Thursday, 24 November 2016

The Android TV home screen bloat and how to fix it

As at last week, when I reviewed the Xiaomi Mi Box, one of my complaints was about the layout of the home screen. In my statement-instead of having just one section for all your apps, the Mi Box splits your app library in two, with a separate section of “Mi Box Recommends” apps that can’t be customized. And now, this isn’t the first time I’ve run into this problem. Last year’s Nvidia Shield Android TV, which runs the same operating system from Google, also has a separate row just for Nvidia’s pre-installed gaming apps and Netflix. As for the case of Mi Box, there’s no way you can move those apps around. But luckily still, there are ways to take control of your home screen on the Xiaomi Mi Box, Nvidia Shield Android TV, and Google Nexus Player. One thing is that they’re just hidden out of sight from the average user. So if you would mind, here’s what you can do:
Xiaomi Mi Box: removing the “Mi Box Recommends” row: Getting rid of Xiaomi’s bloatware first requires a settings tweak:
So in that regard, you should first go to Settings
Under the Device heading, select Apps
Under the System apps heading, scroll to and select XiaomiLeanbackCustomizer
Select Disable, then select OK. And more, removing this row doesn’t get rid of the apps themselves, it simply moves them to the main app section so that everything is in one place. Now if you want to remove these apps completely, you will need to launch them first, as this takes you to the Google Play Store to complete the installation. After this step, uninstall the apps through Settings > Apps or through the Google Play Store, and the icons should disappear. (Thanks to Android Box Reviews for the tip.)
Nvidia Shield Android TV: removing the “Shield Hub” row: The weirdest thing about the Nvidia Shield Android TV is how it relegates the Netflix app to the same row as Nvidia’s own gaming services. Now if it happens that this bothers you as much as it bothers others, follow these steps for relief:
Go to Settings
Under the Device heading, select Apps
Under the System apps heading, scroll to and select Nvidia Customizations
Select Notifications, then select Off
When you return to the home screen, both Netflix and the Shield Hub app will appear inside the main apps section. You can press and hold the “A” button on those apps to rearrange the icons. Finally on this note, there’s just one downside: Launching the Shield Hub takes you straight to Nvidia’s GeForce Now cloud gaming service, with no apparent way to access GameStream (for in-home streaming from a PC) or Nvidia’s native game store.
Extreme measure: Set a new default launcher: In this aspect, if you’re still unhappy with the Android TV home screen—for instance, you don’t like the Recommendations row, or don’t want your games and apps separated, you can install an alternative home screen launcher In this move, with Android 6.0, Google made this a lot harder on Android TV devices. Even if you install an alternative launcher like HALauncher or TVLauncher, there’s no built-in way to set them as the default. Fortunately, there is a workaround, discovered by the XDA developer forums. All you need is a laptop and USB cable, and it doesn’t even require rooting your device so in that move here are the things you should do:
Install your alternative launcher of your choice on your PC, download and install Minimal ADB and Fastboot Nvidia Shield owners may need to install Shield Open Source drivers on the PC, though this shouldn’t be necessary in Windows 10
On your Android TV device, go to Settings
Under the Device heading, select About
Scroll down to Build, and press the “A” button eight times. (A message will tell you that you are now a developer.)
Return to the main Settings menu
Under the Preferences heading, select Developer options
Select Debugging, then select USB Debugging, then select On
Connect the Android TV device to the PC with a USB cable
On the Android TV device, and approve the connection
On the PC, launch Minimal ADB and Fastboot
In the command prompt, type adb devices
Verify that a device is detected (it should appear as a string of numbers)
In the command prompt, type adb shell pm hide com.google.android.leanbacklauncher
Now when you press your device’s home button, it should return to your alternative launcher.
To get the standard launcher back, return to the command prompt and type adb shell pm unhide com.google.android.leanbacklauncher. Lastly, I’ve confirmed that this works on the Nvidia Shield Android TV. And unlike the more basic workaround that eliminates Nvidia’s home screen section, launching the Shield Hub app from an alternative launcher preserves access to GameStream and Nvidia’s game store. And in this move, one of Android’s strengths has always been the ability to customize, so it’s a big shame that Google makes power users go through so many steps to change the home screen. But at least it’s still possible. Thanks.......

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