I bought Amazon’s Fire TV when it was announced and my review of the set top box has been very positive. It is easy to navigate, very responsive, and is helping me take advantage of the streaming video part of the Amazon Prime subscription.
I have taken advantage of Amazon Prime video, played some games, and explored some apps. The Plex app started off as an easy way to play videos I had stored locally but about two months after owning the Fire TV it started chugging. Others have similarly been experiencing the issue and reporting it in the Plex forums but no update has fixed it.
I don’t currently subscribe to Netflix or Hulu Plus, so Plex was simplifying getting some of that content to the TV. My other option is connecting my laptop to the TV and using that to navigate a browser to other streaming sites. This isn’t too bad with Logitech’s Living Room keyboard but it means the laptop can not be used for anything else at that time. Since Plex was falling down, I was looking for other avenues to simplify how I can access more content from the TV.
As an example, I kept coming back to Crunchyroll as one source that was inexplicably missing from the Fire TV. An app is available on Google’s Android Play Store but Amazon lists it as not compatible with the Fire TV in their App Store. I could get a Chromecast and stream it to my TV, Roku has a channel for Crunchyroll, and Apple TV has access to it as well. Unfortunately, those alternatives would mean spending more money and possibly trading one service for another, like the Prime Video. For the most convenience, I would be able to expand the functionality of the Fire TV.
Sideloading Android apps to the Fire TV
Since the Fire TV is running a modified version of Android, it’s still compatible with most Android apps. Installing an Android app manually instead of through the App Store, is referred to as sideloading. To sideload the Fire TV, the whole process took me less than 15 minutes.
To complete the process, we need the Android app package, some information from the Fire TV, and an application installed to communicate with the Fire TV.
To easily acquire the Android App .apk file, just browse to the free app on Google Play and copy the URL.
That will start downloading the .apk file. Make a note of its downloaded location.
Fire TV Settings
From the Fire TV, we need to enable ADB debugging.
Navigate to Settings > System > Developer Options.
Toggle the ADB debugging setting to ‘On’.
We also need the IP address of the Fire TV.
Navigate to Settings > System > About.
Under Network, you will find the IP address listed.
You can communicate with an Android device over the network using tools from the official SDK. To speed up the process and just get what we need, you can install just ADB (Android Debug Bridge) using specialized installers (Windows | Mac OS X).
Now that we have everything prepared, it’s just a matter of bringing it all together.
Launch a command prompt and connect to the Fire TV using the IP address you got earlier by typing the command:
adb connect IPAddress
The prompt will then give you confirmation that it has connected to that IP address on port 5555.
Next, we’ll install the Android app to the Fire TV with the path to the .apk file you downloaded earlier and the command:
adb install C:pathtoapp.apk
You will receive a Success message if everything goes well. It may take some time to complete if the file is large.
Since the app is sideloaded, it will not appear on the main navigation of the Fire TV. Instead, you will find it under Settings > Applications > Manage applications. You can then launch it from there and enjoy the app.
You can revert the previous Developer Options setting if you would like and still access the new apps.