In this guide, I will demonstrate how to sideload apps on Android TV Boxes. I have provided separate methods for True Android TV OS boxes and Stock Android TV Boxes. The difference between these Android boxes is explained in the first section of this post.
You will find a wide range of Android TV Boxes in the market. However, there are only two broad categories you can put all these boxes into – True Android TV OS Boxes and Stock Android TV Boxes.
Both types of boxes offer Google Play Store support. You can download a lot of official apps from the Play Store, such as Netflix, Hulu, Plex, etc. But, the true potential of any streaming device is explored with the third-party apps not available through the official Store. Such apps need to be sideloaded or manually installed onto your device. That’s exactly what this guide is all about.
Here is what we will go through in this post:
– Enabling Unknown Source (to allow sideloading)
– Understanding Different Types of Android TV Boxes
– How to sideload apps on True Android TV OS Boxes
– How to sideload apps on Stock Android TV Boxes
– How to sideload apps on your Android Box using a PC (works for both types of boxes)
Note: ‘True’ Android TV OS is not an official term. I have used the word ‘True’ to help you make a clear distinction between the two types of boxes.
Enable Unknown Source to Sideload Apps on Android TV Box
Yes, you cannot install any third application on your Android box until you have enabled the Unknown Sources in the security settings. This holds true for both types of boxes – True Android TV OS Boxes and Stock Android Boxes.
The following images have been taken from the Mi Box. However, the steps to enable Unknown Sources are pretty much the same on both types of Android TV boxes. Here is what you need to do:
1- Click Settings on the home screen of your Android TV Box (top-right on Mi Box)
2- Scroll down and click Security & restrictions (some devices may just say Security)
3- Click Unknown Sources
Note: If your device runs on an older Android OS, you will find a toggle on this screen to enable Unknown Sources universally for all the apps. Just turn Unknown Sources ON. Click YES on the prompt that follows. No need to follow the next steps.
4- Now, you may enable Unknown Sources individually for each app you intend to use for sideloading purposes.
For instance, we have used Downloader, browser and file manager apps in this guide
Understanding Different Types of Android TV Boxes
It is important to understand the different types of Android TV Boxes to determine the sideload methods to apply to each. There are only 2 types of Android boxes we need to concern ourselves with:
1. True Android TV OS
2. Stock Android Box
Let’s learn a bit more about them:
1. True Android TV OS: These are the devices that run on the Android OS fully customized for the TV experience. The True TV OS is usually found in the smart TVs with the built-in Android interface. They are also common among the more popular brands selling Android TV Boxes, such as Mi Box and Nvidia Shield.
Since the Android TV OS is specifically designed for TV screens, they also have their own version of the Google Play Store. You can download the TV version of the popular streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu.
Devices with true Android TV OS are apparently costlier. However, they use high-quality design materials, are fully responsive to the remote and have a more user-friendly user interface.
2. Stock Android Box: This is the type of box that runs on the Android OS similar to (or even same as) what is used in the Android Mobiles and Tablets. Nougat, Oreo, and the most recent Pie are some of the codenames that have been assigned to various versions of Android OS.
If you use an Android phone and a stock Android TV Box, don’t be surprised if you find both running on the same Android OS version. However, TV Boxes typically do not use the latest versions.
Only a handful of devices come with the latest Android 9 Pie version. In fact, Android 8 Oreo is also quite rare. Most TV devices are running on Android 7 Nougat as I write this.
Most Android Boxes use the modified version of Android OS for better orientation with the larger screen of your TV. However, at its core, they are much the same.
While these boxes do the basic job, they are often poorly designed with cheap materials. The interface is also not as responsive to the remote as you would like. They are also not suited for those who like to stream through the popular and official streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, etc. That’s because they download the mobile version of these apps from the Google Play Store. The mobile apps are meant for touch devices. They are not very remote-friendly.
Nevertheless, due to their low cost and easy availability, they are still quite popular.
Attention: Read before you continue
Governments and ISPs across the world monitor their users' online activities. If found streaming copyrighted content on your device, you could get into serious trouble. Currently, your IP is visible to everyone. I strongly recommend you to get a good VPN and hide your identity so that your movie viewing experience doesn’t take a bad turn.
I use ExpressVPN which is the fastest and most secure VPN in the industry. It is very easy to install on any device including Amazon Fire TV Stick. Also, it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you don't like their service, you can always ask for a refund. ExpressVPN also has a special deal where you can get 3 months free and save 49% on annual plan.
- How to install VPN on FireStick / Fire TV
- How to install VPN on other streaming devices
How to Sideload Apps on True Android TV OS Boxes
A little intro first.
Both, True Android TV OS Box and Stock Android TV Box support Google Play Store. However, both have different versions of the Store.
There are many apps that are not common between these two devices. One of them is:
Downloader is a sideloading tool designed for Android devices such as Android TV Boxes, FireStick, etc. This app is available through Play Store for true Android TV OS devices, such as Mi Box and Nvidia Shield.
It is NOT available on Stock Android including Stock Android TV devices, mobiles, and tablets. For Stock Android TV devices, I have provided the browser installation method separately in this guide.
We are now going to install the Downloader app and use it to sideload an app on an Android TV OS box. Follow the steps below:
Note: The following images have been taken on the Mi Box
1- Power up your Android TV Box and wait for the home screen to load up
2- Select and open Google Play Store
3- Click the Search option (magnifying glass) in the top-left corner
4- Use the voice feature and lookup for AFTVNEWS
Or, simply type AFTVNEWS in the search box
Note: For some reason, your TV device does not look up for the app with the name of the app
5- Highlight the row that displays the apps in the search result. Select Downloader in the row and click it
Note: Downloader may or may not be the first app in the search results. If not, navigate to the right until you find it
6- Click Install on the next window
7- Wait while Downloader app is downloaded and installed on your device
8- Click Open to run Downloader
Note: You may also run it later from the Apps section on the home window of your Android TV Box
9- When the Downloader app is opened for the first time, it may ask you for permission. Click Allow
10- The main window of the Downloader app now loads up. If you see a popup on the first run, press the back button to dismiss it
You will notice that the Home tab in the left section is selected by default
In the right section, you simply need to enter the desired URL and click GO
Important!!! Make sure that the URL points directly to the APK file and not a webpage. Browser-based downloads are not supported on Android TV OS Boxes
11- Let’s download the Cinema HD APK for demonstration purposes. Type in the URL https://www.firesticktricks.com/cinema and click GO
Note: You may also type in the shorter version of the URL, which would be firesticktricks.com/cinema
12- Wait while the Cinema HD APK is downloaded on your Android TV device
13- Click Install in the bottom right corner when prompted
14- Wait for the App Installed notification
Note: We are going back to the Downloader app window to delete the Cinema APK file, which is no longer needed. We will run the app later from the Apps section. However, if you want to run the app right now, click OPEN
15- Click Delete
16- Click Delete again
17- Exit Downloader app and go back to the home window of your Android TV Box. Click Apps
Note: In Mi Box it is in the left section, in the top row. If it is not in the same location on your device, find it. It won’t be difficult to locate it.
18- Now open Cinema APK and start watching your favorite content
So, this is how you sideload apps on Android TV OS Box.
How to Sideload Apps on Stock Android TV Boxes
As I said before, the Downloader app is not available through the Google Play Store on the Android mobile platform. Hence, it is not available on Stock Android TV Boxes as well.
Thankfully, the stock TV devices allow browser downloads (as is the case with Android mobiles and tablets).
To sideload apps, all you need to do is use the pre-installed browser or download one of the popular ones like Google Chrome or Firefox from Google Play Store.
I have taken the following images from the X96 Mini Android TV Box. Your device may have the same, similar or different user interface. Nevertheless, the method remains more or less the same.
1- There is a good chance you may already have a built-in browser. It is usually available from the home screen of the device. If it is not on the home screen, you may access it from the Apps drawer section
2- Some devices come preinstalled with one or more popular browsers like Chrome or Firefox.
If you don’t want to use the built-in browser and the desired browser is not preinstalled, click Google Play Store on the home window, look up for the browser and install it
3- Go to the Apps section and run the browser
4- Select the browser address bar and type the URL https://www.firesticktricks.com/cinema
Some browsers will also accept the shortened version of the URL firesticktricks.com/cinema
5- Wait while the APK is downloaded
6- Once the APK has downloaded, if the browser prompts you to run the APK, you may start the installation right away. If there is no such prompt, skip to the next step
7- Most Android Boxes (both Stock and Android TV OS) come preinstalled with a file manager (or file browser) application. You may find it on the home screen or you may go to the Apps section.
If you don’t have a file manager app, you can install one from Google Play Store
8- Run the file manager app and open the folder in your internal storage where the APK was downloaded. Usually, APK files are downloaded into the Downloads folder by default
9- Simply run the APK file to start the installation
10- Click Install
11- When the installation is finished, click OPEN and run the app. You may also access the app later from the Apps drawer
This is how you sideload the apps on stock Android TV Boxes using a browser.
Sideload Apps on Android TV Box Using a PC
If the URL is pointing directly to the APK, you can easily sideload apps on your True Android TV OS boxes. However, if the URL opens a webpage where you must click a link to download the APK, it won’t work on the Android TV OS device. That’s because these devices do not support browser download.
In that case, you may sideload apps onto your TV OS Box using a computer. To do so, the following requirements must be met:
– Your Android TV OS Box and your computer must be connected to the same Wi-Fi network
– You must have a file manager application on your Android TV Box that has a PC connectivity feature
Here are the steps to sideload apps on your device using a computer:
1- Access the URL in your browser on your computer from where you wish to download the APK file and download the APK
2- Make sure your Android TV Box and computer are connected to the same Wi-Fi
3- Open Google Play Store on your TV Box and lookup for a file manager utility with PC connectivity feature (such as File Commander)
Install the file manager
4- Open the file manager app you just installed. Find the PC connectivity (or PC File Transfer) feature
5- Allow the file access to the file manager app
6- Enable PC connectivity (some file manager apps automatically enable this feature the moment you access the PC connectivity feature)
7- You must now either see an http path or ftp path depending upon the file manager you have on your Android box
Also, enable the option Allow all incoming PC Connections at the bottom
8.1- If the file manager displayed http path, open a browser on your computer and access the path
You can now access all the Android TV Box folders in your browser on the computer
You must also find the option to upload files somewhere on the webpage
Find the APK file you downloaded earlier onto your computer. Upload it into one of the folders on your Android TV Box
8.2- If the file manager gave you an ftp path open any folder on your computer and enter the ftp path in the address bar of that folder
You will now be able to view all your Android TV Box folders on the computer
You can now copy the APK file on your computer into one of the Android Box folders
9- Now go back to your Android TV Box
Use the file manager to access the folder in which you copied the APK file from your computer
Let’s say you copied the file to the Downloads folder
10- Select and click the APK file
Note: Enable Unknown Sources for the file manager app using the method I have provided in the beginning. If you haven’t done that, you will see some prompts that will allow you to enable it before the installation
11- Click Install when prompted
12- Wait for the app to install
Well, this is how we sideload apps on Android TV Box using a PC
Since there are two types of Android Boxes with different sideloading techniques, things tend to get a little tricky. While the stock Android box allows browser download, the Android TV OS boxes like Mi Box and Nvidia shield do not have any browser support.
On your Mi Box, Nvidia Shield, or TVs with built-in Android OS, you can install the Downloader app from Google Play Store. This app will let you sideload third-party apps from the URL that directly point to the APK.
If you have a URL for a webpage with the link to the APK, you could download the APK on your computer first. Later, you may use a File Manager tool on your Android TV OS Box or Android TV to connect to your computer and transfer the APK file to the device. This seems a bit complicated, but that is all we have until browser support is added to your Android TV OS boxes.
Things get a bit easier with stock Android TV boxes since you can download the files directly through the browser, whether or not the URL is pointing directly to the APK.