Android TV as a concept is a great proposition. Those of us who like android in general, would probably love the idea of having Android on our TVs too. Why wouldn’t we? The platform is what we use every day on our smartphones, on our laptops (if you are a Chromebook user) and for some of us – even on our watches. Not to mention that soon we will be using it in our cars too. So it makes sense that the TV (which might actually be the only screen you interact with more than your phone) runs on a similar operating system.
That said, there is one glowing issue with Android TV and that is the current sheer lack of a selection of available apps. To be fair, there is not exactly a wealth of Android TV hardware out there. In fact, the only way you can currently experience Android TV is through your Nexus Player. But is the lack of hardware enough to excuse a lack of apps? Those of you who are already using the Nexus Player, will probably have already noticed this issue. There just does not seem to be a good selection on offer. Although the Play Store has close to one and a half million apps, only a fraction of them are compatible with Android TV. So what gives?
Well, one of the reasons why there might be a lack of apps is a lack of interest from developers. It is too early at the moment to know how developers feel about the platform and in a lot of respects ‘developer interest’ will be what defines whether or not Android TV will be successful. Regardless, of how the public feel, if developers do not port their current apps or create new ones for Android TV, then how will it function with a base level of apps? So developer interest (or currently lack thereof) is one aspect which might be causing the current lack of apps. Following on from this point, it seems Google are not exactly making it easy for developers either. Back in November we heard about the new rules that Google were implementing for Android TV apps. These rules included Google personally approving every Android TV app before it is released. This sounds like a time-consuming process to me. Especially if developers left, right and centre start submitting apps. Google presumably are doing this to try and establish quality control and a level of consistency (which was missing from Google TV), which is understandable. But what motivation is there for developers to create Android TV apps if they have to jump through a load of Google’s hoops. If Android in general had employed the same stringent criteria, what would the Play Store look like now? It certainly would not consist of one and a half million apps.
Of course, we do have Netflix, Hulu and the rest of the biggie apps available on Android TV, but is that not a bit boring? We already had them available on our TV’s anyway. So them in themselves, is not really selling Android TV. Where is the good stuff? If you were to head over to Google now and search for “Best Android TV apps” you will see what I mean. Regurgitated lists including the likes of Netflix, Plex, TuneIn and even the ‘Android TV Remote control’. I mean, if the remote control makes it on to a best-of app list, is that not saying it all already? Is that really enough for Android 5.0 (Lollipop) in your living room? In the last week, we did hear of an early preview build of VLC Media Player being released (in beta) for Android TV. Which is good news! But one app for this new Android platform in weeks. Is that really what Android TV deserves? One beta app hitting the headlines. In short, no it is not. We might get to see more apps becoming available, in the next few months and especially now after CES and the confirmation from a number of other manufacturers, that they will be including Android TV in their products going forward. Maybe with these announcements developers will start to make more of a direct effort in bringing their old (and new) apps over to this new platform.
For us early adopters of Android TV though, it seems to be much ado about nothing. Unlike Google TV, Android TV’s biggest problem is not going to be attracting prospective customers in the next year, but instead, offering the customers a decent selection of apps to justify their purchase of Android TV.