When I set up a brand-new Android TV box, the first app I install is always the Downloader app.
Every. Single. Time.
You see, there are a few apps that aren’t available on the Google Play Store. The Downloader app is the easiest way to get around those restrictions and sideload them on your system.
If you’re new to the Downloader app, don’t worry. I’m going to give you an in-depth tour in this article. I’ll also walk you through how to install it on your TV box or Android TV.
What is the Downloader App for Android?
Originally, the Downloader app wasn’t for Android at all. Way back in 2016, Elias from AFTVNews.com created it to install Kodi on his Amazon Fire TV.
Amazon was known for having a very restrictive app store – even more so than Google’s. Some apps like Kodi had an APK (Android Application Package) that would install on the Fire TV.
However there was no easy way to actually download it and get it on the device.
Because the Amazon Fire TV OS is an offshoot of Android, the Downloader app will work flawlessly on both Fire TV’s and Android TV’s and TV boxes.
Where to Find the Downloader APK for Android
These days, you can find Downloader or it’s APK on most of the major app stores: Google Play, Amazon, Aptoide TV and APKPure.
As I said at the beginning, I always install Downloader as my first app. The reason being that I can’t install any other app store, like Aptoide TV, directly through Google Play. Google doesn’t really allow competition on the Google Play Store.
Google won’t let us download another app store directly. But they were nice enough to leave the Downloader app on the Play Store.
It may take a bit longer, but we can make it work.
How to Install Downloader on Android TV Box
Google Play Store
The easiest way to install Downloader is to just search for it in the Google Play Store. In fact, it’s so popular that it was one of the first apps to come up, just by searching for ‘d’.
There are several downloader-type apps. The one you want is “Downloader by AFTVNews.”
It’ll have the bright orange icon that you see here.
Once you’ve found the right app, click on the white Install button to start installation.
The Downloader app is easy to find on APKPure as well. Just search for “downloader” and it’ll be the first app listed
From here, you can click on the Install button on the right-hand side, or click on the icon to get more details on the app.
Either way, you can open the app directly from here or from the app drawer on your device’s home screen.
Allow Unknown Apps
In order to use Downloader, you’ll need to change the setting that allows you to install apps from places other than the Google Play Store.
In newer versions of Android, Google actually makes this easier to manage. Now, you don’t have to do this before you install the app, or even before you run the app.
For example, if you launch the Downloader app, or any other app that needs permission to install apps from unknown sources, the OS will give you a pop-up box to let you know that the app doesn’t have the permissions it needs to run.
Then it’ll take you directly to the Settings menu where you can fix it.
That’s a huge time-saver.
How to Enable Unknown Sources
Depending on your version of Android, the setting you need to change will either be called Unknown Sources or Unknown Apps. Both essentially do the same thing.
The major change is that in current versions of Android and Android TV, you can enable or disable this setting for each individual app, which is awesome.
For example, that means that if you want to enable it for Aptoide TV, but disable it for File Commander, you can do that.
To get to that menu, click on the Settings icon to get to your Device Preferences.
Then scroll down to the Security & Restrictions heading and click on that.
There are only two settings to change in this sub-menu: Unknown Sources and Verify Apps. Click on Unknown Sources to continue.
In this menu, you’re able to toggle the permissions for each app individually. Simply flip the toggle until it changes to blue to enable it, or flip it to gray to disable it.
Current versions of Android will let you do this from within the app. You don’t need to change this setting beforehand.
The Downloader App: How To Use It
Now that we’ve got the Downloader app installed, let’s take a quick tour.
The first time you launch Downloader, it’ll ask for permissions to access photos, media and files on your device. As far as permissions goes, this is about as simple as you can get. It needs this permission so it can install files.
Since that’s kind of the point of the app, go ahead and click Allow.
With that out of the way, there’s Quick Start Guide that appears in a pop-up box. Even though Downloader is really straightforward and intuitive to use, it’s still nice to see Elias include some basic instructions to tell you what the different screens let you do.
Once you click out of that box, the main Home screen is a simple search box that lets you enter a URL or search term.
Until recently, you could only enter a URL into this field. However, in July 2020, it was integrated with Google Search so you can actually enter in a keyword to search for.
For example, if you search for “Aptoide TV”, the integrated browser will take you directly to the Google Search results for that term.
One of my biggest complaints about previous versions was that you needed to know the full URL to the page you’re looking for. Having integrated search makes it so much easier to use and it’s a huge time saver.
When Downloader originally launched back in 2016 it didn’t have an integrated web browser built in. So, when you typed in the URL on the home page, you needed the complete location of the file itself.
Obviously, that made it a lot harder to type in and very easy to make a typo.
But that was quickly fixed. In early 2017, the developers added an integrated web browser
The integrated browser is one of the killer features of this app and it’s really what puts it over the top.
Enable Browser Plugin
If you have a device running Android TV, you’ll need to download a browser plugin in order to enable the feature. Unfortunately, Google took some issues with having an integrated browser on Android TV and this was the best workaround for that.
Fortunately, it’s only a minor inconvenience, but it makes for a great tutorial on how the Downloader app works!
The first time you go to the Browser page, you’ll get a message like the one above. It gives you instructions on how to download the browser plugin by going to browser.aftvnews.com.
Let’s head back to the Home screen and type that in the Search field.
Once you have it typed in correctly, click Go to start the download.
After the file is downloaded, you’ll get a pop-up box with three options: Install, Delete and Done.
- Install will take you through the installation process.
- Delete will delete the installation file from your device. It’s usually a good idea to do this after you install the app to save space on your device.
- Done will close the pop-up box and take you back to the Home screen.
Click Install to continue.
Note: If you haven’t already changed the setting to allow Downloader to install apps from unknown sources, you’ll be given that opportunity now.
Once you’re back at the all-white installation screen, the system will verify that you do actually want to install the plugin. If we were installing anything that required special permissions, it would also allow us to approve or deny those here.
Since the plugin we’re installing doesn’t require anything special, go ahead and click Install in the bottom right-hand corner to continue.
A few seconds later you’ll get the “App Installed” message. Click Done to return to the app.
Here’s the only confusing part of the entire process. You’re returned to the very same pop-up box that you left a few seconds ago and there’s no indication that the process was completed.
Yes…I know I literally just saw a message that told me the app was installed, but this still threw me off when I saw it the first time.
I recommend Deleting the APK file to save space on your device. However, if you want to keep it for whatever reason, click Done to return to the main menu.
Using the Browser
The integrated browser is pretty basic by design, since you’re only going to use it to search for the APK’s you want to install.
Navigating is super-easy. What I love is that you can navigate around without needing to change your remote to air-mouse mode – if you even have an air-mouse.
The red circle that you can see in this image under the word Accessibility in the title is your cursor. You can use the D-pad to navigate around the screen, up to the search bar or to the menu in the top-right corner.
The menu options are also pretty basic. The most useful option is adding a webpage to your Favorites so you can return to it easily.
In the Settings screen, you can specify the folder that the Downloader app uses to save APK’s that you download from the Internet.
The Files page gives you instant access to these APK’s without needing to go to a file explorer and navigate to the Download folder manually.
Personally, I don’t find this to be a great feature, but it’s handy to have if you like to keep all of your APK’s on the system after you install them.
Unsurprisingly, the Favorites tab on the side menu takes you a list of your web page favorites. Because the browser is so lean, this is a great way to still give you that feature without needing to build it into the browser itself.
Again, from my own personal experience, this isn’t a feature I use a lot, but it’s definitely a nice-to-have.
There are only four basic settings to change in the Downloader app, and to be honest, I’ve never found the need to change any of them.
The first is the default Download Folder where you’d save any files you download through the app. If you have a very specific file structure that you use, where you absolutely have to have your files saved in a specific directory, then you can change it here.
In most cases, I’d just go with the default.
Second, we have APK Auto-Install. In most cases, you’ll leave this checked to automatically ask you if you want to install the app immediately after downloading the APK.
In some cases, you may be downloading the APK as a backup, or to transfer over to another device, but that’s rare. I recommend leaving this checked as well.
Third, we have the option to Automatically Open Web Pages in Browser. This will open any URL’s you enter on the home page in the integrated browser. If you download files directly (using the long URL and file name) then you won’t need this. Keeping it checked will make the overall experience easier and more seamless.
Finally, we have the Help tab. This gives you a basic rundown of the features of the app.
I can’t say enough good things about the Downloader app. It’s the first thing I install on a new Android TV device because it gives me access to apps that I wouldn’t be able to install otherwise. Sideloading apps used to be a huge pain, but with this app, it’s super-easy.