Cast your mind back to April 2010: Apple had just released the first iPad, thus firing the starting gun on the tablet revolution.
If you had one of those early Apple or Android tablets, you’ll probably remember the utterly miserable experience of using apps. Most developers hadn’t adapted their products for a tablet’s larger screen size, forcing users to install the smartphone version instead.
Of course, the problem no longer exists with tablets. But it does exist on the Android TV platform. Sure, you can install any mobile or tablet app by sideloading it, but the experience isn’t as enjoyable as using a dedicated Android TV app. Often, you won’t even be able to use the Android TV remote to navigate sideloaded apps.
Thankfully, developers are starting to catch up. In this article, we’re going to reveal some popular apps that you probably didn’t know offered an Android TV-specific version.
We’re huge fans of Plex here at MakeUseOf. If you have anything resembling a media library on your computer, there’s no better app for managing, organizing, casting, and controlling the playback on every screen in your house.
Plex has been hard at work making its Android TV app a polished product. The company’s effort has paid off. The app is fast, slick, and easy to navigate.
Download: Plex (Free)
2. Plex Media Server
You can even use Plex on Android TV as a media server. Android TV is the only non-desktop platform that offers server functionality.
You’ll need to install the Plex server separately from the Google Play Store.
Note: At the time of writing, thumbnails cannot be saved on Android TV’s adoptable storage. If you’re planning to buy an Android TV box specifically for use as a Plex Server, make sure you have enough internal storage for your needs.
Download: Plex Media Server (Free)
3. HopWatch for Reddit
Reddit finally has an official Android app in the Play Store, but it’s nowhere near as good as some of the third-party alternatives. And, more importantly from the perspective of this article, the official app is not Android TV-compatible.
Not having a specialized Reddit app on Android TV would be a blow. If you know where to look, it’s just as easy to spend hours watching videos, TV shows, and movies on Reddit as it is on YouTube; it’s a valuable addition to any cordcutter’s armory.
Luckily, there’s a fantastic Android TV-compatible Reddit app in the shape of HopWatch.
You can enter your favorite media-based subreddits, and they’ll all be accessible via the hidden panel on the left-hand side of the screen. By default, you’ll see recently upvoted content, but you can toggle the mode between the last week, month, and year, just like on the main site.
Download: HopWatch for Reddit ($0.99)
4. Haystack TV
Haystack TV is one of the most underappreciated apps in the Google Play Store. Given it’s so difficult to find live news if you’re not a cable subscriber, it’s amazing more people don’t use it.
In case you’re not aware, Haystack is an algorithm-based customized live news feed. The more you watch, the more the app learns what you enjoy hearing about. Over time, you can build up a rolling 24/7 feed on content you’ll love.
Haystack has been available on the mobile version of Android and iOS for some time, but many people don’t realize there’s also a dedicated Android TV version. It shouldn’t be surprising — the nature of the app lends itself perfectly to the big screen.
Download: Haystack TV (Free)
5. VLC and MX Player
For the last few years, VLC Media Player has been stuck in a colossal battle with MX Player for the title of “best Android media player.”
With no sign of a clear winner emerging, the war has moved onto the latest battlefield: Android TV. Both developers were quick to get Android TV-compatible version of their apps into the store, and they’ve now comfortably ensconced themselves as the two leaders, just as they did on mobile Android.
Both apps offer almost unlimited file and codec recognition, a seamless library management tool, and the ability to stream content from other devices. As for which one you should choose? We’ll leave that decision up to you.
Some people will be heavily dependent on the Apple and iOS ecosystems, but will still have an Android TV device. Perhaps they’ve (rightly) decided Apple TV boxes are incredibly overpriced compared to their competitors, or maybe their new smart TV came with Android TV built-in.
If you have lots of videos and music saved on your Apple gadget and you want to stream it to your Android TV, don’t worry. You can use AirScreen. The popular app turns your Android device into an Apple AirPlay server. In simple terms, it makes your iPhone think your Android TV is an Apple TV box.
AirScreen works on all versions of Android, but there’s an Android TV-specific release that makes it easy to use your remote to browse the content on your iPhone or iPad.
Download: AirScreen (Free) [No longer available]
7. Almost Every Video-on-Demand App
Rather than bore you by listing all the on-demand streaming apps individually, it makes more sense to group them into one.
Every top-tier streaming app you can think of has a dedicated Android TV-compatible app, including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, SHOWTIME, HBO Now, HBO Go, CBS All Access, FOX Now, FOX Sports Go, and many more.
Only 18 months ago, that wasn’t the case. There were significant holes in the market — you had to stream content from your mobile using a Chromecast. Today, that’s no longer the case. In fact, it’s almost impossible to find a streaming service that doesn’t have an Android TV app.
As you’d expect, all the apps are designed to take advantage of a TV’s larger screen size. Menus are easier to navigate, thumbnails and posters are given a high level of prominence, and everything is navigable using the remote.
For millions of people around the world, watching other people play video games is as entertaining as watching sports or going to a music concert.
But while sports fans and music lovers have been able to enjoy their hobby on a TV screen for decades thanks to cable TV, gamers haven’t been so lucky.
The arrival of game streaming app Twitch has changed everything. And now, thanks to the Android TV app, you’re not just limited to watching on your mobile or tablet — you can display the content on your 70-inch high definition screen in seconds.
Just sign up, log in, and start browsing to see what’s available.
Download: Twitch (Free)
Which Android TV-Compatible Apps Do You Recommend?
In this article, we’ve introduced you to a host of Android TV-compatible apps. Rather than enduring smaller screen sizes, why not pick up an Android TV box and start enjoying Android apps on a larger display instead?
Which apps do you use on your Android TV device? Which apps are made for the TV screen? As always, you can leave all your suggestions and recommendations in the comments box below.
Image Credit: hemul75/Depositphotos
Explore more about: Android TV.