From smartphones to smartwatches, Google’s Android seems to be everywhere, and with the debut of Android TV, it'll soon be in your living room too. Coming to market later this year, Android TV takes the search giant’s Android OS and places it, rather neatly, onto your boob tube or set-top box.
Controlled via a remote, smartphone app or game controller, Android TV offers access to apps, Google Play content and a host of games, not to mention top-notch voice search. According to Google, manufacturers including Sony, Philips and Sharp have already committed to making Android TV devices. We went hands-on with an early version of the OS running on a developer set-top box and were intrigued with what it has to offer.
The Android TV home screen offers an easy to navigate layout with large tiles representing available apps, games and viewable content. At the top of the screen is a Google Voice icon that is activated when performing a voice search.
Below that is a horizontally scrollable list of suggested content from a variety of sources including the Play Store, as well as installed apps such as Showtime Anytime and YouTube.
Beneath your suggested content is a list of your installed Android TV apps. Google told us that there are only about a dozen or so apps available for Android TV at the moment, including Netflix, Songza and Ted, though the library will grow as more developers gain access to the Android TV developer kit.
Underneath your apps is a list of available games. Surprisingly, Google had quite a few titles on hand including “Leo’s Fortune,” “Need For Speed: Most Wanted” and “Reaper."
Our demo unit didn’t include a dedicated remote, so instead we used the Android TV app and a game controller. The app has a slick interface complete with a directional pad, select button, Google Voice option and select button.
The app was relatively lag-free, though we did note a few hiccups during, likely due to it being such an early build. The game controller was similarly responsive.
Android TV’s killer app is its Google Voice functionality, which lets you search for everything from Oscar nominated movies from a specific year to movies staring your favorite actor or actress.
When we searched for Breaking Bad, for example, we were met with a description of the show, as well as a list of clickable links for the show’s actors. Beneath that was a list of shows people that looked for Breaking Bad also searched for, as well as YouTube videos that mention the show.
Overall, we found Android TV to be an elegantly simple smart TV solution that offers a variety of apps and services. However, what we saw was a beta version of the software so we’ll have to withhold final judgment until devices with Android TV ship later this year.