Today Google offers new tools for Android TV developers, including Google Play Instant, Play Store in Simulator, PIN Code Purchase, Gboard TV, Automatic Low LateNcy Mode, and Slimming Library improvements. Globally, smart TVs are dominated by Tizen and WebOS, and Roku and Amazon’s Fire TV have won over U.S. consumers. While Google’s early success with the cheap Chromecast TV stick was not a switch to Android TV when it upgraded the TV experience.
Rumours are that a Chromecast Ultra with Android TV will be launched later this year, so this could be an early attempt by Google to get developers excited about its platform. Google says Android TV is now working with seven of the top 10 smart TV OEMs and more than 160 TV operators. The company added that Android TV is now more active monthly than a year ago, but did not disclose the raw data. So far, developers have built about 7,000 apps for Google Play on Android TV, up from 5,000 in April 2019.
Google Play Instant refers to Android apps and games that can be launched immediately without having to be installed first. Google has been working on this concept for years. The company launched Android Instant Apps in May 2016 and changed its name to Google Play Instant, while adding support for games in March 2018. Google Play Instant will finally be available to all Android developers in May 2018. More than two years later, Android TV developers are finally ready to use.
It’s unclear whether Google Play Instant makes sense on TV. It certainly has the advantage of letting users try apps without installing apps, but one-time apps (for parking companies, scooter services, city guides) make more sense on your phone. Still, developers can dream of some interesting TV use cases.
Now the Android TV Simulator has added support for the Play Store. This will make it easier for developers to test Android TV projects and features (such as subscriptions) in the emulator without having to deploy anything on real devices. Google has also added a PIN purchase to try to ease the problem of buying content on Android TV. When it comes to typing with a remote control, it’s easy to be one of the most annoying experiences with smart TVs. Google has finally replaced the A-Z layout with the QWERTY layout. The new GBoard TV also includes voice-to-text, predictive typing, different arrangements (middle, left, or right), and optimizations for more than 30 countries. Voice transtext and predictive typing will be particularly useful as alternative input options in the application.
Google has also improved games on Android TV through automatic low-latency mode. This mode allows developers to disable Android TV post-processing, minimizing latency whenever a game is displayed in full screen. Finally, Google simplified the leanback library, adding top tab navigation, media title paging, and a shared code base across mobile and TV.