Is there a way to side load apps (appx) on a Windows 8.1 phone? I have built an app but it's not loaded on the windows store yet. I would like to send to a few friends to test out but I can't find a way to load up these apps without Visual Studio.
The easiest way would be to publish it to the store as a hidden app and provide your friends with promotion codes so only they can find & download it.
Afaik you need the developer tools to unlock your phone for sideloading otherwise.
There is an easier way than what has been desdcribed to you, I own a Microsoft Lumia 435 and I was able to do this with an app I had developed.
Go to Settings → For Developers, and enable the "Sideload Apps" option.
Now you need to plug your Lumia into a USB port on your computer/laptop and copy the .xap file from your computer to your Lumia's SD card.
Unplug from USB port and open Windows Store, then press the "More" option and then press "Install Local Apps".
Now install the app you wanted to install.
Job Done ;)
You would have to be a "Developer" and then using Visual Studio, push the .xap to your phone. When I signed up, it was $15 a year for me to be a Developer, I'm not sure how much it is now.