An Android TV or media box will come preloaded with various streaming clients and perhaps a few utilities, and there are more apps on the Play Store. But this is Android, and that means you can download almost anything you want. However, getting APKs on your TV won’t be as quick or easy as getting them on your phone. Command line enthusiasts can always use ADB, but there are simple wireless file sharing tools that make the process much simpler. These are the best ways to download APK files on any Android TV device.
Install APK from an Android phone or tablet
There are a few different methods to transfer APK files to Android TV, such as installing a cloud file manager on your TV, or going through the difficult process of setting up ADB on a computer. The easiest method is to use ‘Send files to TV’, an application that sends files to an Android TV device (or anything else running Android) over your local network.
First, you will need to install the Send Files to TV app from Play Store on your phone and TV. To install it on your TV, open the Play Store and search for the name, or click the link above on a desktop computer and set your TV as the installation destination.
Once the app has finished installing on both devices, open the Send Files to TV app on your TV, then select the ‘Receive’ option to start the receiver. Now, open the app on your phone and hit Send. This will open a file explorer; you will need to find the APK file and select it.
Once the file transfer is done, you should be able to select the file on your TV, then hit the ‘Open’ option. If all goes well, you should receive a message to install the application.
However, the transfer app seems to have an issue where the Open button doesn’t always work. If that’s the case, you’ll need to install a separate file manager app on your TV, like File Commander. In File Commander, select ‘Internal Storage’ on the main screen, then the Downloads folder. All the files that you have transferred using Send files to TV will appear here; just press one to open.
If you have a recent version of Android TV, you may get a message that installations from unknown sources are not allowed. If so, select the ‘Settings’ button, which will open a pop-up window on the side with a list of allowed apps.
You just need to switch the application that is trying to install the APK (either the file manager or Send files to TV) to the ‘on’ position, and press back on your remote to return to the installation. You only have to do this once, at least.
Install APK from your PC with ADB
Like all Android devices, you can use Android Debug Bridge (or ADB for short) to transfer APK to Android TV. ADB normally works over a wired USB connection, but we will use Wi-Fi for this process.
The first step is to install ADB on your computer. It is officially available as part of the Android Studio SDK, but it can be overwhelming to configure if you are not a programmer, so it is best to use a third-party installation tool. If you’re on Windows, 15 Seconds ADB Installer is a popular option that has always worked well for me. If you’re using macOS, Linux, or Chrome OS, give Nexus Tools a try (full disclosure – I made it).
After installing ADB, try typing the command “adb –help” (without the quotes) in your Terminal / Command Line app and hitting Enter. You should see something like the following screenshot. If you receive an error or other message, try closing and reopening the Terminal / CMD window and try again.
Now is the time to connect to your television. Press the Settings gear at the top of the Android TV home screen, then go to Device Preferences> About. Scroll down to ‘Compile’, then click Compile until you see the message “You are a developer”.
Once done, you need to find the IP address of your TV. Go back to the main Settings page, press ‘Network and Internet’ and select the active connection. The IP address should be one of the first details listed.
Now is the time to connect ADB on your PC to your Fire TV. Go back to your PC and run “adb connect” (without the quotes), followed by the IP address of your Android TV. This will cause a message to appear on your TV that you will have to accept. Then you should see a message that ADB connected successfully; you can also run “adb devices” to check.
Finally, you can now install the APK files you want. In Terminal / Command Line, type “adb install” (without quotes), then a space, then drag the file you downloaded to the application window. You should paste the full path to the file. Then hit Enter and watch the magic.
If you received a “success” message, the app should now be visible on your TV. If you want to download more APKs in the future, all you have to do is run the ADB connection command again on your PC, then run the install command for each APK.