“All these channels and there’s nothing on TV.”
How many times have you heard your dad say that? Or…maybe you’ve been saying it?
I mean, we’ve all bought (or are looking to buy) Android TV boxes because of all of the great content that we can get. The trouble is that our TV boxes usually come as clean as a blank slate – all this potential, and no idea how to use it.
But finding TV that’s worth watching doesn’t have to be a lot of work.
I’ve broken down ten of the best Android TV box apps that I consider essential for everyone. If you’ve ever had trouble trying to find something good to watch, or just want to get the most out of your TV box, do yourself a favour and download a few of these apps.
10 Best Android TV Box Apps
(plans start at $7.99 per month)
Netflix is the 800-pound gorilla in streaming video. There are over 83 million subscribers in 190 different countries. Seriously, is there anyone who hasn’t at least heard of Netflix?
What started out as a DVD rental service has moved to embrace streaming media. For $8 per month ($9 for HD) you have access to thousands of different movies and TV shows. If you’ve got a device that they’ve certified for 4K, you can get access to their small, but growing, library of 4K\UHD content for $12 per month. The library varies depending on where you live, of course. But if you’re looking for the most content that people actually want to watch, and original content like Stranger Things, Daredevil, House of Cards, or Orange is the New Black then Netflix is an easy choice to start off this list.
Amazon Prime Video
($99 per year or $8.25 per month)
Would you believe that Amazon Prime Video actually has more subscribers in the US than Netflix?
It’s true. Amazon actually has almost 20 million more subscribers in the US than Netflix. I’m not saying that you should ditch your Netflix subscription and go full Prime on me. But, the two of the best streaming services compliment each other well. Amazon has great original content like The Man in the High Castle, and Mozart in the Jungle, as well as over 40,000 movies and TV episodes.
The Amazon Prime subscription costs $99 for the entire year, which works out to be about $8.25 per month. But you also get commercial-free streaming music, and free 2 day shipping on any Amazon Prime items.
ES File Explorer
You’re going to need some sort of file manager, and ES File Explorer is by far the best.
If you’ve read my tutorial on how to sideload apps on your Android TV box then you’re already familiar with this app. If not, what are you waiting for? Go check it out!
ES File Explorer will let you connect your cloud storage accounts like DropBox, Google Drive, SkyDrive on Box.net directly so you can browse their contents and share files seamlessly between devices. You can also use it as a task killer and app manager too.
This is always the very first apps for Android TV box that I install on my new devices. I consider it a “must have” for users of any experience level.
Over 300 million people have downloaded the app. They might be on to something…
Are you happy with your Wi-Fi signal strength?
It may not be your router’s fault. If you live in an apartment, your router may be fighting with your neighbor’s router.
As “the Internet of Things” becomes more popular, the amount of devices that are throwing out WiFi signals is growing exponentially. Let me give you some numbers: There are around 15 billion connected devices in the world right now. By 2020, its estimated that there will be over 50 billion. That’s a lot of signals bouncing off each other. That leads to one thing: crappy Internet.
WiFi Analyzer is a powerfully simple app that helps you optimize your router’s WiFi connection. In my apartment, I found a total of fifteen different WiFi signals that were competing for the same space. Several of them were overlapping each other. With this app, I was able to quickly find out what router channel had the least interference and make that change on my router.
In less than five minutes, I was able to improve my Internet signal, not just on my TV box, but on every device in my home.
(Free version/$49.99 for 10 devices)
When my work PC starts a virus scan, it slows my system to a crawl and takes forever to complete.
I want my Android virus protection app is to do it’s job and stay out of my way. That’s what makes BitDefender my go-to Internet Security program, not only for my Android TV box, but for my PC and smartphone as well.
There are two main versions of BitDefender: The free BitDefender Antivirus app which covers one device and BitDefender Total Security, which is a premium program that covers 10 devices and provides more security features like On Install Scanning, Privacy Advisor and alerts for malware and phishing attacks.
I’m willing to bet you’ve heard about Kodi before, but just in case you haven’t: Kodi (formerly XMBC) is an open-source media player which lets you play any of your local content on Android, Windows, or Linux devices.
The real power of Kodi is that it lets you install addons and plugins which improve its functionality. Some of these addons are created by the official Team Kodi developers, but most are contributed from regular people, just like you and me – only with better programming skills. You can use the addons to get access to free content from CNET, the Food Network, CBC, G4 and more.
If you’d prefer to get access to all of your media, not matter where you are – then you’ll want to dive into Plex.
Plex is a media center that started as a Kodi variant, but has since morphed into something even bigger. If you’re curious about the differences between Kodi and Plex, check out this article.
At the heart of Plex is the idea that you should be able to watch your stuff anywhere you are in the world. What if you’re just going to stay in your own living room? Plex makes it easy to enjoy the content on multiple devices from your TV box or PC all the way down to your smartphone and tablet. All without needing to have separate versions of the movie at different quality levels. Plex handles the work of optimizing the file for each device.
Learn more at Plex.tv
(Plans start at $20 per month)
Live TV: It’s usually the first casualty for a cord cutter, but there is a solution. Oddly enough, it comes from one of the big satellite companies: Dish Network. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but a satellite company is trying to kill off Cable TV.
The thing is, I think they’ve gotten it right this time. What I like about Sling TV is that the same service will let you stream TV to any device, even if you’re not at home. As long as your IP address is on any network in the US, you can access Sling TV. IF you’re outside the US, this may be a good time to get a VPN for Android boxes.
For plans starting at $20 a month, Sling TV gives you access to some of the biggest networks like ESPN, Disney Channel, CNN, USA, SyFy. Some areas also throw in access to some local stations of NBC and FOX. Sling TV is available on all of your major streaming devices like Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Chromecast, Xbox, Android TV, as well as on your Android and Apple devices.
Get a free 7-day trial at Sling.com
If you’re one of those people who get your news from someplace other than Facebook, then you should look at Haystack TV.
Haystack TV will show streaming news feeds from stations around the US and the world, according to your individual preferences. If you don’t ever want to hear anything else about Kanye West, then you can simply mute him on your news feed. Personally, I wouldn’t blame you at all. But, if he ever did anything major and important that affected the world as a whole, then Haystack TV is smart enough to override your preference and show you the news anyway. But, for this example, I think you’re pretty safe with your “Kanye Ban.”
The idea behind Haystack TV is that you can quickly digest the major news stories from several different perspectives, without having to sit through an entire broadcast of the “talking heads.”
Get Haystack TV at the Google Play Store
Admit it, you just heard the ESPN theme in your head. 🙂
If you like sports, and who doesn’t, then you’re probably checking out the highlights on SportsCenter or ESPN.com at least once a day. The WatchESPN app can let you access short video content and highlights on your mobile device or HD TV, as well as the live scores ticker along the bottom of the screen. If you’re still a cable TV subscriber, then you can access live content from every ESPN network here as well. Even if you’re a cord-cutter, you may still be able to access live content using your login from your Internet provider, although this is less likely.
Special bonus: If you’re already a subscriber to Sling TV (see above), you can get full access to WatchESPN using your Sling login.
Download the Watch ESPN app from the Google Play Store
Do you have any killer Android TV box apps that I’ve missed? Tell me why you love them in the comments below!