“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.
15 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 around $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.
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 Adviser 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
(Free and paid options, maximum $14.99/month)
Get access to old favorites and the newest indie music with the Android TV Spotify app. You’ll need a Spotify account to get started – either the free version or your premium paid subscription. Once you’ve downloaded the app to your TV box, you’ll be ready to listen.
Every subscriber has access to streaming music and podcasts, and those with paid subscriptions can also access the live radio stations. There are no time limits on either version, so you can enjoy all the music you want.
It’s worth noting that like many free streaming services, Spotify supports itself with advertising. If you can’t stand the idea of ads, go with the premium version, which is $4.99/month for students, $9.99/month for individuals, and $14.99/month for a family plan with six separate accounts.
Mobdro searches the internet for free streaming content and delivers it to your Android TV box. This app isn’t perfect (we’ll get to that in a minute) but it does let you watch TV shows, movies, and other content without a cable connection. It also gives you access to sports, music, games, and other streaming content.
The main menu features a simple UI with gateways to channels, news, shows, movies, sports, music, gaming, podcasts, and more. There’s even a section devoted to animals.
Now for the “cons.” Like many other free apps for Android TV, Mobdro can feel troublesome at times. It lags now and then, and it has a tendency to update on its own, which will bother you if you prefer to update manually.
Because everything you watch on Mobdro is live streaming, there isn’t an episode menu. You can get around this by pretending you’re watching old-fashioned TV and choosing a channel, where you’ll be able to see what’s on.
Last but not least, different users have different experiences with this app. Some find that it works well, while others end up deleting it. Some mention that it works better with an ad blocker like Blokada. We recommend giving it a try – particularly if you want to watch TV online for free. It’s worth a shot!
Want to block all of the ads on all of your Android TV apps? Blokada is one of the best tools for the job.
If you’re not using this app, now is a great time to check it out. It’s free, open-source, and secure. It blocks annoying ads, trackers, and malware, plus it protects your privacy and helps your device work more efficiently.
Without getting too technical, here’s a little more info about how Blokada works: It creates a local VPN that efficiently blocks requests submitted to domains in its lists of blacklisted URLs. You can use the app’s menu to whitelist specific apps and domains that are automatically blacklisted, plus you can choose from different lists of URLs to block depending on the level of privacy you’d like to have.
While Blokada is free to use, the developers do accept donations as well as input from volunteers who help keep the project up and running.
($6.99 / month or $69.99 / year)
BritBox gives you access to a massive streaming collection of British TV and films from BBC and ITV, all for the cost of a super-fancy latte, and all in one fuss-free place.
In case you’d like to try BritBox before you invest, you can enjoy a free 7-day trial to see whether you like the app and the content. If you’re an Amazon subscriber, you can check out the free trial there.
Before you sign up, check with the service to see if it is compatible with your TV box. It works well with actual android TV boxes, but isn’t compatible with similar devices like NVIDIA shield, Mi Box, Razer Forge TV, and the Mi Box.
(Free and paid versions)
Whether you’re a gamer who wants to watch live gameplay, or if you’d like to watch IRL or Esports broadcasts via Android TV, Twitch is one of the best apps for the job.
While Twitch is a free service that supports itself by inserting ads into the livestreams, Amazon Prime and Prime Video subscribers can get instant access to Twitch Prime, which offers ad-free viewing on one channel of your choice, expanded chat capabilities, and some free games. You have to keep the channel you chose for 30 days, after which you can switch to a different ad-free channel if you like.
If you want a completely ad-free experience (with the exception of content added by channel hosts) then you can subscribe at rates that start at $4.99 per month. Since some Twitch broadcasters add extras for paid subscribers, you’ll probably have more fun with this app if you opt into a paid version.
In case you don’t mind front page takeovers but you’d rather enjoy ad-free viewing all across Twitch, you’ll want to look into Twitch Turbo, which is $8.99 per month.
Do you have any killer Android TV box apps that I’ve missed? Tell me why you love them in the comments below!