Android TV is an operating system for smart televisions. But what what is Android TV and how does it work?
What is Android TV?
Android TV is a smart TV operating system created by Google. It is the official successor to Google TV. The fact that you haven’t heard so much about that is exactly why Google is trying again, this time under a different name. It was announced in March 2014 and runs on the same basis as Android 5.0 Lollipop for smartphones and tablets. With Lollipop, Google wants to achieve more cohesion between the different platforms of the OS, including smartphones, wearables and televisions.
In short, it brings almost everything you’re used to from the Android platform to your television, in a way you’re already familiar with. That does not mean that you can now make direct calls from your TV or that you can scroll through your collection of e-mail messages, but it does mean that you can, for example, use popular games and apps in the living room, on the big screen. It should actually make your television smarter and deliver an experience for users without any snags – everything should go almost by itself.
How does Android TV work?
It can be operated in different ways. You can do this with your voice – a top priority at Google – or with various smart devices, such as your smartphone, tablet or Android wearable. Android TV, like Android 5.0 Lollipop, has a map-based system, with the idea of having a better overview of what’s happening on your device right now. In practice, some users do not always find that card system very clear, but in general it works fine and you quickly find what you need.
In terms of applications, you will only find the most essential in the beginning. We mean apps such as Netflix and YouTube. However, developers also get the opportunity to optimize their existing and new apps for the platform and therefore the big screen. That means that popular video games and other applications, such as those for the weather, will automatically find their way to your television. Unfortunately, not all apps currently in the Google Play Store are suitable for Android TV, due to the lack of a standard input.
Why choose Android TV as a manufacturer?
It is useful not only for users, because of that familiar user experience, but also for manufacturers. Android TV is a growing platform for which many more apps will be released in the future (and for which quite a few are already available), so why would you as a manufacturer still invest in your own platform? It only costs time and money, and it probably wouldn’t be a decisive factor for a consumer to once again get to know a separate operating system – this is easier for everyone.
Plus, apps will keep coming out for it all the time, which is a huge selling point for Android TV. In the past, we saw that manufacturers had their own smart TV platform for which a handful of apps were available. That number was often not expanded and apps that did not work properly (or needed improvements) did not receive the necessary updates. With Android TV, all of this will soon be done – saves manufacturers time and money and consumers are better off with recent content and updates.
How do I get Android TV?
We’ve just talked about smart TVs, but that’s not the only hardware we’ll run into Android TV on. For example, Google has announced the Nexus Player : a small set-top box for under your current television, on which the TV system is also installed and in fact offers all the advantages of the platform. You can even buy a controller to start playing immediately. Unfortunately, it is not yet known when the Nexus Player will come to the Netherlands, so we have to be patient for that.
Razer also announced the Forge TV. The Razer Forge TV is a small powerful Android TV game console, to which you can connect a controller, keyboard and mouse. You can also stream your PC games to it and play League of Legends or World of Warcraft from your couch – that should become the unique selling point of this device. Beyond that, the Forge TV of course works on Android TV, which also gives you direct access to the Google operating system and access to the most popular applications of the Android platform.
However, most often you will encounter Android TV on smart TVs in the store. Philips, Sony and Sharp, among others, announced at the beginning of 2015 that they will come with the first Android TVs in 2015.
Chromecast or Android TV?
The Chromecast is a clear hit for Google. It is simple and inexpensive and works with just about any modern television set and Android device. You plug the Chromecast stick into an HDMI port on your TV and can immediately start broadcasting (cast). At CES 2015, Google also announced Google Cast for Audio : a collection of speakers that all support the Android platform and that users can send music to at the touch of a button, via Google Play Music and other popular music streaming services.
In principle, Android TV works the same as the Chromecast. With the push of a button, you can send that YouTube video or holiday report to your television, as you are used to from Chromecast. So if you will soon have a television with Android TV, you no longer need a Chromecast. You only use it for televisions that do not have Android TV. Smart televisions running on Google’s new OS have a built-in dongle, eliminating the need for a separate one – but don’t throw that stick away just yet.
When it will be available?
It will be introduced from this year (2015) on smart TVs from Sony, Phillips and Sharp, among others. We can also expect the platform on the Google Nexus and Razer Forge TV and later perhaps other set-top boxes. In North America, the Nexus Player is already available and it is only a matter of time before the device also comes our way.
Update 2017 – Android TV 7.0: this is new
Google has provided Android TV with a major update that adds two features. The first big feature is picture-in-picture mode. With the function it is possible to watch a second screen on the TV at the same time, with a resolution of 240 by 135 pixels. It is comparable to what other televisions without it also offer. But it can also be used within the same app: in the small screen you see a video, while on the big screen you continue to scroll through a list of videos, for example.
In addition, televisions with it are now better able to record programs. It was already possible to pause and fast forward a live broadcast, but now the system takes it one step further. You can also schedule a recording and have multiple recordings saved at the same time. Should an error occur during recording, it will automatically delete part of the video. As a result, you may miss a few minutes of your series, but that’s still better than missing an entire episode.