Android TV is one of Google’s best-kept secrets in many ways. It is the powerhouse for untold smart TVs, projectors, and home theater setups all over the globe and Google doesn’t shout about it enough. With just a few apps Android TV can be even better.
We’re going beyond Netflix, YouTube, and the default Android TV apps here. Everyone has different streaming services available in their respective regions, so it would be unfair to recommend various platforms if not everyone can get them. We’re instead focusing on apps that most people can use and improve their TV viewing experience without requiring extra fees or paying for functionality.
There aren’t too many browsers that work well with Android TV when using a remote or your phone. TV Bro is actually our top pick for that reason and doesn’t require a mouse, keyboard or other peripheral to work properly on your TV.
Sure, it’s not the most attractive. It’s purely functional and the UI is basic at best. Complaints aside, it is the best way to browse the web on a large-screen device with a remote. The in-built cursor support is so much more helpful than wildly tapping around trying to get interfaces working correctly on a big display. The quick links are a nice option, and you can easily get to common pages or set a home screen for faster navigation.
Send Files to TV
In conjunction with a good file management app, you should definitely take a look at Send Files to TV. This app is a godsend when you want to send and receive files between your Android TV devices and your smartphone. Normally, it’s a laborious process that requires cables and even USB drives or SD cards to get a file from your phone to your TV.
The Send Files to TV app uses your local network to connect directly to your phone with a TV and bypass the frustration of cables and confusion. You can share a multitude kinds of filetype which is why it’s useful for everyone. If you want to sideload applications, then grabbing an APK file and sending it over it might work for this easy-to-grasp system. It helps that the interface is also super easy to grasp with just two options to choose from “Send” and “Receive.”
Cordcutting is getting harder and harder with way too many competing services offering various plans and subscriptions. Knowing where to watch something is like navigating a maze at times. This is where Stremio is a useful option as a basic media center that helps you find, manage, and stream content from various services.
Previews and trailers are linked with episode synopsis’ also helping you pick the right thing to watch. The add-on tool lets you access an even greater array of services and introduces new functions.
You can’t natively share your iPhone screen on Android TV. Not everyone has an Android phone, and that’s okay thanks to AirScreen. This app lets you cast iOS device screens and screen mirror on Android TV. AirScreen works by opening up AirPlay functionality for iOS and MacOS hardware on your Android TV devices. This means you can screen mirror almost natively without needing an Apple TV set-top box.
This solution means that you only need to install AirScreen on your Android TV device. We know that iPhone users don’t like downloading apps to useful add functions, so it’s nice that you do not need to install or open another app to your iOS devices. There’s support for 4K UHD video, which is yet another bonus as you can enjoy content not normally viewable at native resolution on your iPhone or iPad.
Ads might ruin your native Android TV experience. On a regular smartphone, this isn’t as much of a problem, but on Google TV specifically, there are sometimes annoying banners showing content on services you may never intend to subscribe to. FLauncher is an open-source alternative launcher for Android TV that might offer a reprieve on certain devices.
It’s clean, simple and uses a familiar tiled layout for any installed applications. You can change the wallpaper like on your phone and even create basic categories to sort your home screen. It’s a simple app that is perfect for most people.
While we didn’t want to recommend a streaming platform, we’ll make one exception for Pluto TV. It’s one of the biggest and best free TV and movie streaming services you should definitely trial if it’s available in your region. The app works on Android and Android TV, with 100s of live broadcasting channels showing classic content from CSI to Mad Men.
Each channel broadcasts live, but like a DVR you can return to the start and watch at your own pace. It’s like the best hybrid of TV and streaming, plus it’s completely free and 100% legal. For families with young children, the kids channels are perfect for just leaving on in the background too.
Ordinarily, we’d recommend VLC as the toolkit media player but it wouldn’t be fair to MX Player. It’s a perfect alternative and one that plays almost every file format you can throw at it. When a video is playing, the interface is actually more attractive plus performance is on par with VLC. Either option is great, but MX Player is a great alternative for all media types.
Button Mapper is a must-have Android TV app if you want to tune a remote to work however you want it to. It’s a great option as it lets you adjust what each button on your physical remote can do and even lets you disable certain keys if needed.
By adding the ability to double and long-press, you can do much more than even basic or limited remotes would be capable of right out of the box. A one-time fee unlocks more options and customization controls, but it is worth every penny if – like me – you are frustrated with your Android TV remote.
One of the only ways to play triple-A titles on your big screen now that Stadia has bitten the dust is via services like NVIDIA GeForce NOW. This paid-for service lets you stream high-end games at up to 4K resolution using RTX-series graphics cards – all in the cloud. You can play a wealth of your existing games on Steam, Epic Games, and
There is a free account that lets you access a “basic rig” in the cloud and play for up to 1-hour per session. It’s a super seamless way of turning your TV into a console-quality gaming experience but with over 1000+ PC titles you can play right there in your living room.
If you don’t have the connection speed to stream games from the cloud, then how about classic console and arcade games? RetroArch gives you the tools to play some of your favorite games from yesteryear. It bundles in popular emulators into one easy-to-access – and free – package. You can even run PS2 titles provided your Android TV set-top box or smart TV has the processing power to run early-2000s titles.
Because you can emulate hundreds of platforms, all you need is the ROM files to get started. For a quick way to roll back the years, it’s a must-have Android TV app for any system. Plus it works perfectly with all kinds of Bluetooth controllers and wired gamepads for the “authentic” experience.
What are your favorite Android TV apps?
Android TV offers a wealth of applications and services that you can download and install to maximize the power of your home entertainment system. That makes it hard to cover just about everything there is. Do you have any apps that you simply cannot live without? Let us know down in the comments section below.
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