Google’s I/O conference has always been about the developers, more than some flashy new devices. But there’s still some great Android TV news this week.
This year’s Google I/O developer conference showcased a lot of the new features of the forthcoming Android P OS and it looks like Android TV got a lot of attention.
What’s new and different?
Let’s find out.
New “Content First” home screen
You’re going to be hearing the phrase “content first” A LOT from now on.
That was the big theme of this year’s Google I/O conference – especially when it comes to Android TV.
Let’s take a look what they mean by “content first.”
And for comparison, here’s the current Android TV launcher:
As you can see, the home screen has been redesigned with a single row for your favorite apps right at the top of the screen instead of two app rows underneath the Recommendations row.
Below that is the “Play Next” row which will let you queue up content to play in sequence, similar to the feature that already exists in Google Play Music. Finally, the Search bar is now ever-present at the very top at the screen.
The media pages are more streamlined as well. All the metadata for the movie itself (release date, running time, summary, etc.) is found right on the main page without the need to slick into the movie to see that additional information.
There’s a couple of new features that I’m really excited about.
Better performance for low-end devices
Whenever there’s a new version of Android coming out, they typically show how quick and snappy the interface is. But they’re usually doing that on a high-end flagship smartphone.
What about older, less high-end devices?
Like Android boxes?
Android boxes, even the newer ones, don’t always have the best specs – unless you’re talking about the NVIDIA Shield TV.
So Google is making Android TV work better on all devices, even those that aren’t performance powerhouses.
Quick setup with Android phone
I’m not going to lie: setting up Android boxes can be a pain, even if you have great setup instructions. So Google is making it easier if you have an Android smartphone.
There’s always been a quick setup option if you have an Android smartphone. It lets you transfer over many of your settings and account credentials.
Now that setup is even easier with Play Auto Installs which recommends apps that you have on your phone or other devices and asks whether you want to automatically install them on your new Android TV device.
There’s also an Autofill with Google feature that transfers over any credentials that you’ve entered on another Android device (provided you’ve given Google permission to save them).
No more struggling to type in complicated passwords using the remote control.
Have you ever run into a problem in one of your apps and needed to change one of the settings?
I know it’s happened to me a ton of times.
What Google has done is highlighted certain settings based on what you’ve just done.
Skip the setup process? No problem. Google will highlight that.
Have a problem with an app? Google will direct you to the Apps settings.
Google Assistant is everywhere lately, and it’s about to get even more popular.
One of the biggest Android TV news releases of 2017 was the launch of Google Assistant as in integrated part of the Android TV OS.
But it was only available in the United States, which sucked for the rest of the world.
So Google is making some pretty big strides to fix that.
What’s the big deal about Google Assistant on Android TV?
One of the things I love about my NVIDIA Shield TV is the amazing voice search feature. But when I integrated it into my Google Home system, I was suddenly able to control all of my smart devices while watching TV.
Imagine playing a movie, dimming the lights, and setting the temperature to be a bit more cozy…all without getting off the couch or picking up your smartphone.
Our homes are becoming more and more integrated in our digital world.
Adding Google Assistant to Android TV puts your TV in the center of the action.
The only “new device” Android TV news that came out of Google I/O was the JBL Link soundbar.
You might be thinking “Android TV on a soundbar?”
Remember the days where we’d have huge A\V receivers sitting on our media centers that controlled everything?
Even if you didn’t have one yourself, you likely had a friend that did.
The big advantage to A\V receivers is the number of HDMI inputs they had, which lets you connect different devices to it. Devices like a PlayStation, Blu-ray player or other streaming devices.
The JBL Link has three HDMI inputs that let this soundbar do the same thing without taking up all that space.
It launches in fall 2018, just in time for the holiday season.
Android TV News: Final thoughts
Google I/O is a developer conference, first and foremost, so its not fair to expect a lot of device-focused Android TV news.
This was always going to be more focused on the OS and launcher itself than on new devices.
With that in mind, I really like what I’m seeing. There’s been rumors of Android TV’s demise, but I think this puts those rumors to rest.
Android TV has a bright future, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.
What’s your favorite Android TV news from Google I/O? Let us know in the comments below!