After educating myself about Android L and the UX/UI implications, I decided to start delving into the way Android TV may change the UX/UI landscape. This was a great plan in theory. In reality, as I started diving in, I realized that I needed to start with the basic question: what is the difference between Chromecast, Google TV, and the new Android TV. I am not the only one curious about this topic. As I ran searches, I read several message boards with this exact question posted. I want to present an overview of the differences today, but keep an eye out for a follow up focused on the UX/UI implications of Android TV.
On a broad level, Chromecast is a dongle that you plug into your TV’s HDMI port to wirelessly display games, movies, and apps on your TV screen. Basically, it allows your TV to become a bigger screen for your devices. You don’t control anything through your TV; there is no TV-based user interface. Google TV utilizes a set-top box that integrated the Android OS and Google Chrome. Android and Apple smartphones and tablets can be used as remotes, but unlike Chromecast, you run programs on the TV, not on the device casting to your TV. The biggest complaints about Google TV are blocked content, difficulty connecting, and user interface is confusing.
Android TV is meant to solve these issues, or at least try. There is a broader range of content to choose from (cast any entertainment apps from other devices), and hopefully the connections will be better. While available as a set-top box (through manufactures like Razor and Asus), Android TV also has the Android OS built into the TV. This will include all the update from Android L including heightened user experience. As apps are upgraded for Android L, they will also automatically work on Android TV. In 2015, Android TV will be built into all Sony HD TVs and 4K TVs. It will also be included in the new TVs from Sharp and TPVision.
In the past, various manufacturers have brought out Android based set-top boxes, but they were awkward to use because each manufacturer had their own big screen user interface. Google is solving this problem across platforms with Android L and specifically on TVs with Android TV. All Android TV users will use the new “card-based interface” which was designed to make content the focus instead of apps. Before, if I wanted to watch a movie on Netflix, I had to first launch Netflix, then start the movie. Now, I go straight to the “card” with the movie and start playback immediately. This has UI/UX implications as well, but I will save that for my next dive into Android TV.
For now, I am happy to feel like I have a grasp on understanding how Android TV functions and why Google decided to take a third pass at TV. I am excited to read and learn more, especially as more people start using Android TV in 2015.