The best cheap Android TV streamer for cord-cutters: A TiVo Stream 4K with its TiVo features removed

Removing the bloat from TiVo's $50 streaming dongle makes for a pretty great Android TV experience.

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Jared Newman / IDG

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The TiVo Stream 4K is an interesting and unusual stream device. Instead of making you wade through an endless list of apps to find something worth watching, TiVo provides a single menu for browsing the catalogs of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and more.

At its core, though, the TiVo Stream 4K is also a cheap 4K HDR streaming dongle that runs on Google’s Android TV operating system. And if you have no interest in TiVo’s extra features, you can easily remove them and customize the device to your liking. That means stripping away all the pre-loaded apps and reprogramming the remote control with shortcuts to your favorite functions.

At its current sale price of $50 through the end of July—versus a regular price of $70—I’d venture to say that a de-TiVoed TiVo Stream 4k is the best cheap Android TV dongle on the market today. It’s especially useful now, with HBO Max and NBC’s Peacock still unavailable on Roku and Amazon Fire TV streamers, and compared to those options, it’s far more flexible.

Here’s how to remove TiVo’s features from the TiVo Stream 4K and use it in ways TiVo never intended.

De-TiVoing the Stream 4K: The easy way

The simplest way to strip TiVo features from the TiVo Stream 4K is to disable a handful of pre-loaded apps through the device’s settings menu. This method won’t stop TiVo from running some additional software in the background, but it’s also easy to undo if you want to bring TiVo’s features back later.

  • Head to Settings > Apps, then select “See all apps.”
  • Scroll down and click on TiVo Stream, then select “Disable,” and hit “Yes” to confirm.
  • Return to the all apps menu, then select “Show system apps” at the bottom.
  • Scroll down and click on TiVoPlusPlayer, then select “Disable,” and hit “Yes” to confirm.
streamdisable Jared Newman / IDG
  • Return to system apps menu and find com.tivo.tvlaunchercustomization. Click on it, select “Disable,” then hit “Yes” to confirm.
  • Optionally, you can remove other pre-loaded apps such as CBS All Access and Pandora. Select them from the “all apps” menu, then hit “Uninstall.”
  • On the home screen, find TiVo’s “Recommended” row, scroll left until you see the minus button, then click on it to remove the final hint of TiVo’s presence.
streamrecommend Jared Newman / IDG
  • Reboot the device by heading to Settings > Device Preferences > About, then hitting “Restart.”

At this point, your TiVo Stream 4K should look just like a regular Android TV device, and the remote control’s TiVo, Guide, i info, Skip, and Live buttons will be unresponsive. (We’ll talk about remapping those buttons in the next section.) To restore TiVo’s functions, head to Settings > Apps > See all apps, then re-enable everything in the “Disabled apps” list.

Remapping the TiVo Stream 4K remote

tivostream4kremote Jared Newman / IDG

Many of the TiVo Stream 4K's remote buttons can be reprogrammed to launch apps or navigate through menus.

Now that you’ve freed up some buttons on the TiVo Stream 4K remote, it’s time to reprogram them with the Button Mapper app. You can install it by searching for “Button Mapper” in the Google Play Store from your TiVo Stream 4K.

  • Before opening Button Mapper app, head to Settings > Device Preferences > Accessibility, then set “Button Mapper” to “On.”
streambuttonmap Jared Newman / IDG
  • Open the Button Mapper app, select “Add Buttons,” then select “Add Button” again on the next page.
streambuttonmapper Jared Newman / IDG
  • When prompted, press the remote button you’d like to remap. I suggest starting with the remote’s big silver TiVo button.
streambuttonmap2 Jared Newman / IDG
  • Click on the newly-created button (called “DVR 173” for the TiVo button). You’ll see a pop-up prompting you to pay for “Pro” features, but you can dismiss this by hitting “No Thanks.” (Or, if you’d like to support the developer, you can make a $4.50 in-app purchase.)
streambuttonmap4 Jared Newman / IDG
  • Make sure “Customize” is toggled on, then select “Single tap” to choose what the button should do.
streambuttonmap3 Jared Newman / IDG
  • Choose system-level action (such as Home, Back, or Recents) to map to the button. Alternatively, click on “Actions” at the top of the list, select “Applciations,” then choose an app to launch when the button is pressed.
streambuttonrg Jared Newman / IDG
  • Repeat the steps above for other buttons, such as Guide, Live, I info, and the number keys.

In my case, I mapped the TiVo button to launch Reelgood, an app that provides a unified guide for a wide range of streaming services. It’s similar to the TiVo Stream 4K’s built-in menu system, but it works with more streaming video sources, plus you can use Reelgood’s website or mobile app to add movies and shows to your watchlist.

You might also use the “Guide” button to launch your live TV streaming service of choice, or use the number keys as a speed dial for your favorite apps.

Channels DVR integration

To take things to another level, Channels DVR has released its own integration with the TiVo Stream 4K remote. If you’re unfamiliar with Channels, it’s a DVR service that can run on a desktop PC, NAS box, Nvidia Shield TV, or Raspberry Pi. You can pair it with an HDHomeRun tuner to pull in local channels from an antenna, or you can capture live cable channel streams by linking Channels with pay TV services such as YouTube TV or Hulu + Live TV.

channelstve2 Jared Newman / IDG

The TiVo Stream 4K can be programmed for specific actions within Channels DVR, such as taking you straight to the grid guide when you hit the “Guide” button.

Once you’ve set up Channels and installed the Android TV app, head to Settings > Device Preferences > Accessibility and turn on “Channels Button Detector,” just like with Button Mapper above. You’ll now be able to control the app using the TiVo remote:

  • The TiVo button opens Channels DVR.
  • ”Guide” takes you to the grid guide.
  • Channel up/down flips through live channels.
  • ”Skip” jumps through commercials (unless you’ve turned on automatic skipping).
  • ”Live” takes you to live TV.
  • The number keys let you tune to specific channels.

The irony here is that TiVo has yet to deliver its own DVR integration on the TiVo Stream 4K. By removing all TiVo functionality from the TiVo Stream 4K, Channels DVR provides the next-best thing.

De-TiVoing the Stream 4K: The hard way

Once you’ve committed to removing TiVo’s features from the TiVo Stream 4K, you might consider uninstalling some additional elements that can’t be removed through the easy method I mentioned earlier. These include some bug tracking and other background services that aren’t essential to using the device.

For this process, you’ll need a computer running Windows, Mac, or Linux, with the free adbLink software installed.

  • On the TiVo Stream 4K, head to Settings > Device Preferences > About > Status, then write down your device’s IP address. (It should be formatted like 192.168.XX.XX.)
streamnetwork Jared Newman / IDG
  • Next, head to Settings > Device Preferences > About, then click on “Build” repeatedly until a message appears, saying you’ve become a developer.
  • Navigate to Settings > Device Preferences > Developer Options, then select “Enable USB Debugging.”
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  • On your computer, open up adbLink, and under “Ad Hoc IP,” enter the IP address you wrote down earlier and hit “Connect.” (You may see an error message on your computer; just ignore this for now.)
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  • On your TiVo Stream 4K, you’ll see a message asking to allow USB debugging. Select “Always allow” and hit “OK.”
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  • Back on your computer, dismiss the error message that appeared, then hit “Connect” again. If successful, you should see your IP address listed under “Connected devices,” and “IP connection” under “Connection status.”
  • In adbLink, click on ADB Shell to bring up a terminal window.
adblink3 Jared Newman / IDG

Now, you’ll have to type in the following commands, hitting Enter after each line. (In Windows, you can paste these lines into the terminal by right-clicking instead of hitting Ctrl-V.):

  • pm uninstall -k —user 0 com.utsmta.app
  • pm uninstall -k —user 0 com.tivo.tivoplusplayer
  • pm uninstall -k —user 0 com.tivo.tvlaunchercustomization
  • pm uninstall -k —user 0 com.droidlogic.overlay
  • pm uninstall -k —user 0 com.nes.bugtracker
  • pm uninstall -k —user 0 com.nes.tvglobalkeyhandler
  • pm uninstall -k —user 0 com.nes.daemonservice
  • pm uninstall -k —user 0 com.nes.skywayclient
  • pm uninstall -k —user 0 com.droidlogic.SubTitleService
  • pm uninstall -k —user 0 com.limark.deviqcoreagent
  • pm disable-user —user 0 com.tivo.atom
  • reboot

The last line will reboot your TiVo Stream 4K. If you ever want to restore TiVo functions without factory resetting the device, just re-enter the terminal commands above, but replacing “pm uninstall -k —user 0” with “cmd package install-existing” for each line.

Now, have fun customizing your TiVo Stream 4K. Feel free to reach out via email or Twitter if you have any questions.

(Thanks to the folks in the TiVo forums and to Dave Zatz for the tips and guidance here.)

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