Do you wish you could expand your Android TV box beyond the Play Store‘s limited selection? Installing the Downloader app lets you sideload virtually any Android APK for an unlocked world of entertainment, utilities, and games.
This 2500+ word guide will teach you how to install Downloader to take full control of your Android TV device. Let‘s get started!
A Brief History of Downloader
Downloader has become the sideloading app of choice for Android TV and Fire TV devices. First launched in 2014, Downloader hit 5 million downloads just 3 years later according to an AFTVnews interview with the developer.
As of 2022, Downloader has been installed on over 10 million Android and Fire OS devices. Its growth has mirrored the rising popularity of Android TV boxes and Fire Stick media players among cordcutters seeking more flexibility than Chromecast or Smart TV platforms can provide.
But what exactly does this app do and why is it so essential for Android TV power users?
What is Sideloading?
Sideloading simply refers to installing apps outside of an app store or official marketplace. On Android, this means downloading an APK file directly rather than using Google Play. APK stands for Android Application Package which contains all the necessary files to run an app.
Android is designed to easily enable sideloading for developer testing and flexibility. When you tap an APK to install, it triggers the standard Android permissions popup asking you to authorize the unknown app. Apps like Downloader simplify this process.
But on Android TV, Google restricts sideloading capabilities. Only apps approved by Google Play can be installed normally. That‘s why the popular utility Downloader can‘t be found in the Play Store on Android TV devices like the ADT-3 and Tivo Stream.
Android TV vs Stock Android
There‘s a crucial difference between true Android TV devices and generic "Android boxes" running stock Android firmware:
|Android TV||Stock Android|
|– Official Android TV OS||– Generic firmware not certified by Google|
|– Interface optimized for big screens||– Touch-based interface|
|– Play Store has TV app catalog||– Standard Play Store apps|
|– Restricted sideloading capabilities||– Open sideloading allowed|
Android TV devices like the Nvidia Shield provide a consistent, polished TV viewing experience. But you sacrifice some freedom and customization without root access.
Meanwhile, inexpensive Android boxes offer an open playground for techies. But clunky interfaces and fewer apps require sideloading utilities like Downloader to maximize their potential.
Enabling Unknown Sources
The first step to sideload anything on Android is enabling "Unknown Sources" installs. This option is buried deep within Android settings:
- Go to Settings > Security or Settings > Apps
- Find the "Unknown Sources" permission
- Toggle it ON to approve app installs from outside of Google Play
You‘ll have to confirm a scary security message that this leaves your device vulnerable to malware. Don‘t worry – installing trusted apps from communities like XDA or Freaktab is generally safe. We‘ll cover app security more later on.
On some devices, enabling Unknown Sources once globally isn‘t enough. You may have to repeat the process again within your specific browser, file manager, or downloader app as well. Grant all permission prompts that pop up during the sideloading process.
Unknown Sources allows your Android device to install any APK file, whether it‘s from the Downloader app, transferred via USB, or sideloaded some other way.
How to Install Downloader on Android TV Box
Let‘s get into the actual tutorial showing you how to install Downloader…
The general steps are:
- Enable Unknown Sources
- Download Downloader.apk
- Install Downloader.apk
- Launch the Downloader app
There are a couple different methods to get the APK on your device:
Option 1: Download directly to the Android TV box itself using the built-in Silk Browser or another browser like Chrome:
- Launch the web browser
- Go to https://www.aftvnews.com/downloader
- Scroll down and download the ARM version APK linked under Downloader for Android TV
- Find the APK in your device‘s Downloads folder
Option 2: Transfer the Downloader APK from your computer to the Android box:
- Download the APK from AFTVnews on your PC or Mac
- Connect the Android TV box and computer to the same WiFi network
- Use an app like ES File Explorer to transfer the file via shared Windows folders
- You can also transfer via email, cloud storage, USB drive, etc
Once you have the Downloader.apk on your Android TV box, complete the install:
- Use a file manager to find and open the Downloader.apk
- Select Install on the popup message
- Grant any ‘install unknown apps‘ permission prompts
Downloader should now be successfully installed! The app icon will appear in your Android box‘s app drawer.
If you run into any issues installing the Downloader APK, here are some troubleshooting tips:
- Try a different web browser if your current one fails to download
- Re-enable Unknown Sources under the specific app attempting the install
- Check that you downloaded the correct APK architecture – ARM, not Intel x86
- Clear app cache and browser data then restart your download
- Scan the Downloader APK locally using antivirus software
- Move the APK to internal rather than external storage before installing
99% of sideloading difficulties can be fixed by double checking your Unknown Sources permission or downloading the right APK file format for your device architecture.
How to Use Downloader
The Downloader app couldn‘t be simpler to use. When you open it for the first time, just accept the User Agreement.
Then you‘ll see the Home Screen with two options:
- Browser – Enter a URL to download the APK from any website
- Enter URL – Directly enter the APK download link
To install Kodi for example, you would:
- Select Browser
- Enter https://www.apkmirror.com/apk/xbmc-foundation/kodi/
- Select the latest APK download button
- Select Open to install
The benefit of Browser mode is that Downloader will handle any redirects and you don‘t need to copy/paste the direct APK url.
But for apps you‘ve downloaded before, using Enter URL to paste the direct APK link is faster.
Is Downloader Safe to Use?
You may be wondering…is Downloader safe to use? Or will sideloading APKs infect my device with malware?
The short answer is yes – Downloader itself is 100% safe. It simply facilitates the download and install process. The risks come from whatever APK app you choose to install.
APKMirror.com is generally a trusted source for apps direct from developers. But other sites may repackage or inject malware into APK files.
Stick to downloads from known communities like XDA or Reddit recommendations. And always scan any new APK with antivirus software when possible.
Anti-virus apps like Malwarebytes are available for Android TV devices and excellent for periodic scans. Signature-based detection can catch malware quickly based on known definitions.
The more niche or shady an APK host site seems, the higher your risk of downloading apps with malware bundled in. But popular apps from recognized developers are very unlikely to contain viruses.
Top Apps to Sideload on Android TV
Let‘s explore some of the top app recommendations from Reddit and XDA for sideloading on Android TV boxes, Fire sticks, and more using Downloader.
Media Players & IPTV
|Kodi||Install builds and addons not approved in the Play Store|
|Plex||Fully-featured media server|
|MX Player||Powerful video player with hardware acceleration|
|Mobdro||Stream live TV channels and on-demand videos|
|CyberFlix||Free movie/TV streaming app|
|Cinema APK||A clone of Terrarium with high-quality links|
According to a 2022 r/AndroidTV poll, Kodi was the most sideloaded app at over 75% of respondents. Plex came second at around 55% as users sought to replicate full home theater PC capabilities on Android boxes.
Specialized video players like MX Player also topped the list for enhancing video playback performance. And free streaming apps like CyberFlix remain popular despite facing increased competition from subscription services.
Gaming & Emulators
Android TV‘s Play Store gaming library leaves a lot to be desired. Sideloading opens up options like:
|RetroArch||All-in-one emulator for classic systems|
|Dolphin||GameCube and Wii emulator|
|PPSSPP||Sony PSP emulator|
|Mupen64||Nintendo 64 emulator|
|MEGA N64||Optimized N64 emulator|
RetroArch brings vintage gaming consoles like SNES, Sega Genesis, and PlayStation 1 to your Android TV with controller support. More intensive emulators allow Wii, GameCube, and PSP gaming as well.
And of course you can sideload any Android games not available on the Play Store like classic ports and MAME arcade titles. For gaming, root access can help improve performance and compatibility.
Every good Swiss Army Knife needs utility apps and sideloading opens up many handy tools:
|ES File Explorer||File manager for local file access|
|Apps2Fire||Installer for Fire TV apps not available on Android TV|
|Send Files to TV||Wireless file transfer from your phone|
|Terminal Emulator||Linux command line access|
|Web Video Caster||Cast web videos to Android TV|
|YouTube Vanced||Ad-free YouTube experience|
Root-enabled apps like Terminal Emulator provide advanced functions and system-level access. Web Video Caster and YouTube Vanced improve upon base Android TV‘s web video limitations.
And utility staples like file managers and wireless transfer tools gain you greater control over your device and its content.
If Downloader ever stops working or you want to try something else, there are a few alternatives:
- APK Extractor – Install APKs from ZIP files without extraction
- Package Installer – Simple tool to sideload APKs from storage
- Chrome – The web browser can install APK files directly
- File linked – App store alternative with download links
- AppStarter – Manager for installed and sideloaded apps
Any file manager or browser app with storage access gives you some sideloading capabilities. The main limitation is handling APK redirects to kick off downloads rather than just hosting a direct link.
So Downloader still reigns supreme with its highly optimized APK installation process. But it‘s good to know other options exist if needed.
Fully Utilizing Your Android TV Box
As this guide has demonstrated, installing the Downloader app unlocks a whole new world of sideloaded apps for Android TV devices. APK sideloading remains the #1 way to get more performance, features, and flexibility from generic Android boxes.
With the ability to install virtually any Android app, you can tinker and customize your TV viewing experience beyond the limits of stock firmware. This hands-on control makes Android-based streaming boxes appealing compared to the walled gardens of Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, and even the official Android TV platform.
But with great power comes greater responsibility. You must be cautious only installing reputable APK files from trusted sources. And never hesitate to scan new sideloads with antivirus tools.
Responsible sideloading with Downloader lets you enjoy the best video streaming sources, emulator gaming experiences, niche utilities and much more that Google Play won‘t permit on Android TV proper.
So equip yourself with this handy swiss-army knife and explore just how flexible Android can be on your TV with the right apps! What hidden app gems will you uncover?