As Android TV continues its never-ending march into our living rooms, users are increasingly looking for cool apps that aren’t available on the smartphone version of the operating system. Or at least, apps that are far more useful on the big screen than on a tiny mobile screen.
The list of Android TV apps is growing every day. Most of the big hitters (e.g. Facebook, Spotify, Netflix, etc.) are already available.
But what other apps are out there? Which non-mainstream apps should every Android TV owner put on their device? Luckily, we have the answers. Here are five unique apps that every user needs to install right now.
1. Launch on Boot
If you’ve used Google TV in the past, you’ll know there was a setting that allowed you to automatically boot a specific app when the device started. For example, you could make Netflix launch every time you turned your TV on.
On Android TV, there is no such setting. You’ll just see the launcher. If you spend most of your time in a particular app, it’s an annoyance.
Launch on Boot remedies this omission. Install the app and choose which streaming subscription you want to launch automatically, there’s nothing more to it.
Download: Launch on Boot (Free)
One of the best parts of having an Android TV box is its ability to help you cut the cord. With paid apps like Netflix and free apps like Bloomberg and Pluto, there’s hardly any need to keep a cable subscription. There’s even plenty of choice when it comes to 24-hour news.
And if you still can’t find your fix, you can turn to torrents. Obviously, MakeUseOf doesn’t condone downloading copyrighted material, but you can still find plenty of legal content on P2P networks if you know where to look.
The nature of Android TV boxes means you probably have a lot of storage space to play with. Some models — like the Nvidia Shield Pro — offer as much as 500 GB. With that in mind, why not download torrents straight onto your device rather than using your computer?
aria2 is an Android port of the command line BitTorrent client of the same name. You still need a frontend; the app just launches aria2 binary. The developer recommends Transdroid.
Download: aria2 (Free)
3. Wake on LAN
The Wake on LAN app is the only app for Android TV that can wake up your PC from your Android device.
In the context of Android TV, a wake on LAN feature has one huge benefit: being able to wake up your home theater PC so you can stream content.
Let me paint a picture. Without this app, if you have a dedicated machine that acts as your Plex server and on which you store all your personal media, you have two options. You can either get up off your sofa go and wake it up every time you want to watch something (annoying) or set up your computer so it never hibernates or goes to sleep (expensive).
This app solves your problem. It can wake up your computer over the network. You can wake multiple devices at once and even add a Wake on LAN button shortcut to your device’s Recommendation Row. Soon, you’ll also be able to wake devices using voice search.
Remember, to make the Wake on LAN technology work, you’ll need to adjust your computer’s BIOS. Explaining how to do so is beyond the scope of this article, but a quick Google search will reveal several step-by-step guides.
Download: Wake on LAN (Free)
4. Network Browser
Sticking with the theme of connecting to your computer, why not install Network Browser? It’s available on the smartphone version of Android, but it’s especially useful on Android TV because you can use it as a way to watch videos or view images saved on your computer on your television’s larger screen.
The app can connect to both Windows and Samba shares — you just need to know your computer’s IP address to get up and running. Make sure you change the appropriate settings on your computer to give the Android TV device permission to access the machine’s content.
From a support perspective, Network Browser can handle MP3, MV4, and MP4 natively. If your content is saved in a different file format, you’ll need to install a third-party media player on your device. Some common media players have already been adapted for Android TV (including VLC and MX Player), but any Android media player will work.
Download: Network Browser (Free)
5. Sideload Launcher
If you’ve read some of our other articles about Android TV, you’ll know some apps need to be sideloaded. It occurs when the app you want to install has not been adapted for the TV version of the operating system. Instead, you need to find an APK file and install the smartphone version.
Although all the apps in this article have been redesigned explicitly for Android TV, if you have other sideloaded apps on your device, Sideload Launcher is a must-have.
Why? Because sideloaded apps don’t show on the launcher by default. Without this app, the only way to launch sideloaded apps is to go to Settings > Apps > Downloaded Apps > [App Name] > Open. It’s a hassle, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Instead, this app places a shortcut on the launcher. Open the shortcut, and you’ll see all the apps you’ve installed on the device, including any you’ve sideloaded.
The app is made by Chainfire, one of the most well-known developers in the community. Quality is guaranteed.
Download: Sideload Launcher (Free)
Which Unique Apps Do You Use on Android TV?
In this article, we’ve introduced you to five of the most unique apps that are currently available for Android TV. If you install them all, you’ll instantly turn into an Android TV power user.
Which apps would you add to this list? What features make the app so special? Why should other readers install it? As always, you can leave all your tips and thoughts in the comments below. And please remember to share this article with other Android TV users on social media.
Image Credit: AndreyPopov/Depositphotos