Android is the operating system of choice for many brands of smart TVs. This opens your TV up to a number of additional features. Here is a look at some of them.
Do More With Apps
Considering that most TVs are not ‘official’ Android TVs, they may not have access to the Google Play Store to add apps.
To install additional apps, you have two options: sideload them (transfer installable files using a USB drive) or install a third-party app store. The catch is you have to sideload the third-party app store in any case.
On your TV’s web browser, go to Aptoide.com and Install Aptoide — this is a free third-party app store. Aptoide has many apps that you can download directly.
For sideloading, you will have to download APK (Android installer) files for each app you want to install on your TV. You can find APK files for many popular apps on Apkmirror.com. Copy these APK files to a USB drive and plug into the TV.
You may need to allow app installation from ‘unknown sources’ in settings. Keep in mind that not all the apps installed via the sideload will work — it’s a little bit of a hit and miss.
Connect Bluetooth Accessories
Almost all smart TVs come with built-in WiFi as well as Bluetooth. A majority of smart TVs support various Bluetooth accessories such as Bluetooth wireless headphones, keyboards, and mice. The BT headphone option is great if you do not want to disturb others while watching TV. As for the keyboard, you can get compact Bluetooth options online for as less as Rs 599.
Local Multimedia Streaming
Typically, TVs that run the official Android TV OS come with a built-in Chromecast that allows you to stream content from a smartphone/computer. However, since most smart TVs do have WiFi or Ethernet connectivity, you can use free apps to stream content. We recommend Plex (Plex.tv) or Kodi (Kodi.tv).
Both apps come with a server app that is easy to setup on a computer/ phone. And there’s a companion APK file that you can install on your TV (use the sideload method outlined in this article). Once you install the server software on your computer, you can stream content from the computer/phone wirelessly over your local home network.
Wireless File Transfers
The trouble with most smart TVs is that they have limited internal storage — this means you cannot store content. One solution is to connect an external drive, but you will have to keep updating content from a computer. A simpler way is to transfer files wirelessly to the TV. We recommend using ES File Explorer for its simplicity.
On a Windows computer, create a new folder, right click on it and open Properties. In the prompt that opens up, click on Sharing and then the Share button. A new box will open asking you to choose people on your network with whom the folder will be shared. Select Everyone, tap on add and in the permissions setting, choose Read Only.
Once you have finished this setup on your computer, open ES Explorer on the smart TV. In the directory menu on the left, select LAN and the shared folder from your computer will be visible there — you can select files from the folder and copy them to your TV easily. Keep in mind that both the TV and computer need to be on the same WiFi network for this to work.
Playing DVDs Without a DVD Player
Even though DVDs are becoming a thing of the past, you may need to re-watch something from an old collection you have. It’s not worth investing in a DVD player for occasional use because they don’t last very long. The other option is to convert the DVD to a digital file — a laborious process.
Instead, some portable DVD writers have a feature that allows them to work with TVs that have USB ports. This is in addition to the usual connection to a laptop/desktop. We recommend LiteOn’s external DVD writer (Rs 1,199) with the Link2TV feature. Just connect it to a TV’s USB port and use it to access the DVD without installing any extra app or drivers.