What is Android TV? Here's what you need to know about Google's smart TV system
- Android TV is an operating system found in a selection of smart TV sets, including Sony, TCL, Hisense, and more.
- The operating system aggregates your streaming video services, recommends content, and plays a large selection of Android apps, such as music services and games.
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No matter which smart TV you purchase, it comes equipped with some operating system that gives you access to your streaming video channels and content subscriptions.
Common operating systems include Roku and Tizen, but an increasingly popular alternative is Android TV.
What you need to know about Android TV
Android TV is a version of Google's operating system optimized for televisions. It is not software that you can purchase or install on your own.
Instead, it comes preinstalled with select TVs, in much the same way that other smart TVs come with Roku, WebOS, or Samsung's Tizen. (One caveat: You can add a streaming media player or set-top box with Android TV built into your TV, which essentially adds Android TV to your existing set.)
Android TV's major features
Like other smart TV operating systems, Android TV comes with its own set of standard and exclusive features. Here are some you should know.
As you can imagine, the focus of Android TV is presenting a browsable library of streaming services and a recommendation engine to help you decide what to watch next. The interface is laid out in rows, with the main row consisting of a strip of your favorite streaming channels for easy access.
Apps and games
You can also open a list of all the streaming apps installed on the TV and other apps like music players and games. One of the advantages of Android TV compared to other smart TV operating systems is that it's easy for Android developers to modify their apps for TVs, so there is an extensive catalog of apps available.
On some TVs, Android TV also supports live TV via cable and over-the-air antennas. The OS will allow you to switch between streaming and live TV and see channel guides where available.
Google Assistant and Chromecast
Android TV also includes Google Assistant, so you can use your voice to control the television and make content selections, as well as Chromecast so you can cast content from your Android phone or tablet.
In addition, some Android TVs use a new interface called Google TV. This is potentially confusing, so here's a breakdown of how it works.
- The smart TV operating system is called Android TV.
- Google has started to ship some implementations of Android TV with a new, more user-friendly interface called Google TV. However, even on Google TV-equipped devices, the underlying operating system is still Android TV.
TVs that come with Android TV
There's no master list of TVs that ship with Android TV built-in, but it can be found in brands that include Epson, Hisense, Sharp, Sony, and TCL.
Several streaming media players come with Android TV. These include Chromecast with Google TV and Nvidia Shield TV.
Related coverage from Tech Reference:
What is Google TV? Here's what you need to know about Google's new streaming interface
'What is 4K?': Here's what it means to watch content in Ultra High Definition resolution
How to manually update your Apple TV, or set it to update automatically in the background
How to download The Roku Channel app on your Samsung Smart TV, and watch hundreds of free movies and TV shows
How to connect an Android device to your TV in 2 different ways
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