As Android TV continues its impressive rise, more and more people are starting to adopt the platform.
There are a wide variety of set-top boxes running the operating system. Some, such as the Nvidia Shield, cost a lot of money and are a cord cutter’s dream. Others are less powerful, but still let you give smart capabilities to old TVs, run Kodi and Plex, and enjoy apps such as Netflix and Hulu.
If you’ve bought an Android TV device, you might have also sideloaded some apps. But how do you access and manage them? The answer isn’t necessarily straightforward. Let’s take a closer look.
Why Do You Need to Sideload Apps on Android TV?
Despite all of Android TV’s positives, the operating system still has one significant drawback: some apps are not Android TV-compatible. You won’t find them in the Google Play Store on your device.
There is a workaround! You can use the web version of the store to download and install the apps instead. But even then, some apps aren’t available.
The solution? Sideload the content you desire.
The process for sideloading apps on Android TV is broadly similar to sideloading apps on the mobile version of Android. You need to allow your device to install apps from unknown sources by going to Settings > Personal > Security and restrictions and sliding the toggle next to Unknown sources into the On position. Next, either use Chrome or a USB stick to get the app’s APK file onto your device.
But once you’ve installed the app, you won’t see it on your device’s home screen. So, where is it? How do you access it? And can you add it to your home screen?
There are three primary methods for accessing sideloaded apps on Android TV. We’re going to cover each of them in detail.
1. Use the Settings Menu
Using the Settings menu is the least efficient way of accessing sideloaded apps. It’s also the only method that’s native to Android TV devices.
Once you’ve verified the app’s installation process was a success, use your Android TV remote to scroll down to the bottom of the home screen and access the Settings menu.
In the Settings menu, go to Device > Apps. You will see a list of all the apps installed on your device. The list is split into two sections, Downloaded apps, and Systems apps. The “Downloaded apps” header is a misnomer — it’s the list where you will find you sideloaded apps even though they weren’t technically “downloaded” from anywhere.
Again, use your remote to scroll down until you find the app you sideloaded. Press the Select button to open the app’s sub-menu.
Finally, to launch the app, click Open.
2. Use Sideload Launcher
Sideload Launcher is a third-party app and is one of the essential Android TV apps you’ll want to install. You can find it in the Google Play Store on your device. You don’t need to install it via the web version of the store.
The app was created by well-known Android developer guru Chainfire. It’s the same person who is responsible for many of the “easy root” apps, as well as the famous Superuser app.
To install the software, open the Google Play Store, navigate to the app’s listing, and select Install.
Sideload Launcher works by placing a single app on your home screen. It will be available as soon as the installation process is complete. Within the app, you’ll find shortcuts to every app on your device.
To run an app, open the Sideload Launcher shortcut and scroll through the list until you find the one you want. Press Select on your remote to open it.
The app itself works very well, but it does have a couple of drawbacks. Most notably, the app lists every shortcut on your device, including non-sideloaded apps. The apps are listed alphabetically, with no way to search, jump to specific letters, or pin apps to the top.
Therefore, if you only have one sideloaded app on your device along with 50 regular apps, it can be a pain to scroll through a long list every time you want to use it.
Nonetheless, the app is the fastest and most user-friendly option available.
Download: Sideload Launcher (Free)
3. Tv App Repo
Tv App Repo is the final way to access sideloaded apps on your Android TV device. It requires the most effort to set up, but the end-product is the most polished. It allows you to add shortcuts for sideloaded apps to your App or Game row, thus allowing you to access it like a regular app.
You can download the app directly from the Google Play Store, though it removes the ability to manage APKs. If you would like the APK management feature, grab the Community Version from GitHub instead.
If you download the Play Store version, a shortcut to Tv App Repo will automatically appear in your App row.
Fire up the app and use the left-hand panel to navigate to Leanback Shortcuts. Press Select, and you will see a complete list of all the apps you have sideloaded onto your device.
Use the remote to highlight the app you want to make a shortcut for and press Select. A new box will pop up. To quickly create an icon, click on Create Shortcut.
Alternatively, press Advanced. It will let you give the shortcut a custom image and decide whether you want it to appear in the Apps or Games row. When you’re ready, press Generate Shortcut.
As per the on-screen warning, the process could take up to 20 seconds to complete. Eventually, a new window will pop up. It looks like you’re about to sideload another app, but it actually installs the shortcut. Press Install to complete the process.
You should now see a shortcut for the app in whichever row you chose.
Which Is Your Preferred Method?
To summarize, there are three ways to access sideloaded apps on your Android TV device:
- Settings menu: The only native method and the most time consuming.
- Sideload Launcher: The fastest to set up and the simplest learning curve.
- Tv App Repo: The hardest to use, but offers the most pleasing results.
Interested in easy ways to access sideloaded apps on Amazon Fire TV Stick? We’ve got you covered.