TV streaming platforms are right at the center of the content consumption experience in 2017. With so many turning away from the cable box and moving to the modern OS in their streaming box, the competition is fierce. While Google has a clear winner in the Chromecast platform, I think Android TV has just as much potential. And I think there’s a great opportunity here for Google to launch a great product and give it the push it needs…
The best gifts for Android users
The current state of Android TV is unfortunately bleak. There’s not a single Android TV box on the Google Store, and the only notable ones that are available in the market in general are the Xiaomi Mi Box and the Nvidia Shield TV. While I have absolutely nothing negative to say about the latter, the Mi Box is a mixed bag. It’s cheap, works great, and is able to push 4K, but it hasn’t been officially updated to Nougat, will likely never see Android O, and is only sold in one store.
Rewind a couple of years, and Android TV was a bit more prevalent and seemed it might have a bright future. We had the original Nvidia Shield, the Razer Forge, and the Nexus Player. While the Forge failed miserably, the Shield and Nexus Player proved their worth, both of which are still updated over two years later and are generally good products. They’ve aged for sure, but they run Android TV sufficiently and then some.
However, the Nvidia Shield can only do so much to carry this platform. Gaming and exclusive apps are great, but a $199 price tag and not-so-quick software updates isn’t what you want out there when it’s literally the only compelling hardware on the market. People in need of a smart TV streaming box are much more likely to go with a cheap Roku or settle for a Chromecast, or if they’re deep in Apple’s ecosystem, even the Apple TV.
Android O is set to give Android TV a major refresh, headlined by a massive overhaul to the homescreen. It looks much-improved, and I can’t wait for it to debut, but if Google wants anyone to take the platform seriously with this refresh, it needs to come back to its own, first-party hardware. Lacking of hardware options is certainly not Android TV’s only problem (the software library is still sub-par, for one), but it’s an area that needs help nonetheless.
Last year saw some major hardware releases from Google, including the Pixel, Google Home, and the Chromecast Ultra. This year, I want to see an Android TV box in that lineup. Whether it’s made directly by Google or not, a box that Google gives its attention and is priced reasonably, let’s aim for $100 maybe, will get attention, especially if marketed correctly.
Bringing a “Pixel” to the Android TV space would do a lot of good for the platform as a whole. It would, first and foremost, show that Google actually cares about Android TV. Secondly, it would be an example for OEMs to follow. Lastly, Google is getting serious about its hardware offerings in other areas, and it would have the potential to be a simply great product. Clearly introducing an affordable and well-designed set-top box to compliment the rest of the hardware lineup would be a welcome addition, at least in my opinion.
Android TV is a powerful platform with an already gorgeous UI that’s only poised to get better, and Google’s own hardware should be backing that up. It’s a platform that deserves to be right up there with the Chromecast, Roku, and Fire TV. If not, it can at least overtake Apple TV, which pales in comparison to them all.
We’re looking for details on Google’s forthcoming Android TV hardware plans. If you know anything, send us an encrypted email at hallstephenj (at) proton mail (dot) com or use the 9to5Google tip box.