Android TVs are great, and with Android TV boxes like the Mi Box, the cost of having an Android TVs is also greatly reduced. The Mi Box can be easily set up, and gives you all the freedom of the Android ecosystem. Well, almost. However, while there are a lot of easy to use features in the Android TV, there are some obscure features tucked away in the platform. So, if you have an Android TV, and are looking to get more out of it, here are 12 Android TV tips and tricks you should know:
1. Sideload Apps on Android TV
While there are quite a lot of apps available for the Android TV, the selection of apps available in the Android TV Play Store can be quite limited at times. Especially when it comes to utility apps you might want to have on your TV. Fortunately, you can easily sideload Android apps on your Android TV.
To sideload apps on your Android TV, you can simply download the APK file to your computer, copy it to a USB flash drive. Then, simply attach the USB drive to your Android TV, and use an app like ES File Explorer, to install the APK on your TV.
If attaching a USB flash drive is not a viable option for you, you can even use FTP to sideload Android apps on your Android TV.
2. Use Your Mobile Phone as the Remote for Android TV
Android TV boxes come with some really decent remotes. The Mi Box comes with a really nice, lightweight, and sleek remote. However, these Bluetooth remotes can only go so far when it comes to ease of use, especially when you need to type text on your TV. Fortunately, Google has an “Android TV Remote Control” app (free), that you can use to get a remote interface on your mobile. With a Bluetooth/WiFi connection between your TV, and phone, you can easily navigate the interface through your Android phone.
The best thing about this, is that when you need to enter text on the Android TV, you can use the on-screen keyboard in your mobile to do so, which is definitely much faster than using the Leanback keyboard thing that Android TVs come with.
3. Browse the Internet on Android TV
Android TVs don’t usually come with web browsers built-in. However, since it is possible to sideload Android apps on an Android TV, you can easily sideload a browser on your Android TV, and use it to browse the internet, on the biggest screen in your house. There are quite a number of great Android browsers that you can sideload on your Android TV, and most of them will work fine. With a browser on your Android TV, you can freely browse the internet directly on your TV, and bigger screens are usually better. We used Google Chrome on our Android TV, but it doesn’t work well without a pointing device, so you’ll have to connect a mouse to your TV. If that’s a deal breaker for you, TV Web (free) is another browser you can use, but it has a poor UI.
4. Connect Gamepad with Mouse Mode
Google clearly wants Android TV to become a viable gaming platform; at least for casual gaming. Therefore, most Android gamepads easily connect with Android TVs over Bluetooth, and can then be used for playing games. However, a lot of gamepads, like the Amkette Evo Pad 2 that we’re using, come with a “Mouse Mode”, and switching to that mode can actually give you a cursor on your Android TV for point-and-click actions.
This can come in handy while using web browsers like Google Chrome, which don’t offer any other way to click on links. Do note that not all gamepads come with this feature, so if this is something you want, you should check beforehand whether the controller you’re buying supports this feature or not.
5. Use Android TV as a Computer
Wouldn’t it be cool if you could use your Android TV as a computer? After all, it does pack enough power to serve as a basic browsing machine, along with some lightweight gaming, and word processing. Which is quite a lot, considering that Android TV boxes go for as low as $70.
You can simply connect a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse to your Android TV box, and you’re all set. Use the cursor to point and click, and the keyboard to quickly type, and there you have it, an easy to set up Android powered computer, right in your living room, on the biggest screen you have. Plus, with Bluetooth peripherals, you can sit wherever you want, and use your computer with ease.
6. Take Screenshots on Android TV
The Android TV platform is great for casual gaming, thanks to the fact that even affordable Android TV boxes, like the Mi Box can easily handle most games (even Asphalt!). So, what if you’re playing Leo’s Fortune on your Android TV, and want to share something really cool with a friend? Well, screenshots are the way to go! Fortunately, you can easily take screenshots on Android TVs as well, and the process is exactly the same as it’s on every Android device.
Just press and hold the Power button, and the volume down button at the same time to take a screenshot of your Android TV. The screenshots are saved in “/sdcard/Pictures/Screenshots/”, so you can easily access them later, or share them as you like.
7. Customize the Recommendations Carousel
Android TV, as a platform, tries very hard to always have something new for us to watch. This can be both a boon, and a bane; and while some people may like the “Recommendations” that Android TV offers, I don’t want to see recommendations from just about every pre-installed source on my Android TV. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to customize the sources that show up in the recommendations carousel on your Android TV.
To do this, just follow the steps below:
- Go to Settings -> Home screen.
- Go to “Recommendations Row“.
- Here, you can show/hide the sources available on your TV, according to your preferences.
8. Increase Internal Storage with Adoptable Storage
If there’s one problem with affordable Android TV boxes, like the Mi Box ($69), it’s that they come with extremely limited storage space. Fortunately, you can easily add a lot of storage to these boxes, thanks to their USB OTG support. You can easily add a USB flash drive to the Android TV box, and increase the amount of storage your TV has. To do this, just follow the steps below:
- Connect an external USB flash drive to your Android TV. You’ll be greeted with a screen that says “USB drive connected”. Here, choose “Set up as internal storage“.
- In the next screen, choose “Format”.
The USB flash drive will be formatted as internal storage, and you can start using it as a logical internal memory partition to save apps, and more.
Note: Formatting a USB drive will erase any data that is already on it. Make sure you have a backup of all the data on your USB drive before you do this.
9. Play the Android Marshmallow Easter Egg Game
Android TV currently runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and as you probably know, there is a hidden game inside Android Marshmallow. Well, you can play it on your Android TV as well. This is much better than playing it on an Android mobile, thanks to the bigger screen. To play the Android Marshmallow Easter Egg game, just follow the steps below:
- Go to Settings -> About.
- Scroll down to “Version”, and rapidly click on it a few times.
- In the next screen, again click rapidly a number of times.
The Marshmallow game will launch, and you can press the select (or Up) button on your remote to control the Android bot on the screen. Don’t be fooled, though, playing this game on a bigger screen is as difficult as it is on a smaller screen, so all the best!
10. Mirror Your Phone/Laptop Screen with Google Cast
Another cool thing you can do with your Android TV, is cast your phone or laptop screen to your TV over WiFi. Thanks to Google Cast integration in Android TV, you don’t even need to set anything up. Just open the media file that you want to cast to your TV, and start streaming. On laptops, you can easily cast to your Android TV, with Google Chrome. You can choose to cast just the tab you’re in, or your entire desktop to your Android TV.
Unfortunately, iPhones don’t support Google Cast. However, if you want to stream media files from your iPhone to your Android TV, you can use an app like AllCast (free, in-app purchases) to achieve this. The app has a free version, which puts a limit on the length of videos that can be cast to your Android TV, along with ads. You can remove these restrictions with an in-app purchase of $4.99
11. Display Information on Your Idle TV
By default, when your TV is idle, it just displays a black screen. However, with Android TV, you can get your TV to display useful information when it’s not in use. Thanks to the Daydream feature in Android devices, you can get your TV to display information like the current time, along with the date, and weather right on the screen. Using an app like “Lucid Daydream” (free, with in-app purchases), you can get this feature on your Android TV. There are a lot of other modules available in Lucid Daydream, including calendar events, notifications, and more. You can choose the things you want your TV to display, from Daydream settings.
To set up Daydream, just follow the steps below:
- Go to Settings -> Display.
- Here, go to “Daydream”.
You can then choose the app for Daydream, along with other Daydream settings that you can play around with. Plus, if Lucid Daydream is not to your liking, there are a lot of cool Daydream apps that you can use.
12. Play with Android TV Developer Options
If you like tinkering with settings, and playing around with hidden (advanced) features, you’ll be glad to know that you can access Developer Options on your Android TV as well. To enable Developer Options on an Android TV, just do the following:
- head over to Settings -> About, and tap on the “Build Number” 7 times.
- You can then find Developer Options in “Settings”, under “Preferences”.
- In Developer Options, you can do things like turn on ADB debugging. This can come in handy if you’re developing Android TV apps, and would like to test them out on your Android TV.
- Under the “Drawing” section, you can change the animation scale for various animations. Changing these settings can make the system appear much more snappy than usual.
There is a lot more you can change in Developer Options, but due to the nature of these settings, they should only be played with if you what you’re doing.
Use These Android TV Tricks to Get More out of Your TV
Even if it is running on a TV, Android TV as a platform is nothing more than Android, running on a larger screen. Therefore, there is really a lot of customization possible on an Android TV, and you can use these tips and tricks to enhance your experience with an Android TV. As always, I’d like to know your thoughts on Android TV as a platform; and the app support (or lack, thereof) for Android TV. Also, if you know of any other Android TV tips and tricks, do let me know about them in the comments section below.