Android TVs are great appliances to own in your home. The level of entertainment they offer is top-notch. So many people are trooping in to get android TVs, but before you make the move to get an Android TV, you need to know the features of an Android TV, so you don’t get an Android TV and later regret it. In this guide, we would be looking at the features to look for in an android TV. Do well to read through.
What is Android TV?
Just like Android is software meant for phones, Android TV is Google’s dedicated operating system designed for the big screen. It brings the Google Play Store to televisions and streaming devices, along with other Android capabilities such as sideloading apps, playing games, access to Google Assistant, and more.
In terms of software versions, Android TV is nothing like Android on smartphones. Sure, its software names correspond with those of the mobile OS, but the way its updates roll out is starkly different. Google recently announced the Android 11 update for the TV platform but a majority of Android TV devices are yet to jump onto Android 10.
The Android 9 update, for reference, only rolled out late last year. It’s possible Google will directly jump to Android 11 on televisions, but it’s hard to tell where the company’s confusing ecosystem plans will lead.
That said, some new TVs from the likes of Xiaomi are coming with Android 10 out of the box, so the software you get really depends on when you purchased your Android TV device. The more recent, the newer the software.
Android TV hardware
Android TV has quite a vast ecosystem of devices. Since it is software, several third-party OEMs use it on their own streaming hardware. If you’re looking for Android TV hardware right now, you have an option to choose between various set-top boxes, media streaming players, TVs, and streaming sticks/dongles.
A TV set might be the most expensive option from the lot but then you don’t have to hunt for monitors or TVs to connect a separate device with the software. If you already have a regular monitor or a TV that’s not internet-connected, you can opt for a cheaper streaming stick or media box instead.
Most Android TV devices these days come with voice-enabled remotes. This means you can simply press a button and tell Google Assistant what you want to watch.
Which products use Android TV?
Android TV is available on two types of devices: TVs and streaming video boxes. While the interface and functionality are nearly identical across devices, there can be some small differences between them.
Why? Well, each hardware manufacturer has the ability to modify the base Android TV code to tailor it for their system. For a short period of time, Nvidia Shield was the only device that had access to Amazon, for example.
One device might have PlayStation Now, while others might use a spot on the Android TV interface for a first-party app. (LeEco, for example, has a space for its LeTV on the Android TV homepage, for example.)
How does Android TV work?
Android TV is simple to learn and use. When you fire up your television or set-top box, you’ll see the main screen/home screen. It is filled with a vertical stream of rows, and you navigate through each row from left to right.
The top row is the Content Discovery bar, which highlights suggested content from popular apps you use. You may see tutorials on YouTube or The Walking Dead from Google Play TV and Movies.
- Voice search
Right at the top of the interface, you’ll see the search utility powered by Google Assistant. Android TV supports voice commands, as long as you have the necessary hardware that’ll allow Android TV to hear you. In fact, the entire interface is based around voice-activated searching, which you can use through one-click remotes with a built-in mic. Simply click on it to start your search.
Supported voice commands include simply stating a video game title … or more complex searches like “All the Oscar-winning movies from 1989”. When you speak a search, Android TV will not only show you all related results in Google Play but also results from Netflix, Hulu, etc. When sifting through results, you’ll notice handy cards below.
They contain informational bits like who’s who in the movie you’re about to watch, other popular titles from the video game developer you’re browsing, YouTube clips featuring the actor you’re looking at, etc.
- Apps and content
Now, back to the vertical rows on the home screen. The second row is a list of featured apps, like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, BBC iPlayer, etc. On select TVs and devices, you may also see the manufacturer’s apps.
You’ll also see a vertical row for TV inputs, like HDMI 1 and HDMI 2, allowing you to easily control and switch between inputs, while the vertical row below that showcases apps you’ve downloaded or have available on your device, like the Google Play Store, Music, Album, Movies, and TV Google Play, etc. Click on any of these apps in order to browse and find more content.
Below the Apps row, you’ll see a list of all the games you’ve downloaded. Android TV supports single-player, multi-player, online, and offline gaming. You can use up to four gamepads, Android phones, or tablets at once when competing against friends. You can also finish a level on your phone and play the next one on your TV, as Google Play Games saves your progress.
The last row on the home screen isn’t necessarily a row but rather a dedication area where you can click through to access settings, timers, and help guides. If you enter the Settings option, you’ll see smart TV settings such as Channel Setup, External Inputs, Display, Sound, as well as Network and Accessories menus for Google Cast, Bluetooth (so you can add a device), and System Preferences and what not.
One of the coolest features of Android TV is the ability to use it for casting. Android TV comes with Chromecast built-in.
If you don’t own an Android TV-compatible television, but want to cast content from your laptop or mobile device to your television, you need to buy a Chromecast HDMI dongle from Google and plug it into your television. But not if you own an Android TV-powered television or set-top box. With one, you can send everything from movies and music or even browser tabs to your television.
There’s no Chromecast HDMI dongle required. Just tap the Cast button on your mobile app to start playing on your TV.
Android TV key features
Look, it’s not hard to find a player or TV that streams Netflix. It’s not. But Android TV doesn’t just serve as a static home base for apps. It’s a dynamic way to find new content and can work like a Chromecast to stream content from your mobile device to the big screen. That being said, here are Android TV’s best features, with descriptions located further down below:
- Curated content on the top row
- Universal search using top apps
- Actor and actress bios
- Voice search via remote
- Native Google Cast support
- Tons of games via Google Play Store
- Google Assistant integration
One of Android TV’s most admirable skills is its ability to analyze the kind of content you usually watch, play, and listen to, and recommend similar content. You can find recommendations in the top row of the Android TV interface, where you’ll usually find a mix of content from YouTube, Google Play Movies and TV, and the Google Play Store.
Of course, if you don’t see what you’re looking for in the curated content row, you can also search for content either using the search bar at the top of the Android TV interface or the voice search button on your remote. Android TV crawls a number of services including Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and Google Play Movies and TV to find what you’re looking for, and usually lists the lowest price first.
Actor/Actress bios and filmographies:
Say you just saw Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and you want to see what other films Chris Pratt was in. Search Chris Pratt on Android TV and you’ll find every title the actor has ever been in. Click a TV show and you’ll find a synopsis, where you can watch the show and the rest of the show’s cast. It’s a pretty handy feature.
Voice search via the remote:
Instead of scrolling all the way up to the top of the interface and painfully typing out the name of the show, movie, or actor you’re looking for, you can simply speak the name into the Android TV remote. It’s a huge time-saver.
Native Google Cast support:
All Android TV players and TVs have Google Cast built-in. That means you can stream content from your device to your TV whenever you see the Google Cast icon. This is sometimes referred to as Chromecast built-in.
Games via the Google Play Store:
Fancy yourself a game of Pong between seasons of Breaking Bad? Android TV has more games on its store than any other TV operating system. Like Android on phones, some games are free and others cost money.
Google Assistant integration:
Near the end of 2017, Google’s smart assistant made its way into Android TV. Google Assistant on Android TV is the same one that’s built into the Google Home and some higher-end Android phones. For the most part, it’s a lot like Siri or Cortana – Google Assistant can make calendar appointments, check your to-do list and answer inquiries about popular topics, but what makes it unique is that it also can control your smart home products like thermometers, light bulbs, and smart locks, too.
Having read through this guide, you should confidently be able to select a good android TV for yourself. In this guide, you’ll find all the features you should pay attention to, in an android TV. Have fun selecting the best android TV