7 Essential Android TV Apps Only Available via Sideloading
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Although we firmly believe that Android TV is the best operating system for your smart TV or streaming box, it isn’t perfect.

One of its downsides is the reduced size of the Google Play Store. If you access the Play Store through your Android TV, you’ll find less apps that you will on your smartphone.

Thankfully, you can sideload Android apps How to Manually Install or Sideload Apps on Android How to Manually Install or Sideload Apps on Android Want to sideload apps on your Android phone? Installing APKs manually on Android opens up a whole new world of apps, and it's easy to do. Read More onto the operating system. Here are some of the essential Android TV apps you should sideload today.

Android TV App Compatibility

Any Android app will run on the Android TV operating system. You might, however, find that navigation is tricky; the apps are not necessarily compatible with the input buttons on your TV remote.

For those hard-to-navigate apps, you have three options available to you:

  • Use a gaming controller: Gaming controllers have more input buttons and are thus more likely to work.
  • Use a smartphone app: Some Android TV devices—such as the Nvidia Shield—have a smartphone app that you can download and use.
  • Use a keyboard and mouse: If your Android TV device has a USB port or supports Bluetooth, you can use a keyboard and mouse.

Some Android TV devices ship with their own gaming remote. Xbox and PlayStation controllers may also work.

1. Google Chrome

Chrome doesn’t come preinstalled as a native app on Android TV devices; there is no browser on the operating system.

A couple of browsers are available through the Android TV Play Store, but if you’re already a Chrome user, it makes sense to sideload its APK. Depending on your Android TV device, you may also be able to install it from the Play Store on a desktop computer.

You can import all the usual stuff into Chrome on Android TV, including your bookmarks and browsing history.

Unfortunately, Google Chrome is one of the apps that you’ll struggle to operate without one of the previously-discussed alternative navigation systems.

Download: Chrome (Free)

2. Aptoide

Aptoide is one of the best Google Play alternatives The 4 Best Google Play Alternatives for Downloading Android Apps The 4 Best Google Play Alternatives for Downloading Android Apps Don't want to use the Google Play Store? Or don't have access to it? Here are the best alternative app stores for Android. Read More . There are some significant differences between Google Play and Aptoide. For example, each user hosts their own store on Aptoide, and the Aptoide app is open source.

One of the other best Android app stores—F-Droid—is a fork of Aptoide.

There are many different versions of the Aptoide app, so make sure you grab the Android TV APK when you are downloading it from the company’s website.

Download: Aptoide (Free)

3. Minecraft

Minecraft is available for Android in the smartphone version of the Google Play Store, but you won’t find it on the Android TV version. If you try to install it from a desktop browser, you will see that your Android TV device is grayed out.

However, fans of the game will be thankful to learn that the smartphone version of the Minecraft transitions seamlessly to Android TV.

If you want to play Minecraft on Android TV, you just need to grab the APK file directly from the game’s website. Remember, you need a license to play.

Download: Minecraft (Free)

4. Hearthstone

Another Android game that’s worth sideloading is Hearthstone. Hearthstone is a fantasy card collecting game. The game offers both online head-to-heads battles and single-player missions.

Anyone who is familiar with the World of Warcraft universe will love it; Hearthstone includes characters from the Lich King, Illidan, Thrall, and more.

If you enjoy playing card games, you should also check out our article on collectible card games for iOS.

Download: Hearthstone (Free)

5. TubeMate

You won’t find any apps to download YouTube videos in the Google Play Store, so you’re forced to use sideloaded alternatives instead.

If you want to save YouTube videos onto Android TV, we recommend checking out TubeMate. It can download from all the major sites, including Vimeo and DailyMotion.

Remember, don’t download someone else’s video and claim credit for it as your own. It could potentially land you in trouble with the authorities.

Download: TubeMate (Free)

6. APK Mirror

apk mirror

APK Mirror is one of the best places to find an app’s APK file. The site often has the file available soon after the app goes live in the Google Play Store.

Unlike some other APK sites, which have been known to insert malware and other unwanted code into their APKs, APK Mirror has developed a reputation for trustworthiness and integrity.

There is no official APK Mirror Android app. This unofficial version was created by Vojtech Horanek of XDA Labs.

Download: APK Mirror (Free)

7. Amazon Appstore

Our final recommendation, the Amazon Appstore, is another alternative marketplace for apps.

You don’t need an Amazon device—such as a Kindle, Fire TV Stick, or Fire Tablet—to access Amazon’s store; just sideload the APK.

The Amazon Appstore has some benefits over the Google Play Store and Aptoide. Most notably, Amazon gives away lots of free content. It’s often content you need to pay for in rival stores.

At the time of writing, there is more than $20,000 of free apps and DLC to get stuck into.

Download: Amazon Appstore (Free)

Where to Find APKs for Android TV

There are a few different places to find APK files. Some of the best sites for downloading APK files include the aforementioned APK Mirror, AppBrain, and APKPure.

You can download the files onto your desktop using any browser in the Android TV Play Store. Run them using an Android file explorer app. Again, you can find one in Google Play.

Remember, you also need to know how to access sideloaded apps on Android TV 3 Easy Ways to Access Sideloaded Apps on Android TV 3 Easy Ways to Access Sideloaded Apps on Android TV If you have sideloaded apps on your Android TV, you need a good way to access them. Read More . They do not show up in your regular list of apps, but there are some slick workarounds.

More Android TV Apps Worth Installing

The apps we’ve looked at in this article are all worth installing. But don’t let us put you off exploring further; there are lots of great apps in the Android TV Play Store as well.

If you would like to learn more, check out our articles on the essential Android TV apps 15 Essential Android TV Apps You Need to Install 15 Essential Android TV Apps You Need to Install So, you've bought an Android TV device. Congratulations! But now what? Here are the essential Android TV apps you need to install. Read More and the best Android TV games 8 Android TV Games That'll Entertain You for Hours 8 Android TV Games That'll Entertain You for Hours Have an Android TV and want to play some games on the big screen? Here are several awesome games you can play on Android TV. Read More .

Explore more about: Android Apps, Android TV.

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  1. Syg
    March 31, 2019 at 6:05 am

    Except for maybe Chrome none of these apps are must-haves for Android TV.
    The multiple app stores are at least argueable.
    Tubemate is fine for smartphone use, if you don't want to hog your data volume on the go. But really noone needs a YT downloader on their stationary(!) Android TV device. (Exceptions prove the rule!)
    THE true must-have app nowhere to be found here is the Sideload Launcher, so you can easily launch your sideloaded apps without having to crawl through android settings menus! Ok, this app doesn't have to be sideloaded as it can be downloaded via Android TV Play Store, but in THIS special article it should have been at least mentioned in a side note.
    Another must-have is AirDroid, as it makes sideloading and general data transfer from and to the device a breeze - And yes, this needs to be sideloaded too for the first time. ;)
    A lot also depends on the Android TV device. A cheap LCD TV running Android TV is not that ideal for most apps, whereas a versatile android powerhouse like the Nvidia Shield TV (which I am running) has a ton of cool must have apps, especially when it comes to gaming and emulation, most of which have to be sideloaded. (For example Arc Browser, Retroarch, PPSSPP, ePSX, uoYabause, FX File Explorer and so on...)

  2. Lanky Doodle
    February 27, 2019 at 9:23 am

    21st century technology, stone age mentality. Sideloading, casting etc. are NOT suitable alternatives to native. I want to use my remote control for everything - not have to revert to keyboard/mouse, game controller etc. And why should I have to on what is THE most expensive streaming box. It's particularly bad in the UK because our free and paid-for catch up/on-demand apps are available on phone Android but not TV Android. That's utterly ridiculous today. Funny that NVIDIA don't list this on their 'compare' page.

    AppleTV has them all so get that if you're in the UK. And that's coming from someone who has no Apple stuff whatsoever!

  3. John
    February 26, 2019 at 10:49 pm

    How do you get tubemate to download videos? Tried google search and it says to use share option on youtube but there is no share option on my Nvidia Shield TV You Tube App.