What is Android TV and how does it function? When Google TV was discontinued in 2014, it was replaced by something entirely new: Android TV.
It has received generally positive feedback from both developers and manufacturers. Google TV lacked apps, but Android TV has access to Google Play, so developers who already have a mobile app can easily modify it to make an Android TV app. Furthermore, Google Cast is supported by Android TV. In a nutshell, Android TV is simply Android optimised for large screens.
It is simple to use, can be controlled by voice using Google Assistant, and comes with a few useful apps. Here’s everything you need to know about it, including how it works, when it’s available, and which devices support it.
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A little bit of history
Google has made it difficult to keep track of its TV offerings. Google TV was initially intended to run on televisions, but it was discontinued in 2014 and was replaced by Android TV.
The move makes sense because Android is a platform that we’re all familiar with from phones and other devices, but that’s not the end of the complication.
With the release of the Chromecast with Google TV in 2020, Google reintroduced the Google TV name. Google TV is an interface that sits on Android TV, and some manufacturers have moved their interface to Google TV – more on that here. Google recently changed the name of Google Play Movies & TV (the Android app) to Google TV as well, so there is now consistency across platforms.
So, you’re forgiven for being perplexed – Google TV, at its core, is about delivering content and recommendations, and Android TV is the platform on which it operates.
What is Android TV?
Simply put, Android TV is intended to bring the things you enjoy on your phone to your television. That doesn’t mean you’ll be making phone calls or reading emails on your TV, but it does mean you’ll have easier navigation, access to entertainment, and simple interactivity. It’s all about making your TV smart and doing so with a recognisable and simple-to-use interface.
It provides voice control through the integration of Google Assistant and allows you to control other devices such as your Android phone and WearOS watch. The card-based interface behaves in a familiar manner, making it easier to do what you want without having to navigate a complicated menu system.
There are essential entertainment apps available, and Android app developers have the opportunity to adapt apps for the big screen experience. This can range from information services such as weather to gaming. Android TV allows you to quickly tailor the content on your TV to your preferences.
It presents a distinct advantage for a TV manufacturer: why design your own smart TV platform when Google has already done it? Why create your own apps when the community is working on Android TV? Why create your own app store when Google Play is available on Android TV? It also provides a distinct advantage for Google: it puts Android on the big screen in your home, as well as another channel through which it can serve you its content.
How does Android TV Function?
Android TV is easy to understand and use. The main screen/home screen will appear when you turn on your television or set-top box. It’s made up of a vertical stream of rows, and you move through them from left to right. The top row contains the Content Discovery bar, which displays suggested content from popular apps that you use. You can find tutorials on YouTube or watch The Walking Dead on Google TV.
Given that Google has since relaunched Google TV, with discovery at its core, your Android TV may now use the Google TV layer rather than the original Android TV interface, but it’s just as simple to use.
The search utility powered by Google Assistant is located at the very top of the interface. Voice commands are supported by Android TV, as long as you have the necessary hardware to allow Android TV to hear you. In fact, the entire interface is built around voice-activated searching, which you can access via one-click remotes equipped with a built-in microphone. To begin your search, simply click on it.
Voice commands supported include simply stating a video game title… or more complex searches such as “All the Oscar-winning movies from 1989.” When you speak a search, Android TV will display not only all related results from Google Play, but also results from Netflix, Hulu, and other services. While sifting through the results, you’ll notice some useful cards below. They include information such as who’s who in the movie you’re about to watch, other popular titles from the video game developer you’re looking at, YouTube clips of the actor you’re looking at, and so on.
Apps and content
Return to the home screen’s vertical rows. The second row contains a list of featured apps such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, BBC iPlayer, and so on. You may also see the manufacturer’s apps on certain TVs and devices.
You’ll also notice a vertical row for TV inputs, such as HDMI 1 and HDMI 2, which allows you to easily control and switch between inputs, and a vertical row below that for apps you’ve downloaded or have available on your device, such as the Google Play Store, Music, Album, Movies, and TV Google Play, and so on. To browse and find more content, use any of these apps.
You’ll see a list of all the games you’ve downloaded below the Apps row. Single-player, multi-player, online, and offline gaming are all supported by Android TV. When competing against friends, you can use up to four gamepads, Android phones, or tablets at the same time. You can also complete a level on your phone and continue playing on your TV because Google Play Games saves your progress.
The last row on the home screen isn’t really a row, but rather a dedicated area where you can access settings, timers, and help guides. If you go to the Settings menu, you’ll see smart TV settings like Channel Setup, External Inputs, Display, and Sound, as well as Network and Accessories menus for Google Cast, Bluetooth (to add a device), and System Preferences and so on.
One of the most interesting aspects of Android TV is the ability to use it for casting. Chromecast is built into Android TV.
If you don’t have an Android TV-compatible television but want to cast content from your laptop or mobile device to your TV, you must purchase a Chromecast dongle from Google and plug it into your TV. However, if you own an Android TV-powered television or set-top box, this is not the case. You can use one to send anything from movies and music to browser tabs to your television.
There is no need for a Chromecast dongle. To begin playing on your TV, simply tap the Cast button on your mobile app.
What are the Android TV alternatives?
LG chose WebOS for its TV interface on its top TVs in 2014, and the results were excellent. Samsung, on the other hand, has been promoting Tizen, a platform in which it has made significant investments. In any case, if you’re looking for a new, smart television, most manufacturers provide their own interfaces.
Set-top boxes from Apple, Roku, and Amazon are another threat to Android TV. While Roku devices attempt to be neutral by providing access to content stores from Google and Amazon, Apple TV primarily serves Apple’s own goods, and Amazon Fire TV devices heavily promote Amazon Prime Video and Amazon’s own services first.