We knew Android TV would be making an appearance at Google I/O in some way, shape, or form this past week, but a full unveiling was still a little bit of a surprise. Now that Android TV is out in the open and we have a good idea of what it has to offer, will it be able to attempt a takeover in the living room and succeed where Google TV failed? There were good and bad things about Google TV, but for all that it was and was supposed to be, there wasn’t enough to make it flourish. Android TV promises to be a completely different beast and bring what consumers want from such a setup. It’s simpler, lighter and all around more feature rich even though it technically does less. Let’s breakdown real quick what we’re looking at with Android TV. It’s a small set top box very similar to what we have from Amazon with their Fire TV that was released not too long ago, offering up to users the capability to access their movies, TV, and games in an easy to use, no frills setup with an interface that is not only easy to navigate because of the giant “Google Now” style cards we’ll be seeing on screen, but everything is also voice activated so no matter what it is you want to do, using Google’s voice recognition through the mic will allow you to complete voice commands for virtually anything.
Now let’s look at what technically sets it apart from the competition. Much like the Fire TV, it’ll(hopefully)be an affordable and widely accessible product to bring users their favorite media content. You can get access to not only new movies and TV shows through the appropriate section, but also games and music. There’s a compatible game controller to help the user more naturally navigate through the system’s user interface and voice to help you search for stuff when you just don’t feel like hunting down and pecking at characters with the buttons on the gamepad, and it’s for the most part small and it’ll be easy to find a home for it somewhere amidst the other electronics on your entertainment center. Where it differs from things like the Fire TV is that it runs native Android. It’s connected to your Google Play account, so things like games or movies that you’ve already purchased through the Play Store will be accessible right away. Already have the entire series of Lost purchased through Google Play and planning a marathon? Not a problem, everything should be right where it needs to be if you log in using the same Gmail account.
The Fire TV is an awesome product, and from what our very own Alex Maxham has had to say about it during his review and afterwards, it’s something that is definitely worth looking into. That isn’t to say it’s not without its downsides. Since it’s an Amazon product, it runs on the same basic setup as their “Fire” devices and therefore everything is from the Amazon App store. That means none of the content already attached to your Google account will be usable with it, which could be potentially hundreds of items. With Android TV, everything is there, and it looks and feels wonderful and fluid. The interface is beautiful and elaborate yet simple enough for a first time user to pick up the controller and find their way to things that they want to see. Android TV will be somewhat minimal yet arguably one of the most beautiful looking UIs of any product in the same category, and the best part is that changing the look through OEM skins is said to be off limits. Throw in the possibility of a competitive $99 price tag to take on the Fire TV and the possibility of higher end and more expensive units, giving the users more choice, and Google could have a winner on their hands. Android TV certainly sounds ready and poised to take over the living room, but will it be possible to blow away the competition?