display media

WhaleTech: Cool apps for your Android TV Box

Following the considerable interest in last week’s post about Android TV boxes, I thought I’d share some of the top apps I use on mine.

Bear in mind at the outset that the apps I like may not be ideal for you; that’s the ‘wonder’ of smartphone ecosystems. The millions of apps available on Google’s Play store (or Apple’s App Store…and to a lesser extent, Microsoft’s Windows store) provide the flexibility for you to get your device working like you want it to.

While I’ve included YouTube, I’ve left out some other ‘major’ but obvious ones, like Facebook, Twitter, Google Earth, Chrome, etc, as these are, well, obvious.

Worth noting too, is that an Android TV box is based on a smartphone, but it isn’t a smartphone. That means some apps which work well on a smartphone, won’t work well (or even at all) on an Android TV box. After all, it doesn’t have GPS, a camera or a gyroscope – and it’s primary purpose, at least how I use it, is to access and display media.

Right, on to those apps.

YouTube1.       YouTube 

Yes, it seems trite, since YouTube is probably something we all use every day anyway. The reason this makes it as a top app is because in addition to endless FAIL collections (people doing stupid things and getting it on camera), you can watch a huge collection of old full length movies. As someone who thoroughly enjoys wasting time watching FAILarmy (to the annoyance of my wife) and old movies, this is enormously valuable. You could just access YouTube in your browser, but the Android app makes it easier to navigate. As a bonus, sign in to Google on your PC, your notebook and your Android box and your activity on any and all other devices is synched (ie find fails faster).

MX Player2.       MX Player

If you have a ‘cache’ of content (no, I don’t care where it came from, that’s between you and its maker) on a hard drive or even just on your PC and want to watch it on your TV…well, that’s what the Android box was made for. Yes, and a lot besides. MX Player is my choice for playing back movies, old TV shows – I’m a fan of such things as Magnum PI, 30 Rock, Arrested Development and others – clips from the GoPro, etc. What makes MX Player stand out is that it can handle just about any file format (and there are lots of them) without a hitch. One thing you don’t want when streaming content, is tech hassles. With MX Player, there isn’t a file I’ve found that it can’t handle.

ES File Explorer  File Manager3.       ES File Explorer File Manager

A comment from JeffdaReff last week alerted me to the fact that many of us are still technophobes; luckily, setting up an Android box and connecting it to your wireless network is really easy. Once it is connected, you will want to browse the network and find your other devices (like the PC or networked drive on which you have that stash of content). ES File Explorer makes this simple; load it up, find the ‘LAN’ button, click SCAN and every device on the network will appear. Click through and find the file you want, and open it with MX Player. Happy time.

Fast Reboot4.       Fast Reboot

Here’s an opportunity for Apple fanbois (hi guys) to get excited. Android does occasionally wind up with too many background processes and apps running, which can clutter things up. Fast Reboot is a simple utility which, at the click of a button (now that didn’t sound like a cliché, did it?) closes any extraneous apps. I place the icon on my desktop and routinely hit it after ‘fiddling’ to keep my gadget running sweetly. I am aware that the last sentence is potentially ambiguous and potentially incriminating. No matter.

MX Mariner - Marine Charts5.       Marine apps, including Predict Wind, NZ Marine Weather, and MX Mariner

I’ve grouped these together just as an example of some of the ‘interest’ apps you can whack onto your Android TV box. Although I live right next to the sea and a visual check isn’t too much of a mission, it’s always a good idea to get an idea of what’s going to happen later before going fishing. Whatever your interests are, you’re likely to find heaps of stuff on the Play store to keep you busy.