Streaming device shoppers now have another way to watch Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Disney Plus and thousands of other apps on their TVs. It’s called Google TV, and it’s coming first to the aptly named Chromecast with Google TV, available now for $50 (£60, AU$99).
Google TV is the successor to Android TV, a streaming platform that’s significantly less popular than Roku and Amazon Fire TV, which together made up 70% of all the streaming devices installed in the US last year. Android TV is found today on a handful of devices in the US — namely the Nvidia Shield, TiVo Stream 4K and smart TVs from Sony, Hisense and TCL — but in terms of popularity and reviews, it lags far behind its rivals.
The new Chromecast is the first device to get Google TV, but the company plans to bring the platform to other TVs and streamers next year. “Google TV is going to be on third-party devices that have been working on Android TV OS over the years,” said John Gildred, Google’s director of product development for Android TV, in an interview. “We are now working with them for 2021 products to include the Google TV experience on their next-generation televisions and OTT devices.”
One of those third-party partners is Sony, with its line of smart televisions. “Sony will implement Google TV for our 2021 models at launch,” a Sony representative confirmed. “With regard to current and older models, we will share plans for these models soon.”
Chromecast with Google TV wants to help you find what…
Google’s Gildred added that not every partner device in 2021 will get the Google TV experience, but by the following year he expects Google TV to completely replace its predecessor.
Beyond Sony TVs, other current and near-future devices that run Android TV could also be upgraded to Google TV. “We will be working with partners to see which products that are already in the field, or that are launching near term, could be upgraded in 2021,” Gildred said. He declined to specify which third-party products would get Google TV or when, however.
Compared to its predecessor, Google TV has a few new features, which the company says are all designed to make content across apps easier to find.
- A For You tab that curates TV shows and movies available on services to which the user already subscribes.
- A Live tab that integrates streaming together with live content, starting with YouTube TV at launch and adding other services in the future.
- A persistent Watchlist that works across TVs as well as mobile apps and computers, allowing you to bookmark and watch titles from those devices.
Like Android TV, Google TV can access Google Assistant onscreen, which lets you to search for TV shows and movies via voice, control smart home devices and even show a feed from Nest cameras. Google says the platform has 6,500 apps including HBO Max (currently missing from both Roku and Fire TV) and Peacock (which is available on Roku but not Fire TV). The only major app missing from Google TV and the new Chromecast is Apple TV Plus.
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Meanwhile Google is also debuting a new app for mobile devices, the Google TV app, which will be available for download Wednesday on Android phones and tablets. It replaces the existing Google Play Movies & TV app.
This isn’t the first time Google has named a TV operating system after itself. The original Google TV debuted a decade ago on products like the Sony NSX-GT1 TV and the Logitech Revue set-top box, both of which received lukewarm reviews at CNET — despite offering “cutting-edge” features like built-in Chrome browsers and QWERTY remotes. The original Google TV was succeeded in 2014 by, you guessed it, Android TV.
For more on Google TV (the 2020 version), check out our hands-on impressions of the new Chromecast with Google TV.