How To Use Kodi with Android
Android as a platform is in a unique position in comparison to its mobile opponents. Unlike iOS, Android is able to be stretched and manipulated to operate more like a desktop operating system than something limited to whatever the capabilities of its applications are. A tool like Kodi can allow an old Android phone or tablet to transform from a useless or outdated platform to something far more capable, especially if you have a large media library to go along with your Android hardware.
Kodi has run into a huge amount of controversy in recent years for the accessibility and usage of Kodi to access pirated content, an unfortunate reality that plagues any open-source video app. Not one to lose a battle while sitting around, Kodi has, as of late, been going after a number of known pirates and sellers of known, knock-off hardware running the Kodi platform. We recommend you stay away from both piracy-ridden Kodi applications and any hardware that promises pirated material using Kodi’s interface and player.
For most people, Kodi is best left to being installed through official means. Kodi’s listed inside the Play Store, with a frequently updated application, as well as a beta and an RC test build you can download from their website for free—though we’ll be testing Kodi through their official Android app listed on the Play Store.
Kodi’s one of our favorite legal media streamers around and is an excellent choice for organizing media into a simple, easy-to-use layout that, with a little bit of setup, practice, and yes—time, can be used by anyone who wants to learn the program. Kodi does have a bit of a learning curve for new users, though—which is why we’ll be taking a look at how to setup Kodi, and how to best use the program once you’ve customized it to your liking.
Just like any app, installing Kodi on your Android tablet or phone (Kodi is not recommended for use with phones using a screen smaller than 5″) just involves heading on over to the Play Store and hitting the “Install” button. If you ever used Kodi back in the XBMC days, you’ll remember using the app on a tablet or phone basically required a third-party skin to make the app usable and browsable on touch displays, but luckily, the Kodi team has come a long way since.
You don’t need to install any other apps to use alongside Kodi if you’re just looking for a media player, but if you’re interested, there’s one other app you should grab: Kore is the official remote app for Kodi, developed by the XBMC team. If you plan on using your tablet or other Android device hooked up to a television or other device, grab this one for your phone. It makes it easy to control and search content on Kodi, and you can even theme and change how the control app works.
Anything else we need to add to Kodi is done through the app itself, so let’s dive in and get to work!
Setting Up Kodi
When you first open up Kodi, you’ll find the app looks like any other standard video player, similar to older versions of Windows Media Center. On the left side of your display, you’ll find a navigation bar containing everything you could possibly want to browse through: movies, TV shows, music, etc.
On the right side of this menu, you’ll note a message announcing your library is “currently empty,” along with instructions to either enter the files section or remove your selected main menu item.
If you’re using Kodi to playback local content already on your device, select “Enter File Section” and browse through your files until you reach the directory you want to be displayed within Kodi’s file browser. From here, you can add local content into your Kodi library by tapping the “Add (Media)” button, and then browsing through your device’s file system. Once you’ve done that, your media source will appear on Kodi’s main display as an accessible media source.
Local media playback is all pretty straightforward on Kodi, but what about the settings and add-ons that have made Kodi—and XBMC before it—so popular? We’ll get to addons in a moment, but for now, let’s start by focusing on the settings and options available for customization in Kodi because there’s a lot here to take in.
Head into the settings menu by hitting the gear icon at the top of the navigation menu on the left of your screen, and your device will load into Kodi’s extensive settings layout.
Each menu has its own functions, some of them becoming pretty extensive and hard to follow, so the easiest way to break down how Kodi works is to separate some of the more important options and explain exactly what it does:
- Player: Here’s where you can customize how Kodi’s built-in player works. This option alone is as detailed as any other media player on Android. You can adjust how fast-forwarding and rewinding works, your display’s refresh rate, the default audio language for local media and content, how photos are displayed through Kodi and tweak and accessibility options. There’s an option for disc playback in here, mentioning both DVDs and BluRays, but to our knowledge, Kodi on Android can’t playback discs because of limitations with Android. If you’re interested, you can change how many settings are shown by changing the display to Advanced or Expert in the bottom-left corner. Advanced has some neat features for how videos are processed, using hardware or software acceleration, but if you aren’t sure what any of that means, it’s best to leave it alone.
- Media: Media lets you change how your local media is displayed and organized through Kodi. You can change your thumbnail options, sorting options, and tell Kodi how to display parent folders versus child folders.
- PVR and Live TV: We won’t be messing with these settings too much, but it’s an interesting enough setting to warrant a quick mention. Kodi has the ability to playback and record live television depending on how you set up your device. Typically, live television playback requires some additional hardware that a basic tablet or phone won’t be able to handle, so we’ll skip this one for now.
- Interface Settings: You can probably guess what this one does, but it’s one of the more important settings you can modify inside Kodi. Every single interface aspect inside Kodi can be changed and customized to fit your liking, and this includes adding and changing the skin (by default, Kodi uses their newer Estuary skin), colors, and fonts. You can also change how your screensaver looks inside Kodi and the language settings for your skin.
- File Manager: While not perhaps a traditional “setting,” it’s worth noting Kodi has a built-in file manager if you ever need to move or change the location of a file. It’s nothing particularly robust—we recommend Solid Explorer for most of your file-managing needs—but it’s useful if you’re in a bind or don’t want to leave the application.
Overall, if you’re just looking to playback local media, how Kodi comes out of the box you’ll be all set to start using Kodi as a media player. But Kodi’s known for its third-party add-ons and additions, and we’d be remiss not to mention all of the options and features you can add using their repository system.
So for now, we’ll be leaving local media behind and head into streaming.
Using Kodi Add-Ons
Back at the main menu of Kodi, you might’ve noticed one big section we haven’t mentioned yet hidden on the navigation panel: add-ons. Kodi’s bread-and-butter—what the entire service is known for—is their extensive usage of add-ons and services that make a good media player, and turn it into the streaming king. Add-ons alone in Kodi have their own menu, with the ability to add extensions for video, music, and picture playback.
Unfortunately, add-ons can also be pretty complex and confusing if you’ve never used Kodi before. Kodi’s own depth make it difficult for newcomers to learn the service, and that’s where we come in. We’ll be focusing on video add-ons for Kodi, and we’ll start by diving into the add-on browser for Kodi.
As of writing, there are hundreds of approved add-ons inside the Kodi add-on browser for video alone, each on different version numbers and spawning from different developers. Some of them are from other countries, not written in English, and you can hide those by using the options menu in the lower-left hand corner. Even with non-English add-ons hidden, 231 video-supported plug-ins are available for download, and it can be a bit of a headache to browse through all of them when you’re looking for a specific app. We’ll give some recommendations on our favorite add-ons below, but first, here’s how to browse through the add-ons more efficiently.
Tapping options on the lower left-hand corner brings you some helpful toggles that can make your experience much better. By default, incompatible add-ons are hidden automatically, and we already mentioned the ability to hide foreign apps above. You can change the order between ascending and descending (the latter enabled by default), and you can check for updates while you’re here too.
There’s a helpful search option if you know the name of the add-on you’re looking for, and tapping the settings menu brings you to a menu that lets you change how add-ons work in Kodi. You can change how updates install, display notifications, and—this is the important one—you can toggle Unknown Services on and off. You should do this now; we’ll cover why shortly.
So, what should you install? There are so many choices to make here, and it can be a bit overwhelming if you’re new to the service. Don’t stress too much—we’ve gathered some of the best add-ons available through the browser right here. And if you can’t find these on the add-on list, remember to use the search function detailed above.
- Plex: The popular media server app has become something of a competitor to Kodi, but it began as an add-on for XBMC—and you can still download it to this day. If you’re really interested in setting up a media server like Plex, you’re probably better off using Plex’s official dedicated app, but it can be helpful to keep it inside Kodi if you’re committing to only one platform.
- Apple iTunes Podcasts: If you’re a fan of podcasts, you’ll want to grab the iTunes podcasts app. It makes it incredibly easy to watch or listen to both audio and video podcasts through Apple, and the app stays updated with the latest releases. It’s not quite as fully-featured as a dedicated podcast app, but it makes it incredibly easy to play or watch your favorite shows.
- Vimeo: Vimeo’s plugin allows you to stream and watch any videos featured and stored on Vimeo’s website. If you haven’t used Vimeo before—or you’re not a regular user—Vimeo is a YouTube alternative, with an emphasis on hosting and featuring semi-professional short films and clips from actual filmmakers, instead of random cat videos. There isn’t a standard YouTube player in Kodi’s add-on store, but you can find a lot of great user content on Vimeo. DailyMotion also has an add-on.
These are a handful of select apps that, in general, we think are some of the best available on the platform for anyone to use. You’ll want to spend some time digging through the store to see if there’s anything else you want personally—or, of course, you could add unofficial add-ons through the repository feature.
Using Third-Party Add-ons From The Internet
Start by heading back to the main Add-ons display, and select the open box icon from the top of the navigation panel. This will take you to a menu for adding plugins to Kodi that we haven’t seen before, with several different options for adding your own content: install from the repository, install from a zip file, and the return of the search function. You can also view your add-ons here, and you can view both recently updated and pending updates for your installed add-ons.
There are a ton of available third-party repositories of Kodi apps online, with many of them offering illegal and torrented content. It’s fairly easy to find this stuff with a quick Google search, so we won’t be linking to that content here—if you want to use pirated content, you’ll have to find it elsewhere. Plenty of illegal streaming services have been shutting down lately, as a result of increased legal pressure from both Kodi itself and content providers like Dish and DirecTV. If you do decide to use these piracy applications, be careful—your ISP might track the apps you’re using.
That said, there are also a ton of legal third-party add-ons you can get from the internet, and we’re more than happy to link some of them. These are some of the best available online, and adding them is easy—you just need to use the SuperRepo list. Head into your System Settings, tap that File Manager app we discussed earlier and hit “Add Source” on the side navigation panel. Tap the “None” option on your list of already-added repositories (if you’re new to the app, you won’t have any).
Use the Kodi keyboard to type in this link exactly: “http://srp.nu”. Then click “Ok,” and “Done.” And that’s it! You’ll have access to the SuperRepo list of apps. We won’t list everything on there, but here’s some of the stuff you can grab now:
- Twitch.TV: That’s right—there’s an unofficial streaming add-on for one of the biggest names in live streaming today. If you’re a huge fan of games, watching people play games, or any of the non-gaming content also provided over at Twitch, you’ll want to grab the Kodi add-on for Twitch.
- YouTube: You know what YouTube is. I know what YouTube is. No streaming platform is complete without YouTube.
- Dbmc: This is a Dropbox client for Kodi that makes it easy to view photos and videos uploaded to your DropBox account.
- USTV Now: Only for US users, USTV gives you channels that would be accessible via an OTA antenna, keeping it squarely in the realm of “legal” possibility. Definitely check this one out.
- SoundCloud: Finally, like many internet users, you probably use SoundCloud to listen to your music online from your favorite indie artists and musicians. This is a great way to get that same content right within Kodi itself.
Kodi isn’t a perfect application, but it’s a great way to get all of your content into one main application to view your content. It’s endlessly customizable, there’s a huge library of official and third-party add-ons, and the platform scales well from a touch screen all the way up to a 70″ television, so no matter what size display you’re using, Kodi will look good. It does have a bit of a learning curve for most users, but that’s why guides like this exist—to fill you into all the intricacies and hidden settings within an app.
So, what are you most excited to use Kodi for? Are you going to upload all your local movies to the cloud, or use it as a big-screen YouTube streamer? Drop us a line in the comments below and let us know!