How to Install App Lab Apps on Quest
Last week, Facebook launched its non-store app distribution for Oculus Quest known as App Lab. Facebook’s App Lab enables users to easily install non-store content on their Quest headset without having to resort to sideloading.
The Oculus platform has been run on a console-like mode since its launch a few years ago and the Oculus Store is the official channel for installing apps on your Oculus device. For developers to add their apps to the Quest Store, they have to make a pitch for the app to be included and the Facebook content curation policy for its Oculus store is very strict.
With the launch of the App Lab, Quest users and developers now have an alternative channel for distributing, finding and installing Quest content that is not yet on the official store. The App Lab opens up lots of opportunities for Quest users as well as developers and offers them a less stricter method for installing experimental virtual reality content that’s outside the Oculus Store.
Because App Lab apps do not pass through the same strict approvals process that apps added to the official Oculus Store are subjected to, a lot of the apps on App Lab will be works in progress or experimental apps. They will mostly be unstable or lower quality than what you would typically find in the official Oculus Store but there will be lot of gems in there, too. App Lab apps will either be free or premium and offer users plenty of easy installation options.
Below is a guide on how you can install App Lab apps on Quest.
App Lab vs Sideloading
Until now, developers unable to add get their content past Facebook’s strict content curation policy have had to rely on SideQuest, a third-party Mac, PC or Linux application that allows developers to easily sideload their content to Quest.
Both App Lab and sideloading via SideQuest are similar in the way that they provide developers and users with an alternative path to install non-store content on their Quest headsets. However, while sideloading is a third-party solution, App Lab is Facebook’s official solution and it is also a lot easier to implement. Sideloading, on the other hand, requires registering as a developer and the app also takes you through a fiddlier installation process.
App Lab will not replace the sideloaded content nor SideQuest. In fact, Facebook worked with SideQuest in the integration of App Lab and SideQuest will subsequently be a directory for the App Lab apps.
What You Need for App Lab
Unlike in SideQuest, users do not have to register as developers to use App Lab neither do they have to set their Oculus Quest headset in the developer mode.
You can simply use your computers or mobile phones both of which work and the process remains pretty much the same. To use your phone with App Lab, the Oculus app must be installed as well. Apart from that, you will of course need the Oculus Quest headset and you will be good to go.
Finding the App Lab Apps
The content on App Lab isn’t listed in one big directory like it’s done for store content. Every App Lab app instead has a direct URL listing. Developers can share and promote the app URLs whichever way they like. However, there is no official centralized listing of all the apps in App Lab.
However, Facebook partnered with SideQuest to enable easy integration and listing of the App Lab apps as part of the SideQuest library.
As a result, SideQuest now has an App Lab category where developers can submit and list their App Lab apps with relative ease. SideQuest will thus present users with the best portal for browsing, discovering and installing experimental App Lab content for Quest.
How to Install App Lab Content via SideQuest
It easy to install an App Lab app once you have a direct URL to the app.
However, if you want to install App Lab apps via SideQuest (a downloadable sideloading app for PC and Mac), you can do it without going through a proper SideQuest installation as everything can be done from the SideQuest website either from PC or mobile.
Do this by navigating your way to SideQuest’s App Lab category which is available at https://sidequestvr.com/apps/applab/. You can also find the category on the home page of the PC or Mac app. Browse to the App Lab section and then find the app that you want to install.
Next, open the app’s SideQuest page. You should find an ‘Oculus App’ button here for all the App Lab apps on SideQuest. This looks slightly different on mobile but you will find the same button. Click this button and it opens up the Oculus app or the web page depending on the device. Next follow the steps shown in the section below.
How to Add App Lab Content to Your Library
The process of adding content is the same irrespective of whether you have accessed the App Lab URL directly or opened it via SideQuest using the ‘Oculus App’ button. The image above shows the listing page for both PC and mobile.
The listing page opens in a browser window on PC and offers you the option to either buy the app or freely add it to your library depending on the pricing scheme of the app. You have to log in to the Facebook account which is associated with the VR headset to redeem or purchase the app.
You may open the app listing in the Oculus app on mobile. You will find a button at the bottom of the screen from where you can purchase the paid app or redeem free app.
After redeeming or purchasing app, you are ready to proceed with the installation process.
How to Install App Lab Apps
The Oculus App sold give you a ‘Play Later’ or ‘Install on Headset’ button rather than the purchase button once you have bought or redeemed the app on mobile. Press this button and choose the headset that you want the app to be installed on. As long as the headset is charged and is either in a charged or idle sleep mode, the app will be installed in the background by the Quest headset and will be ready for your next virtual reality session.
The ‘Install on Headset’ option isn’t there on desktop. Open the Oculus mobile app and find the app in your library and then press ‘Install on Headset’. Alternatively, you can simply install the app when you are already using the VR headset.
The App Lab apps that you already own and which you haven’t installed on your Quest headset will be under your Quest’s app library in the v23 Quest software. You can find this at the bottom of the toolbar. The App Lab apps will appear in the ‘All’ or ‘Not Installed’ category. From these categories, you can proceed with the app installation just as you would any other app.
For the newer v25 Quest software which is currently on a gradual rollout, users might get a clearer integration with the App Lab apps which will make it easier to locate the apps in their library. The apps are likely to be listed in their own ‘All’ and ‘Not Installed’ categories in the v25 or under their own App Lab category.