Analysis of “What’s New in Android TV”

Last night was the big session for Android TV, where they went into detail about Android TV’s new interface. The entire video session is below, but we’ll be highlighting some key new features. As detailed as the session is, there are still several questions we still have.

Everything is Organized into “Channels” and “Programs”

As you can see, the new launcher is both familiar and vastly different. There is still the apps row and the search area. You can see icons for settings, the time, and a few other icons. Yet there are now several new rows for content which can be dynamically populated by apps. The whole system now looks like Leanback.

The Watch Next is a sort of universal queue for content. If you need to stop halfway through a movie, that app can put the content in Watch Next so that you can quickly resume. Or if you finished episode 3 of a series, it can suggest episode 4. This will always appear second in the rows.

Users can also long-click on a content in any row and pin it to Watch Next.

Other channels are created by each app. Apps can create one default channel on startup, but every other one requires user consent. These new channels must be requested when the app is in the foreground. Otherwise the request won’t work. All channels can be visited and toggled in system settings, giving you control over that content.

Channels can have different types of programs. A program could be anything: a song, a show, or a movie. When a program is selected, it opens right to that content to watch or listen. (You can also select on the channel to open that channel in the app.) Programs can contain basic metadata and a thumbnail, but they can also include a video. These videos can start playing when highlighted and may be a trailer or some sort of season recap. It gives a more immersive way to grab the user.

As per one question asked at the end, there is no system-wide enforcement of mature content or images. It is up to apps to present family-friendly content.

Only Favorite Apps appear on the Homescreen

For the past three years, every TV app you download appears on the launcher. This can be a bit annoying when you start downloading a lot of them. However, the apps row that you see in the first row is only for your Favorite Apps.

This means there is an app drawer. It will probably be opened by moving all the way to the left and clicking the Apps icon. You can pin the apps you want.

YouTube Kids is coming to Android TV

As you can see in the screenshot above, YouTube Kids is pretty far in development as the app appears in the launcher.

Setup Experience to Get Richer

Setting up your TV is not necessarily a fun experience. Onscreen keyboards are not easy to navigate, and then you’re not sure which apps even work on your TV. The setup experience is getting a lot easier.

When you start setup using your phone, it’ll connect to your account and identify which apps you’ve installed work on TV as well. So when you start, all your content will be already available. If you use smart lock with apps, you’ll be automatically logged in to those apps and it’ll feel seamless.

Leanback Library Adding Jump Frames

When you are seeking in a video, you may not always know where you are, but you do know what it looks like. Coming to the Leanback Library are these thumbnails which can appear over the player widget to give you a better understanding of the film, making it easier to seek.

Conclusion

Three years ago was when Android TV was first announced, at Google I/O. The experience has pretty much remained the same throughout. The experience has had several small issues that have made it feel unpolished. However, this rethinking does show there’s some effort to make the whole thing work well together with your phones and the rest of your smart home.

The launcher and the new experience aren’t finished yet, so there’s plenty of touching up that will happen. There’s plenty of questions we have about the experience and we’ll also be taking a deep dive into the APIs as the TvProvider class has been published.

This will come to all Android TVs running Android O and above, so some devices may end up being left out.

Nick Felker

Nick Felker

Nick Felker is a student Electrical & Computer Engineering student at Rowan University (C/O 2017) and the student IEEE webmaster. When he's not studying, he is a software developer for the web and Android (Felker Tech). He has several open source projects on GitHub (http://github.com/fleker) Devices: Moto G-2013 Moto G-2015, Moto 360, Google ADT-1, Nexus 7-2013 (x2), Lenovo Laptop, Custom Desktop. Although he was an intern at Google, the content of this blog is entirely independent and his own thoughts.

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  • Craig

    There’s no excuse for any device to be left out of O update. None! And Xiaomi needs to get their firmware update rear in gear!

    Obviously the Nexus Player and Shield will get it. That leaves the actual TV sets probably abandoned.