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AH Primetime: Three Questions You Should Be Asking Before Buying An Android TV Device

January 11, 2015 - Written By John Anon

If you are an android user then the last few months have been a turbulent few. Ever since Google unveiled Android 5.0 as Lollipop, nearly every manufacturer and user has been preoccupied with when Lollipop will be available for their devices. Most eyes were (and still are) on Samsung as they are the biggest android manufacturer. That said, they are also one of those that mess with Stock android the most. This is the downside with adding your own skin or interface to stock android. It means you have more to do when porting a new version of Android over. Those who stick more towards a stock version of Android (like Motorola), have less to do and as we have seen are able to push their update out quicker.

Either way, within hours of Lollipop being announced, manufacturers had to re-group and announce how long it would take them to make their update available. This led to the general consensus of ‘ninety days’. It seemed as soon as one OEM said ninety days, the rest were all like “yeah, us too”. Which in truth, is not a bad thing as it allows for most users to expect a similar time-frame. This varied approach to updating is a prime example of the other side of android. Google hit the nail on the head with their new ‘be together. not the same’ mantra, as we are all android but we are not the same, we do not have the same devices and we do not receive the same enduser experience. In fact, in terms of updating, we are neither the ‘same’ nor (as it would seem) ‘together’.

This leads to an interesting question though. With the impending launch of Android TV about to drop in 2015. What will updates for Android TV be like? More importantly, who will be responsible for updating Android TV? There is no question about Google’s position on mobile devices. The rules of the Open Handset Alliance (OHA) are clear. You can take stock Android and pretty much do whatever you want to it. But you (the manufacturer/carrier) are responsible for fixes, updates (both incremental and macro). Although, we (in principle) associate Android TV with Google, this is in fact, an extension of the android operating system we already know. As such, the same rules must be applied. AT CES this year, we heard from a bunch of companies who will be including Android TV in their products. But they are THEIR products, not Google’s. The likes of Phillips, Huawei, Sony, Sharp (and whoever else comes out of the woodwork) will be the ones responsible for providing updates to their respective devices. Google will send them the source code and it will be up to them to implement and roll-out. Well, that is if the same rules apply?

There is also another issue that comes to the updating question. When do updates stop? OK. You buy your Android TV and it comes with version yadda yadda yadda. You receive the update once Sony (or Philips or whoever) rolls it out. All is fine. Three years later, Android TV is being updated to Android TV Cubed (or whatever they call it). You are thinking, great, another new and massive update with all these announced features. Well, that’s not quite how it works with Android on mobile is it! As part of the OHA, all manufacturers sign-up to offer users a two-year update period but beyond that, updates are no longer guaranteed. It is up to the grace of the manufacturer. In short, if they can be bothered to. Will that be the same for Android TV? Sony or Philips don’t want you getting the newer software on your three year old TV when they are trying to sell you their latest offering. Why would they?

So although, Android TV is here and does look great and will (probably) revolutionize how we watch TV and engage with android, there remains these three burning questions. Who will update my Android TV device? How long will I have to wait for it to be updated after an update is released? And probably most importantly, how long can I expect updates for?