In this guide, I’ll show you how to install apps from the side on Android TV boxes. I have given separate instructions for boxes with the True Android TV OS and for boxes with the Stock Android TV OS. In the first part of this post, I explain what makes these Android boxes different.
There are many different Android TV boxes on the market. But you can put all of these boxes into only two big groups: True Android TV OS Boxes and Stock Android TV Boxes.
Both kinds of boxes can use the Google Play Store. You can get official apps like Netflix, Hulu, Plex, etc. from the Play Store. But third-party apps that aren’t in the official Store let you find out what a streaming device can really do. These apps have to be sideloaded or put on your device by hand. This guide is all about that very thing.
In this post, we will talk about the following:
– Giving Unknown Source Access (to allow sideloading)
– Learning about the different kinds of Android TV boxes
– How to install apps from the outside on True Android TV OS boxes
– How to install apps from the outside on Stock Android TV boxes
– How to use a PC to sideload apps on your Android Box (works for both types of boxes)
Note that “true” Android TV OS is not a term that is used by Google. The word “True” helps you tell the difference between the two kinds of boxes.
Enable Unknown Source to Sideload Apps on Android TV Box
Yes, you can’t install a third-party app on your Android box until you change the security settings to allow apps from “Unknown Sources.” This is true for both types of boxes, those with the True Android TV OS and those with just Android.
The Mi Box was used to get the following pictures. But on both kinds of Android TV boxes, the steps to turn on “Unknown Sources” are pretty much the same. What you have to do is:
1-Click Settings on your Android TV Box’s home screen (top-right on Mi Box)
2-Scroll down and click on Security and limits (some devices may just say Security)
3-Click on “Unknown Sources.”
Note: If your device has an older version of Android, there is a switch on this screen that lets you turn on Unknown Sources for all apps. Turn on “Unknown Sources.” Click YES when you’re asked again. No need to do what comes next.
4-You can now turn on Unknown Sources for each app you want to use for sideloading on its own.
In this guide, we have used apps like Downloader, Browser, and File Manager.
Understanding Different Types of Android TV Boxes
It’s important to know the different kinds of Android TV boxes so you can figure out how to sideload each one. There are only two kinds of Android boxes that we need to worry about:
1. True Android TV OS
2. Stock Android Box
Let’s get to know them a little better:
1. True Android TV OS: These are devices that run on the Android OS and have been fully adapted for TV use. Most smart TVs that have an Android interface built-in have the True TV OS. They are also common among the best-known Android TV box brands, like Mi Box and Nvidia Shield.
Since the Android TV OS is made for TV screens, they also have its own version of the Google Play Store. Popular streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have TV versions that you can download.
It seems that devices with real Android TV OS cost more. But they are made of high-quality materials, respond fully to the remote, and have a better user interface.
2. Stock Android Box: This is a type of box that runs on the Android OS, which is similar to (or even the same as) what is used in Android phones and tablets. Some of the codenames for different versions of Android OS are Nougat, Oreo, and the most recent one, Pie.
Don’t be surprised if your Android phone and stock Android TV Box both run the same version of the Android OS. TV Boxes, on the other hand, rarely use the most recent versions.
Only a few devices have the latest version of Android, Android 9 Pie. In fact, Android 8 Oreo isn’t very common either. As I write this, Android 7 Nougat is running on most TVs.
Most Android Boxes use a modified version of Android OS so that it looks better on the bigger screen of your TV. But at their core, they are pretty much the same.
Even though these boxes do their basic job, they are often made of cheap materials and poorly made. The remote doesn’t work as well as you’d like with the interface, either. They are also not good for people who like to stream using official and popular services like Netflix, Hulu, etc. They get the mobile versions of these apps from the Google Play Store. The apps are made for devices that can be touched. They are not very good for being far away.
Even so, they are still very popular because they are cheap and easy to get.
How to Sideload Apps on True Android TV OS Boxes
First, a bit of background.
Google Play Store works on both True Android TV OS Box and Stock Android TV Box. But their versions of the Store are different.
There are a lot of apps that neither of these devices has. This is one of them:
A downloader is a sideloading tool for Android devices like FireStick, Android TV Boxes, etc. This app can be downloaded from the Play Store on Android TV OS devices like the Mi Box and the Nvidia Shield.
It is NOT available on Stock Android, which means it is not available on Stock Android phones, TVs, or tablets. In this guide, I’ve given a separate method for installing browsers on Stock Android TV devices.
Now, we’re going to install the Downloader app and use it to sideload an app onto an Android TV OS box. Here are the steps to take:
Note: The photos below were taken on a Mi Box.
1-Turn on your Android TV box and wait for the home screen to load.
2-Pick Google Play Store and open it.
Note: You can also get to the Google Store by going to Settings (click the cog icon in the top-right corner followed by the lens icon on the next screen)
3-Click the magnifying glass (Search) in the top left corner.
4-Use the voice search to find AFTVNEWS.
Or, you can just type “AFTVNEWS” into the search box.
Note: For some reason, your TV doesn’t look for the app based on its name.
5-Select the row that shows the apps that came up in the search. Click the Downloader button in the row.
Note that Downloader might or might not be the first app that comes up when you search. If you don’t see it, move to the right until you do.
6-In the next window, click “Install.”
7-Wait while the Downloader app is downloaded to your device and installed.
8-Click Open to start Downloader.
Note: You can also run it later from the home screen of your Android TV Box by going to the Apps section.
9-The Downloader app may ask for permission the first time you open it. Click OK.
10-The Downloader app’s main window is now loading. If you see a popup on the first run, you can get rid of it by pressing the back button.
You will see that the Home tab on the left is already chosen.
In the right box, you just need to type in the URL you want and click GO.
Important!!! Make sure that the URL goes straight to the APK file and not to a webpage. Downloads through a browser are not possible on Android TV OS boxes.
11-Let’s show how it works by downloading the Cinema HD APK. Type https://www.firesticktricks.com/cinema in the address bar and click GO.
Note: You can also type in firesticktricks.com/cinema, which is a shorter version of the URL.
12-Wait while your Android TV device downloads the Cinema HD APK.
13-When asked, click “Install” in the bottom right corner.
14-Wait for the message that says “App Installed.”
Note: We’re going back to the Downloader app window to delete the Cinema APK file, which is no longer needed. From the Apps section, we will run the app later. Click OPEN if you want to run the app right away.
16-Click Delete once more.
17-Close the Downloader app and go back to your Android TV Box’s home screen. Tap Apps
Note: It is in the top row on the left side of the Mi Box. Find it if it’s not in the same place on your device. You won’t have a hard time finding it.
18-Now, open Cinema APK and start watching your favorite videos.
So, this is how you add apps to your Android TV OS Box from the outside.
How to Sideload Apps on Stock Android TV Boxes
As I said before, you can’t get the Downloader app from the Google Play Store on an Android phone. So, it’s also not available on Android TV boxes that come with the stock software.
Thank goodness, the stock TVs can download from the browser (as is the case with Android mobiles and tablets).
To sideload apps, all you have to do is use the browser that came with your phone or download a popular one from the Google Play Store, like Google Chrome or Firefox.
I took these pictures with the X96 Mini Android TV Box. Your device may have the same user interface, a similar one, or a different one. Even so, the method stays pretty much the same.
1-It’s likely that you already have a browser built-in. Most of the time, you can get to it from the device’s home screen. If it’s not on the main screen, you can find it in the Apps drawer.
2-Some devices come with popular browsers like Chrome or Firefox already installed.
If you don’t want to use the built-in browser and the one you want isn’t already there, go to the home screen, click Google Play Store, search for the browser you want, and install it.
3-Go to the Apps section and open the browser.
4-In the address bar of your browser, type https://www.firesticktricks.com/cinema.
Some browsers will also work with a shorter version of the URL, which is firesticktricks.com/cinema.
5-Wait for the APK to be downloaded.
6-Once you’ve downloaded the APK, if your browser tells you to run it, you can start the installation right away. If you don’t see this prompt, move on to the next step.
7-Most Android boxes, both stock and Android TV OS, come with a file manager (also called a “file browser”) already installed. You can either look for it on the home screen or in the Apps section.
You can get a file manager app from Google Play Store if you don’t already have one.
8-Open the file manager app and go to the folder where the APK was downloaded on your internal storage. Most of the time, APK files are downloaded to the Downloads folder.
9-To start the installation, just run the APK file.
10-Steps to Install
11-Click OPEN when the installation is done and run the app. You can also use the Apps drawer to get to the app later.
This is how you use a browser to sideload apps on stock Android TV boxes.
Sideload Apps on Android TV Box Using a PC
If the URL goes straight to the APK file, it’s easy to sideload apps onto your True Android TV OS boxes. But if the URL takes you to a page where you have to click a link to download the APK, it won’t work on the Android TV OS device. This is because these devices don’t let you download browsers.
In that case, you can use a computer to load apps onto your TV OS Box. For this to happen, the following must be true:
– Both your Android TV OS Box and your computer must be connected to the same Wi-Fi network.
– Your Android TV Box must have a file manager app with a PC connection feature.
Here’s how to use a computer to put apps on your device by sideloading:
1-Open your computer’s browser and go to the URL where you want to download the APK file. Then download the APK file.
2-Make sure that your computer and Android TV box are both connected to the same Wi-Fi network.
3-Go to the Google Play Store on your TV Box and look for a file manager app that lets you connect to a PC (such as File Commander)
Put the file manager in place.
4-Open the app you just installed to manage your files. Find the feature that lets you connect to a PC or send files from a PC.
5-Let the file manager app get to the file
6-Enable PC connectivity (some file manager apps automatically enable this feature the moment you access the PC connectivity feature)
7-Depending on the file manager you have on your Android box, you should now see either a http path or an ftp path.
Also, check the box at the bottom that says “Allow all incoming PC connections.”
8.1: If the file manager showed http path, open a browser on your computer and go to the path.
You can now use your computer’s browser to get to all the Android TV Box folders.
You must also find a place on the page where you can upload files.
Find the APK file you saved to your computer earlier. Put it on your Android TV Box in one of the folders.
8.2: If the file manager gave you an FTP path, open any folder on your computer and type the FTP path into the address bar of that folder.
You can now see all the folders on your Android TV Box on your computer.
You can now copy the APK file from your computer into one of the Android Box folders.
9-Now go back to your Android TV Box
Use the file manager to get to the folder where the APK file you copied from your computer is stored.
Suppose you put the file in the Downloads folder.
how to put apps on Android TV boxes from the outside
10- Pick the APK file and click on it.
Note: Use the method I described at the beginning to turn on “Unknown Sources” for the file manager app. If you haven’t done that, you will see some prompts that let you turn it on before the installation.
Put a downloader on your Android TV.
11-When asked, click “Install.”
12-Wait until the app is downloaded.
So, this is how we use a PC to sideload apps onto an Android TV Box
Since there are two different kinds of Android Boxes that use different sideloading methods, things can get a little complicated. The stock Android box lets you download a browser, but Android TV OS boxes like the Mi Box and Nvidia Shield don’t support browsers.
You can get the Downloader app from Google Play Store and put it on your Mi Box, Nvidia Shield, or TV with built-in Android OS. With this app, you can sideload third-party apps from URLs that point directly to the APK.
If you have the URL for a website that has a link to the APK, you could download the APK to your computer first. Later, you can connect your Android TV OS Box or Android TV to your computer and move the APK file to the device using a File Manager tool. This seems a little complicated, but this is all we have until browser support is added to your Android TV OS boxes.
With a stock Android TV box, things get a little bit easier because you can download files directly through the browser, even if the URL doesn’t point directly to the APK.
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