading fake versions of Fortnite for Android so you don't get hacked

Gamers with qualifying Samsung phones can use the Galaxy Apps store instead, but the rest of us are about to get familiar with magic of "sideloading," which is the act of manually installing an app on your Android phone or tablet, outside of the Google Play Store. This is ordinarily a bad idea, because sideloading can let some pretty bad dudes slip nasty apps onto your device, but Fortnite is one of the few exceptions to the rule.

The sideloading process varies according to which version of Android you have, and there's quite a number of different versions of Android floating around. According to Google's own numbers, about 20 percent of Android users are still on Lollipop, which came out four years ago. So we've attempted to address a variety of the scenarios that you may encounter, but we may not be able to help everyone.

Before we get started, though, this is the current list of Android devices that Epic says are compatible with Fortnite (not including the qualifying Samsung phones and tablets):

  • Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL
  • Asus ROG Phone, Zenfone 4 Pro, 5Z, V
  • Essential PH-1
  • Huawei Honor 10, Honor Play, Mate 10, Mate 10 Pro, Mate RS, Nova 3, P20, P20 Pro, V10
  • LG G5, G6, G7 ThinQ, V20, V30, V30+
  • Nokia 8
  • OnePlus 5, 5T, 6
  • Razer Phone
  • Xiaomi Blackshark, Mi 5, Mi 5S, Mi 5S Plus, Mi 6, Mi 6 Plus, Mi 8, Mi 8 Explorer, Mi 8SE, Mi Mix, Mi Mix 2, Mi Mix 2S, Mi Note 2
  • ZTE Axon 7, Axon 7s, Axon M, Nubia, Nubia Z11, Nubia Z17, Nubia Z17s

If your device is on this list, then read on for our sideloading guide.

Installing Fortnite in Android 8 and 9

First, let's get the installer file, also known as an APK, or Android Package Kit. On your Android device, head over to https://www.fortnite.com/android to sign up for the beta. Unfortunately, the beta will be limited to a certain number of players, and not everyone will get the invite right away.

Once you've gotten your invite code, log into the website at the link above and head over to https://www.epicgames.com/fortnite/en-US/redeem. Paste your code into the entry field, and tap the fat yellow Redeem button. The page should reload and tell you that this code is for "Fortnite Android Audience." Tap the Activate button to confirm.

There's a Download button on the page that pops up after that, but Android users will need to take a slightly different route at this point. If you're not already working through the installation process on your Android phone or tablet, you'll need to switch over to that device to continue. Once you're there, open the Chrome web browser, log into the Epic Games website, and go to this link: https://www.epicgames.com/fortnite/en-US/mobile/android/get-started.

On this page, you should see a fat yellow button labeled "Get Started." Tap that, then tap the Download button to get the installer file, known as an APK. Note that this is not the full game. This APK just grabs the rest of the files from Epic's download servers. But you need to hang onto the APK (which is just 4MB in size) to get updates to Fortnite in the future, so don't delete that.

Once you've downloaded the APK, tap the notification at the bottom of Chrome's window, then tap the Install button in the lower right. It will take a few seconds, then you'll see a prompt labeled "Game Storage Required." Tap on Continue to give the APK permission to get those other files from Epic that we mentioned earlier. Then Android itself will do a permissions check for the Fortnite Installer. Tap Allow to confirm, and then the APK will start grabbing some more files from Epic.

We're in the home stretch now. Once those files are downloaded, Android will tell you that the Fortnite Installer is not currently authorized to keep going. Tap Settings, tap the slider button next to "Allow from this source," tap the back button in the upper left, then tap Install.

Almost done now. At this point, the Fortnite Installer will finally start retrieving all the files needed to launch the game, which should add up to 1.88GB. So we recommend Wi-Fi, unless you have a fast mobile data connection and no data cap. Once the whole game is downloaded, the installer will take a few seconds to verify its files, then about a minute to optimize content. This last step's duration may vary depending on how much performance your Android device is capable of.

Once optimization is done, the game will start, and you'll be asked to confirm that you want to enter the Android beta. Tap Yes to proceed, tap Accept once you've gone through the EULA, sign into your account, choose from one of three available aiming methods, and you'll finally be at Fortnite's character selection screen.

If you missed Chrome's notification about having downloaded the APK, you can access your device's downloads folder by tapping Chrome's three-dot menu in the upper right, then tapping Downloads. The files in this folder will be listed in order of recency, by default. From there, you can just tap the APK to get started.

How to sideload in Android 7 or earlier

In Android 7 or earlier, you should be able to enable sideloading by swiping down from the top of your screen to open the quick tiles menu, then tapping the gear icon (you may have to swipe down twice to reveal the gear), then Security.

If you can't find a gear icon, there should be a Settings app in your app drawer that you can tap to access your device's settings. Of course, the method to access your app drawer varies from one Android phone to another. In this case, you may be able to get the Google Assistant to help. Say, "OK, Google" or "Hey, Google" to your phone, then say "Open settings."

In the Security section, tap the slider next to Unknown Sources, then tap OK to confirm. You can then install the app from within the Files app as described above.

Note that in this older version of Android, you have just enabled blanket permission. So once you're done sideloading your app, we highly recommend going back to this setting and disabling it, for security reasons.

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Hunting down the Unknown Sources setting on an older Android device

If you can't find the Unknown Sources setting on an older Android phone, your Settings app should have a search field at the top, so tap that, and it will search as you type. Type unknown, and Unknown Sources should pop up in your search results. Tap that to go to the setting, then tap the slider next to it to enable sideloading.

If you're using Android 7 or earlier, and your Settings app doesn't have a search function, and you can't find the toggle to enable Unknown Sources, you'll probably have to look up instructions via Google search for your particular phone model.

If you don't know what model phone you have, that's a little trickier to solve, because that information is located somewhere in your Settings app, but its location can vary from one Android phone to another.

You may have to contact the customer service department for your mobile carrier and ask them what device is linked to the phone number it provides service for. From there, you should be able to Google the steps to enable Unknown Sources for your device, or customer service may be able to guide you themselves.

Again, don't forget to disable Unknown Sources once you've sideloaded your app in these older versions of Android. That helps keep you safe from malicious apps that may trick you into installing them.

Also see

Tom is the senior editor covering Windows at Download.com.