UPDATE: WE DID IT, ANDROID TV NEWS FANS!
Just kidding 🙂 But in completely unrelated news, Google has updated to the Leanback Launcher to version 1.1.4 with the ability to, get this, CUSTOMIZE YOUR LAUNCHER! Check out the screens below.
These are screenshots of me moving Plex to my number one app position. As of right now it only seems to be available for the Nexus Player. This post will be updated with a video if it appears for the SHIELD TV as well. Have to give credit where credit is do here: GOOGLE, YOU HAVE TOTALLY REDEEMED YOURSELF!!
Any NFL fan should be familiar with ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown segment titled “C’MON MAN!”, where presenters will each describe a play or series of plays that made them scratch their heads and say “C’Mon Man!”. They range from plays on the field to actions by fans and other people present at the game.” (credit: WIkipedia)
Any tech fan should be familiar with Google’s tradition of making similar head scratching moves. Whether it is releasing more polished apps on a competing platform first or killing off popular services for seemingly no reason, Google certainly has its own way of doing things.
The Android TV platform is not immune to this behavior and thus has its own quirks. I am a huge fan of Google’s and Android TV. However, the purpose of this series is to point out things I wish were different about the platform. Admittedly, some posts may or may not be Google’s fault as individual app developers also deserve their share of the blame. But without further ado, these are the things that make me say, “C’MON GOOGLE!”
Leanback Launcher: Part 1
Ah, the Android TV Launcher. Praised for its media rich yet clean design, it was a major step up from Google TV. Or was it? In my opinion, it is easily has the sexiest GUI of all the competing media players (Roku, FireTV, AppleTV) and it is very quick and responsive. Certainly a great start, but there is so much to be done.
I think the first big thing that will jump out to any Android user is the complete lack of ability to customize the home screen. I mean, this flies in the face of everything that made Android so popular in the first place: the ability to customize your device to your heart’s content. I understand the desire to keep a consistent look but C’MON GOOGLE!
Where you see these App icons is where they will stay. The only difference you might notice between my home space and yours is that my “Google Play Movies & TV” and “Google Play Games” are absent. In order to do this I had to completely disable the apps from the App Settings menu.
There doesn’t even seem to be any rhyme or reason as to why the apps are arranged the way they are. I would actually be OK if it was sorted by most used apps, but it’s not. It would actually make sense if the apps went in order based on when you downloaded them from the Play Store, but they don’t. It is a modern mystery. Obviously, Google’s apps are going to be first. Fine. But then you see apps like Hulu and Sling coming before other apps like Plex, even though they were downloaded well after I added Plex. All of this is inconsequential because the crux of the matter is we should have the ability to reorder and hide the apps as we see fit.
This one is so simple that it is surprising that it is not already implemented. Alternative App Launchers like HALauncher were on the scene almost immediately and had the capability. Unfortunately, Android TV limits the usefulness of alternative launchers because they are not as visually appealing and as of Marshmallow update– cannot be mapped to your home button (rendering them useless to me). Google, if this is the way that you are going to play, then you must at least play catch up.
As I am not a developer and have exactly zero coding experience, I am certain my perspective is way off. But it seems the solution here would be quite simple. Google should either make it some sort of smart list where it goes in order of most used (if they really wanted to get fancy, it could be most used at certain times of the day!) OR allow the user to reorder (even the lowly Google TV allowed for this). Implementation does not need to be complicated: Just long press the select button to bring up a submenu on top of the card. From there allow the user to move the card to the left, right, or hide the app from the homescreen. The last option I think is the most important. Many users don’t need “Google Play TV & Movies” or “Google Play Games” taking up precious space. I don’t want to see the apps for “Pluto TV” or “HDHomerun” because I use the “Live Channels” app to view them. I don’t want “ES File Explorer” easily accessed from the home screen and I do want “Plex” to be my number one app because I use it the most. Here is a brilliant rendering to illustrate my point.
From here, you could hit the left or right buttons to position, or hit the down button to hide the app from the Home Screen. Press the select button to lock in your decision. Ok, so I am not getting hired by Google’s design team any time soon, but you get the idea. Even Daymond John likes it!
I will have to leave it there for this week’s C’MON GOOGLE!
However, there is still unfinished business on the Android TV Launcher so tune in for PART 2 coming soon…