Facebook have introduced a new method of Quest app distribution. App Lab allows you to easily install non-store content onto your Quest headset.
Since launch, Oculus Quest has been a console-like platform, with the Oculus Store as the official method for installing apps on your device. Developers have to submit a pitch for their app to be made available on the Quest store, with Facebook enacting a strict curation policy.
However, as of February 2021, App Lab presents Quest users and developers with an alternate method to distribute, find and install Quest content that is not yet available on the official store. This opens the floodgates for Quest users and developers, providing an easier way to install experimental VR content from outside the Oculus Store.
However, as App Lab apps are not held up to the same approval process as the Oculus Store, many App Lab apps will be works in progress, unstable or of lower quality overall than official store content. App Lab apps can be free or paid, with multiple easy installation options.
Here’s how to install App Lab apps on Oculus Quest.
How is App Lab different to sideloading?
App Lab and sideloading are similar in that both of them provide a way to install non-store content on your Quest. However, App Lab is Facebook’s official solution and is much easier — sideloading requires registering as a developer and a much fiddlier app installation process.
App Lab is not replacing sideloaded content, nor does it mark the death knell for SideQuest. In fact, SideQuest and Facebook have worked together on App Lab integration, so that SideQuest can act as a directory for App Lab apps. Read more about what App Lab means for the future of SideQuest here.
What You Need and Preparation
First and foremost, you won’t need to register as a developer or set your Quest into developer mode. This is required for sideloading, but not for installing App Lab content.
You can choose to use a computer or just your mobile phone — either will work and the process remains very similar. If you want to use your phone, you’ll need the Oculus app installed as well.
Besides that, all you need is a Quest headset and you’re good to go.
Where to find App Lab apps
Facebook does not list all App Lab content in one big directory in the same way it does for store content.
Instead, each App Lab app has its own direct URL listing. Developers can choose to share and promote their app URL in any way they like, but there’s no official centralized listing of every App Lab app available.
However, Facebook has worked with SideQuest to allow App Lab apps to be easily integrated and listed as part of the SideQuest library.
SideQuest now features an App Lab category, pictured above, where developers can easily submit and list their App Lab apps. This means that SideQuest is the best place to browse, discover and install experimental App Lab content for Oculus Quest. You can also visit the memorable URL applab.games for SideQuest-listed games that are available via App Lab.
Installing App Lab Content Through SideQuest
If you’ve already got a direct URL for an App Lab app that you want to install, you can skip this section and go directly to the next one.
Most people know SideQuest as a downloadable app for PC and Mac used for sideloading. However, a proper SideQuest installation isn’t required for App Lab apps — you can do everything through SideQuest’s website, on mobile or PC.
Navigate to SideQuest’s App Lab category, which you can find here: https://sidequestvr.com/apps/applab/ as well as on the home page of the PC/Mac app. Browse the App Lab section and locate one you want to install.
Open the SideQuest page for the app. There should be an ‘Oculus App’ button for all App Lab apps on SideQuest, as pictured above. On mobile, it will look slightly different but with the same button.
Click the button, which will open a web page or the Oculus app. Then, follow the steps in the section below.
Adding App Lab Content To Your Library
Whether you opened an App Lab URL directly or opened it through SideQuest using the ‘Oculus App’ button, the process for adding content remains the same. The listing page for both mobile and PC is pictured above.
On PC, the listing page will open in a browser window, with the option to either purchase the app or add it to your library for free, depending on the app’s pricing scheme. If you haven’t already, log in to the Facebook account associated with your headset and redeem/purchase the app.
On mobile, the app listing may open in the Oculus app. There will be a button at the bottom of the screen to redeem a free app or purchase a paid one.
Once you’ve redeemed or purchased the app, you’re ready to install.
Installing App Lab Apps
On mobile, the Oculus App should present a ‘Install on Headset’ or ‘Play Later’ button in place of the purchase button after you’ve redeemed/bought the app. You can press this button and select which headset you want it to be installed on. Provided your headset is charged and in idle sleep mode, the Quest will then install the App Lab app in the background, ready for your next VR session.
On desktop, the ‘Install on Headset’ option is not present. You can either open up the Oculus mobile app, locate the app in your library and press ‘Install on Headset’, or you can install the app while using the headset itself.
In the v23 software for Quest, App Lab apps that you own but have not installed will appear in your Quest’s app library, which is found on the bottom toolbar. App Lab apps will be listed either under the ‘All’ or the ‘Not Installed’ category. From here, you can install an App Lab app just like any other.
In the newer v25 software for Quest (which is still rolling out gradually), there may be more clear integration with App Lab apps, making them easier to locate in your library. We haven’t been able to try App Lab installation on v25 ourselves yet, but they will probably be found in their own separate App Lab category or within the same ‘All’ or ‘Not Installed’ categories in your library.
That’s everything you need to know on how to find and install App Lab apps on Oculus Quest. Any questions? Let us know in the comments and we’ll try to help out.
Looking for more guides like this one? Check out the New to VR? section of our site.