Since its inception in 2014, users have been able to control their Android TV from their phone using an app. However, over the past week users have been reporting a new app has been updated on their TVs. This app, called the “Android TV Remote Service”, “is the service that allows use of your Android phone or tablet as a remote for your Android TV.”
So, what’s new? Seemingly nothing. The changelog for the app, version 188.8.131.5277408, just says “New release”. This seems to be another instance where Google moves a system app to the Play Store for future updates. The remote has not been modified in a long time. A year ago, an Android Police teardown showed work on adding a virtual gamepad, accelerometer measurement, and more. However, we never saw those features come to light. It’s possible that the features were not possible without a fix to the receiver.
This will allow Google to continue publishing changes to the receiver over time. This may enable the TV to do more once it receives Google Assistant. Future updates may also allow third-party apps to control the TV through an API. There’s plenty of speculation that we could do in anticipation of Google I/O in May. However, we haven’t confirmed any practical changes to the app at this time.