If you have been following any of our Nexus Player coverage, you’ll note that one of our chief complaints about the little media puck that could is a serious lack of application support. It’s a double-edged sword. The apps and games that have been approved for Android TV work great on the platform, but few too many developers have made the effort to prepare their wares for the living room experience.
I know what you are thinking. This is Android, why not just sideload all these missing apps and games? That sounds great, but software not tailored for presentation on Android TV in many cases will look bad and function poorly. At worst, it might not even support the native controls of the Nexus Player. If, understanding this fact, you still want to sideload applications, we come to our next point of contention: there is no obvious way to accomplish this task available to the average user. Android TV lacks a built-in file explorer for accessing and installing APKs from outside the Play Store, and, even if it did include one, options to move said APKs to the Nexus Player are limited out of the box (no web browser, no Google Drive).
The intrepid Android explorer, having been around the block a time or two, knows that the Android Debug Bridge, a USB link to your computer and “adb install [appname].apk” command hold the key. For those not interested in messing around with command lines, though, there is an easier (if a bit tedious, initially) way.
How to sideload apps to Nexus Player without ADB
When accessing the Google Play Store on the Nexus Player, apps not approved for the platform will not appear as options to download or install. However, there is a way to load apps not intended for Android TV. To do so, you need only take advantage of a little loophole present when installing apps via the browser version of the Play Store.
Install a file explorer
Not all apps on the Play Store will show the option as selectable, but after clicking install within your web browser a selection for “No carrier Asus Nexus Player” will be presented when choosing the installation destination. One that can take advantage of this backdoor is ES File Explorer, just the sort of app we will need (but not the only option out there) to sideload to our heart’s content. Here’s how:
- Navigate to ES File Explorer in the web version of the Google Play Store.
- Click “Install” and choose “No carrier Asus Nexus Player” as the destination.
- Click “Install” again to confirm.
Launch file explorer from the settings menu
The app will be installed to your Nexus Player but will not be accessible via the main menu. To access unsupported apps installed using the web version of Google Play:
- Navigate to Settings > Apps > Downloaded Apps.
- Choose the app you wish to launch from the list of downloaded/installed apps (in this case, ES File Explorer).
Sideload APKs via Micro USB
We have now addressed the first roadblock in sideloading apps by installing a file explorer on the Nexus Player. Next we need to find a way to move downloaded APK files to the Nexus Player for installation. Luckily, Google has included a Micro USB port on the Nexus Player that will work to our advantage. For these next steps you will need some sort of USB-connected storage (a thumb drive works great) and a USB-to-Micro USB adapter.
- From your computer, load any APKs you wish to install to your Nexus Player onto your thumb drive.
- Connect your thumb drive to the rear of the Nexus Player utilizing a USB-to-Micro USB adapter.
- Launch ES File Explorer using the method described above.
- Navigate to the APK you wish to install and open it. You will be asked if you want to install the app. Confirm to complete the process.
To access any apps you have sideloaded, you will need to launch them via the settings menu as described above. Alternatively, you can utilize Chainfire’s Sideload Launcher, and app that will surface even unsupported apps as accessible from the main Android TV menu on the Nexus Player.
Here is where a bit of ingenuity can pay off. While sideloading from a thumb drive is quick and convenient, you really only need to do it once. If you use the above method to sideload a cloud-based storage app like Google Drive or Dropbox, you can transfer APKs without the need to connect any additional hardware. Upload the desired APKs, launch your cloud storage app on the Nexus Player, open aforementioned APKs and install.
Again, we must stress that not all installable apps will play nice with the Nexus Player and Android TV. This includes file explorers necessary for the sideloading method described above as well as the various cloud storage services suggested as a quick method to load apps directly to the Nexus Player. While sideloading is a straightforward and generally safe process for even novice Android users to attempt, we take no responsibility for any errors, software or otherwise, that might be incurred.