This newfound openness for Android TV, however, is a mixed blessing. While the full catalog has some great apps throughout, finding them involves sifting through a lot of junk. To spare you the trouble, I’ve dug deep into the Android TV app store to find these 10 hidden gems:
The Google Play Store is lousy with news-video apps for Android TV. What sets Class6ix News apart is the way it ties in local news sources when you plug in your zip code. You can also choose which categories and news sources you’re interested in, and the app will automatically generate a playlist so you can get caught up.
This free app offers a live feed of the popular online video channel This Week in Tech (TWiT), along with a full on-demand archive of shows. Spend an hour geeking out on Ham radio or home theater, or hit the main broadcast to see what TWiT’s talking heads are yapping about now.
Here’s a neat trick for your next party: Throw Jamjitsu on the television, and your guests can download the app and queue up songs from SoundCloud, YouTube, Spotify, and Deezer. You can also upload pictures to create a party slideshow on the fly.
File this one under “legally dubious but enjoyable while it lasts.” Mediahhh provides a live streaming of U.K. channels, including BBC networks and some channels that show American television. Many of the streams seem to come from FilmOn, which itself is on slippery footing, and the quality isn’t great, but hey, it’s free.
Emma for Spotify
Spotify doesn’t offer an official app for Android TV, but the unofficial Emma for Spotify can fill the void. The $1.68 app lets you access all your albums, radio stations, and playlists with a Spotify Premium account. It also supports Android TV’s voice commands, and will add music shortcuts to your home screen. (If you’re feeling cheap, TV Player for Spotify provides free access to your entire library, though it’s not as full-featured.)
Android TV doesn’t give you much to look at when you’re playing music through the tube. With Kaleidance, your TV can provide some trippy visuals to compliment your tunes. The app is free to use, though it costs $2 to remove the nag text that floats into the visualizer.
Santi: Instagram on Android TV
Admittedly, the television might not be the perfect place for Instagramming, but Santi is still useful for those times you want to share your photos on big screen or see what your friends are up to. You can even give a thumbs up to photos without ever touching your phone.
IGN’s app is a rare example of a major media website doing television right. The app is filled with long-form videos, including features on gaming history and playthroughs of popular games, and when you finish one video, the next one queues up immediately after.
CBS News offers a live, round-the-clock video feed with anchored coverage, and it tends to focus on actual stories instead of talking heads. It’s unclear why this one doesn’t appear in Google Play’s curated sections, as it’s easily one of the best apps Android TV has to offer.
Android TV’s built-in wallpapers are pleasant enough, but 500 Firepaper is an excellent alternative if you want more customization. The free app, which draws from the photo service 500px, lets you choose from dozens of categories, with controls over how often to refresh the image. (Just be sure to set this app as the default in the Daydream section of Android TV’s settings menu.)
Jared Newman has been helping folks make sense of technology for over a decade, writing for PCWorld, TechHive, and elsewhere. He also publishes two newsletters, Advisorator for straightforward tech advice and Cord Cutter Weekly for saving money on TV service.