Tip: Using a Non-TV App? Right Analog Stick Acts as Mouse

The great thing about Android is that even if you can’t download an app to your device through the Play Store, you can sideload it. Sure, you won’t get the optimal experience, but a lot of people prefer something more than nothing.

Android TV, being relatively new, has a lot of apps that aren’t supported. Want to scroll through Google Photos on a big screen or stream Spotify without a premium subscription? Well, there are workarounds. You can install the app directly on your device, although it doesn’t have support for the launcher. You can go into Settings > Apps and open the app directly. Now you have another problem. The app was only designed for a touchscreen, not a game controller and a DPAD.

Another workaround is using a USB mouse. Android supports pretty much any type of peripheral. You can plug a mouse in and it acts just like a finger. You can fling content around and open things just like if you only had one finger.

You may have had to use a mouse in order to navigate non-leanback apps, but there’s a trick that seems to exist when navigating non-leanback apps on the NVIDIA Shield. By moving the right analog stick, a mouse cursor appears. It can be moved around the screen by moving the analog stick in the corresponding direction. When you find something you want to click, hover over that spot and click “A”. That taps the object just like if it was a touchscreen. Hold down “A” and move the stick and you can scroll through lists or columns.

The mouse can be moved around using the gamepad
The mouse can be moved around using the gamepad

It’s not entirely known if this works on other devices, not just the NVIDIA Shield TV, or whether this is exclusively for NVIDIA’s game controller. Right now it seems like this doesn’t work in TV apps, so the system is probably checking the manifest for a leanback launcher intent or if the app uses the feature android.software.leanback. Let us know in the comments what you’ve found through testing this out.

Nick Felker

Nick Felker

Nick Felker is a student Electrical & Computer Engineering student at Rowan University (C/O 2017) and the student IEEE webmaster. When he's not studying, he is a software developer for the web and Android (Felker Tech). He has several open source projects on GitHub (http://github.com/fleker) Devices: Moto G-2013 Moto G-2015, Moto 360, Google ADT-1, Nexus 7-2013 (x2), Lenovo Laptop, Custom Desktop. Although he was an intern at Google, the content of this blog is entirely independent and his own thoughts.

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