Android TV may not be perfect, but it’s one of the better smart TV platforms on the market. It gives you access to lots of apps and games, most of which you can download from the Google Play Store. But some Android TV apps aren’t available via Google Play. Fortunately, just like how you can sideload apps onto Android smartphones and tablets, you can sideload apps on Android TV devices. Sideloading on Android TV isn’t as straightforward as phones or tablets, but it isn’t very challenging either.
If you aren’t sure how to sideload an app on Android TV, this article will explain two of the best ways to do so.
Important: You should only install APKs or app bundles downloaded from trusted sources.
Sideloading Apps using Send Files to TV
While you can use a web browser, like JioPages, to download APK files directly onto your Android TV, it’s a hassle unless you have a keyboard and mouse connected to the television. So it’s better to download the APK files on your Android phone or computer and then transfer them to your Android TV.
One of the easiest ways to achieve this is by using the Send Files to TV (SFTTV) app. It’s available on the Google Play store for both Android phones and Android TVs.
- Once you have installed the Send Files to TV app, open it on your phone and TV.
- Finish the initial setup, including giving the app permission to access the device’s storage.
- Then you just have to tap Send on your Android device.
- The app will ask you to pick a file to send to your TV. Select the file, and tap on your Android TV in the list. The app file will now seamlessly transfer to your Android TV.
- The Send Files to TV app saves the transferred files in the Downloads folder of your TV. You can now open the APK within the Send Files to TV app to install it.
- As it is your first time installing an APK using the Send Files to TV app, you’ll have to permit the app to install apps from unknown sources. Follow the on-screen instructions to give permission. Alternatively, you can navigate to Settings > Device Preferences > Security & Restrictions > Unknown sources and enable the Send Files to TV toggle. If you have an older Android TV version, there may be a single option to allow the installation of apps from unknown sources.
- After the permission, tap on the APK file again to install it. Depending on the app size, it’ll take a few seconds, and the app will be installed.
If you’re trying to install an app bundle, you’ll need to use an app like the APKMirror Installer on your TV to install it. APKMirror Installer lets you install .apkm, .xapk, and .apks app bundle files.
While Send Files to TV is a quick and easy way to send APK files to install on your Android TV, you can also use an app like X-plore File Manager that comes with a built-in Wi-Fi file-sharing function to share files from your Android phone to your Android TV. However, the rest of the process remains the same.
You can also use cloud storage services, like Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive, to upload APK files from your PC or smartphone and then download them using a file manager that supports cloud storage services.
Using ADB to sideload apps on Android TV
If you are comfortable with the command line, ADB is one of the easiest ways to sideload apps on your Android TV. As long as you have ADB set up on your PC or Mac, you don’t need extra software to sideload apps onto your Android TV.
- If you haven’t set up ADB on your PC or Mac, follow our explainer on how to install ADB to do it now.
- Head over to Settings on your Android TV to enable USB Debugging.
- For this, you’ll first have to activate Developer Options. You can do that by tapping on Build Number seven times or more until you see the You are now a developer prompt.
- Navigate to Settings > Device Preferences > Developer Options and enable USB Debugging.
- You are now all set to sideload apps. We’ll use ADB Wireless, so you don’t need a USB cable to connect to your Android TV. As long as your Android TV and computer are on the same wireless network, you’re good to go.
- Now you have to find the IP address of your Android TV. To do this, head over to Settings > Network & Internet and tap on the active Wi-Fi connection (or Ethernet if you are using that), and you’ll see an IP address. Note down this IP as we will use it to run ADB wirelessly on your TV.
- Open the command line on your PC or Mac and run “ADB connect” (without quotes), followed by the IP address you noted from your TV. Example: adb connect 192.168.1.1:5555.
- If it’s your first time connecting, your Android TV will ask you to allow USB Debugging from your computer. You can select Always allow from this computer to make things easy for the future.
- After authorization, your Android TV will start showing up when you run the “ADB devices” command.
- Now, use the “ADB install” command, followed by the APK file name. You may need to include the full path, depending on where the APK file is saved. Example: adb install com.github.android.apk
- If you are trying to install an app bundle, extract the APKs from the bundle on your PC or Mac using an archiving utility. The bundle can include a base APK and various resource APKs for different Application Binary Interfaces (ABIs), languages, and screen DPIs. Then you’ll have to pick the right APKs for your TV from the extracted APKs, based on the ABI and DPI data. If you don’t pick the right APKs, you’ll get an error, as you can see in the screenshot below. Make sure you put the extracted APK files in the platform-tools or ADB folder for easy access. You can also rename them if you want. Alternatively, if you have the ADB path/ alias set up, you can also directly run ADB in the folder containing the extracted APKs.
- Then use the “adb install-multiple” command followed by APK file names. Example: adb install-multiple base.apk split_config.armeabi_v7a.apk split_config.tvdpi.apk
Depending on the file size, the command will take a few seconds, and install the app on your Android TV.
Sideloaded apps not showing up in the Android TV app drawer?
Sometimes after sideloading an Android app on your television, you’ll notice its icon doesn’t appear in the app drawer. This is because Android TV requires apps to have a leanback icon to use with the TV’s leanback launcher, and if you have installed an app made for phones and tablets, it won’t have a leanback icon. So you can use an app like Sideload Launcher to see the sideloaded apps. Alternatively, navigate to Settings, Apps, and you can just select any app and launch it from there.
Apart from the Sideload Launcher, you can also try FLauncher. It’s an open-source launcher and can be downloaded directly from the Google Play store on your Android TV. However, since it’s a work in progress right now, you may notice occasional bugs.
In terms of features, FLauncher has customizable categories, the ability to order apps, wallpaper support, and more. Additionally, there are no ads in the launcher for a clean experience.
Another Sideload Launcher alternative that seems promising but is also under development is the developer Niels Van Velzen’s TV Launcher. Unfortunately, it’s not available for download yet, but you can monitor its progress at Github.
These are two of the easiest ways to sideload apps on your Android TV. However, if you install apps made primarily for phones or tablets, you may not get the best experience using them on your TV. Also, some apps may not work at all, or you end up with orientation issues.