Android TV Overview Updated March 26, 2021

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637 'Android TV' stories

May 2011 - March 2021

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The living room has always been a goal for Google and, following the success of its ultra-cheap Chromecast streaming dongle, the company launched a special version of Android designed for the TV which is still in use today.

What is Android TV?

Android TV is the core platform for Google’s efforts on the big screen. Based on Android, the optimized interface was first released at Google I/O 2014 for devices such as the Nexus Player. As the platform grew and more apps arrived, it was adopted by some TV manufacturers, most notably including Sony which adopted the platform on its Bravia TVs in 2015 and has used it ever since.

In 2017, Google issued a complete redesign to the platform that made it easier to access apps, added a useful “Play Next” row for quickly jumping into content, and customizable rows powered by apps on the device. Google stuck with that design, pictured below, until 2021 when a tweaked homescreen experience was rolled out to implement a few features from the Google TV experience. It was the year prior, in 2020, that Google sparked some controversy by adding “Cinematic Highlights” to the top of the Android TV homescreen with “Staff Picks” and also sponsored content advertisements that couldn’t be disabled. That update was rolled out to nearly every device using the consumer version of the platform.

android tv link bar

Android TV also allows for Pay TV operators to customize the interface to fit their needs using the “Operator Tier.” This special offering gives cable companies and others the ability to craft their own homescreen experience while integrating features such as Google Assistant and the Play Store. Pay TV operators such as TiVo, AT&T, and others have used this option to create customized experiences for their customers, further extending the reach of the platform.

What apps are available on Android TV?

Apps on Android TV are available through the Google Play Store, and as of 2021, most major services offer an experience on the platform. Notable names include; Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Spotify, Paramount+, and many others.

As of 2019, Google said that there were over 5,000 apps on the Play Store designed for Android TV, a number that has only grown in the two years since. The boom of streaming services also saw Google’s platform as a destination of choice. When HBO Max and Peacock struggled to launch on Roku and Fire TV, they were available on day one on the Play Store.

Helping to plug the gap, too, is support for Google Chromecast integration. Every device running Google’s platform effectively has a Chromecast built-in, allowing users to cast content from their phones on supported apps, or even mirror their screens entirely. Google Assistant is also integrated into Android TV with visual responses, tie-ins with certain apps, and control over playback. Some devices such as the JBL Link Bar even support Assistant as a traditional speaker or with always listening options on devices such as the Nvidia Shield TV.

What devices use Android TV?

On the consumer level, this platform can often be found in set-top boxes and built into full-size TVs. Some of names that use Android TV natively in their panels include:

  • TCL
  • Sony
  • Hisense
  • Xiaomi
  • OnePlus
  • Skyworth
  • Philips

Beyond full-size TVs, though, there are plenty of set-top boxes and dongles that also use the platform. Google, for instance, sells the Chromecast with Google TV for $50. There’s also the flagship Nvidia Shield TV that features 4K AI upscaling and powerful specs starting at $149. The Xiaomi Mi Box S, Mi TV Stick, and many others also use the platform.



You can learn about the latest from Google’s platform in our continued coverage below.

Android TV Stories March 30

Refreshed Xiaomi Mi Box passes through FCC w/ Android TV, but no real changes

The Xiaomi Mi Box series is one of the longest-running Android TV devices, and it seems that it’s about to get a 2021 refresh. An updated version of 2018’s Xiaomi Mi Box S just passed through the FCC, but it doesn’t bring any notable changes with it, unfortunately.

Android TV Stories March 29

Review: Verizon Stream TV offers fairly priced Android TV with a not-awful skin

Like the Android platform it’s based on, one of the wonderful things about Android TV is that it can suit a variety of different hardware and software needs. Using the “Operator Tier,” some companies can even heavily customize the platform. That’s what Verizon does with its $69 Stream TV box, and it’s actually a relatively solid product on the whole.

Android TV Stories March 28

The streaming market has greatly expanded over the past few years, with original content, 4K HDR, and huge content libraries as tentpoles of most platforms. Hulu is among the best offerings, but even in 2021, the Android TV app has been sorely lacking, limited to 720p for ages. Now, 1080p is expanding for some devices.

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Android TV Stories March 19

This clever Android TV box has a built-in camera that works with Google Duo

Last year as the COVID-19 pandemic was pushing millions to work from home and quarantine (and, hopefully, they still are), Google took advantage of the flexibility of Android TV to bring Google Duo to the platform. Now, there’s a dedicated Android TV box with a built-in camera that designed to make Google Duo a breeze.

Android TV Stories March 15

Android TV, by way of Google TV, is set to be a big deal in 2021, and it seems that Walmart is set to get in on the action. After bringing Android to its affordable tablets, the Walmart Onn brand is now set to use Android TV to power a streaming stick.

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Android TV Stories March 9

IMDb TV is now officially on Android TV; Nvidia Shield, TiVo Stream, Chromecast w/ Google TV

The first streaming service you probably think of when Amazon is mentioned is Prime Video, but the company also runs the ad-supported IMDb TV. Now, IMDb TV is officially expanding to Android TV.

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