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What is Android TV? Everything you need to know
What is Android TV? Everything you need to know
What is Android TV? How does it compare with Chromecast, Apple TV and the rest? Will Android TV be worth getting? We give you the full rundown.
The Google I/O 2014 conference saw the unveiling of Android TV. This is a new service that promises to make searching through on-demand services easy as pie - as it puts the power of Google search at your fingertips.
But that’s not all Android TV does. Read on to get everything you need to know about Android TV in one handy document.
What does Android TV do?
As its name suggests, Android TV is based on the same Android software. The device runs a recommendation engine that comes up suggestions for content based on keywords such as “Kevin Spacey movies” right down to very specific requests along the lines of “Sundance Film Festival Winners 2009”. You can search by typing or by using your voice, Google Now-style.
As well as TV shows and movies, it will let you play games, much like PlayStation TV and Amazon Fire TV do. Android TV will rely on Google Play Store to deliver content, but the search will also comb through third party streaming services.
If you’ve got Netflix, Blinkbox or Prime Instant Video installed on Android TV and you ask it to look for films starring Cate Blanchett, Android TV should to look through all of those to see what’s available.
Naturally, you’ll also be able to watch regular TV. Sony, Sharp and TP Vision for Philips are all getting on board with Android TV for their 2015 smart TV ranges, so we can expect to Android TV in action at CES 2015 if not sooner.
At I/O 2014, Dave Burke, engineering director of Android (pictured) said that Android-based TVs will be able to handle video from sources including TV tuners, IPTV receivers and HDMI, so we imagine there will be Freeview and Freesat smart TVs running Android TV hitting the market.
Haven’t we been here before?
Google did release its eponymous Google TV around two years ago and Sony had a device - the £200 NSZ-GS7 - that ran this platform. Despite critical success, the device failed to sell well.
It also tried its hand with the Nexus Q, which didn't even end up shipping in the end. Admittedly, it was more of a curio for developers to tinker with, but for many it represented another failed attempt for Google to break into living rooms.
Then, there was Chromecast. This little streaming stick has gone down a storm - finally a Google TV success story.
Why include gaming, I just want to watch TV?
Most people will probably use the device to watch Netflix or YouTube videos, but Android already has the ability to play games and works with a number of controllers. Leaving this functionality out would be much harder to do than leave it in.
Amazon is keen to emphasise the gaming credentials of its Fire TV box, so it’s likely that Google wants to compete with one of its biggest rivals here.
Yes, but I want to watch TV!
Like Chromecast, it doubles as a streamer with its Cast feature so users can find content on their mobiles or the Chrome browser and flick it over to their Android TV.
Of course there will be native apps for services such as Netflix and YouTube as well. Google demoed TV apps for PBS Kids, Travel Channel and TED. Whether all of these will be available in the UK is currently unknown.
Sounds good so far, what are the drawbacks?
Most likely, it will work better if you have bought into the whole Google ecosystem, but iOS owners won’t necessarily get left out in the cold. iPhones work with Chromecast, so there’s no reason why you wouldn’t be able to cast content to an Android TV in the same way.
Android TV come installed on 2015 smart TVs from Sony, Sharp and TP Vision for Philips. There will also be set-top boxes, but no word of a Chromecast-style dongle that slots into the back of your present TV.
It’s possible that Chromecast will continue to exist as a competitor to things like Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire TV, while Android TV looks more like a competitor to smart TV ecosystems like webOS on LG’s current range of smart TVs.
What can I watch on Android TV?
Android TV allows consumers to use an HDTV set to play music, watch video originating from Internet services or a local network, and play games (Emulators and Android Games). Android TV can be paired with Bluetooth gaming controllers to interact with the system interface / applications, as well as, playing games. Android TV also includes all features and streaming capabilities of the Chromecast device.
Users can access the Google Play store directly through the user interface to rent / buy movies, TV shows and stream play music.
Live Channels by Google allows users to stream from media sources including the HDHomeRun TV tuner with TV Guide functionality
Kodi allows users to access a host of applications and content available through Kodi (formerly XBMC)
- Hulu Plus
- TED (conference)
- HDHomeRun App
- FX Now
- Sling TV
- Disney Movies Anywhere
- HGTV Watch
- Haystack TV
- PBS Kids Video
- CBS News
- Bloomberg TV+
- HuffPost Live for Android TV
- TuneIn Radio
- Songza TV
- CBS Sports
- Red Bull TV
What are the drawbacks of Android TV?
As with new platforms, their success can be measured by the number of available services. Drawbacks at the moment include the lack of things like Amazon Prime Video and Now TV apps. If the lack of these services is a dealbreaker, then you may be better off with a Fire TV or Now TV device.
OK, shut up and take my money. Which Android TV should I buy?
If you ask us, you can’t go wrong with an Nvidia Shield TV, especially if you’re a gamer.
You’ll be able to play PC games on your TV via the Shield TV if you’ve got GeForce Experience and if not, there’s plenty of Nvidia-enhanced Android titles like Half-Life 2 and Portal to blast through.
Depending on whether you’re after the standard 16GB Nvidia Shield TV or the premium 500GB edition, you’ll be looking in the region of £150 to £220 respectively.
If you’re less sold on an Android TV’s gaming credentials, then the Asus-made Nexus Player, which costs £80, will likely suit.
My mate told me about this TV box that lets you watch Sky Sports for free...
We’ve seen many Android TV boxes for sale which claim to offer ‘all of the sports channels’, subscription free. We can’t comment on the reliability or the legality of these devices as we’ve not yet got our hands on any of them, but in our experience, if it walks like a duck...
- Developer: Google
- Manufacturer: Google
- Type: Smart TV platform
- Release date: June 25, 2014
- Operating system: Android
- Graphics: 1280x720, 1920x1080, 3840x2160
- Online services: Google Play
- Predecessor: Google TV
- Website: www.android.com/tv
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