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Android TV just got a ton of upgrades to fight Roku and Apple TV

Google TV
(Image credit: Google)

Google TV launched last fall on some Android TV devices, allowing you easier access to your media content and favorite streaming services. While it’s a pretty useful addition, Android TV still lags behind the likes of Apple TV and Roku devices in some key departments overall.

Google is looking to close that gap however, with a bevy of Google TV upgrades announced at Google I/O 2021. The most useful of these features — Stream Transfer and Stream Expansion — are perfect for those who have multiple devices and households.

Stream Transfer does pretty much exactly what the name suggests: allowing you to easily transfer content from one Android TV device to another. So for example, if you’re halfway through watching a video in the living room, but would rather finish it off on your bedroom television, you can just transfer it over. 

It will work with Chromecast, smart speakers, smart displays, and Android TV OS sets. It also supports audio apps like YouTube Music, Spotify, Pandora and Tunein.

Android TV 2021 upgrades

(Image credit: Google)

Stream Expansion on the other hand is focused on audio accessories, in particular speakers. It allows audio to be played through multiple speakers in synchronicity. Perfect for users with an extensive home audio setup.

Another nifty new feature coming to Android TV is the ability to use your phone as a remote control. This will be extremely useful in the event of a mysteriously missing remote, as well as making typing in login details or using a streaming services search bar significantly less time-consuming. 

The remainder of the Google TV updates are far more developer-focused, but should eventually translate to a better experience for users too. Among them are the ability to use the popular application testing service Firebase Test Lab and improved emulator support, which again is useful for testing how an app runs within Google TV. 

Google also announced at I/O 2021 that Android TV currently has more than 80 million monthly active users. So it’s certainly not a small player in the market, especially when you consider that Roku reported 51 million US users in the final quarter of 2020. 

Currently, Google TV is available on Chromecast with Google TV, Smart TVs from Sony (Though a new deal with TCL will see its displays offer the interface soon) and it can be downloaded in app form on Android devices. 

Rory is a staff writer at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics including tech news, deals, gaming, streaming and more. When he’s not writing hot takes on the latest gaming hardware and streaming shows, he can be found watching a borderline unhealthy amount of movies and being thoroughly disappointed by his terrible football team.