When it comes to Android TV, there has been quite the number of announcements coming through of late. Most of these are product launch announcements which highlight the growth of the industry overall. It was a slow start for Android TV, but now it looks like the momentum is finally building. What’s more, now that there are multiple products on the market, from different manufacturers, this is likely to see a fueling of the software and features offered. The variety of manufacturers and their products will hopefully make sure, that as one brings forward new features and integrations, so will the others.
In fact, we are already starting to see this now to some degree. The Nexus Player was just a standard Android TV device. However, the recently released built-in options from Sony and Sharp, as well as the standalone option, the NVIDIA SHIELD all offer one specific feature missing from the Nexus Player. The ability to stream 4K. This is one of those premium specs that gets a mention on all the devices that offer the feature, but in real terms, does 4K offer any benefits to Android TV users now? Probably not.
Of course, inroads are being made and the likes of Netflix and Amazon Instant Video are pushing hard in the race to offer 4K content, but the number of titles that are (and will be) available in the near(ish) future seem limited. In fact, when it comes to Netflix, it is mostly ‘Netflix Originals’ which are getting first dibs. So that will tell you how content providers are looking at the whole ‘4K experience’. YouTube are leading the way in some respects and it was only last week reports emerged that they have started displaying 8K content too. Which although crazy, makes you wonder how much longevity 4K honestly has. By the time, there is content widely available for Android TV, will we already be getting sold 8K devices, which once again offer little content. Not To mention, as well as paying more for a 4K enabled Android TV box, chances are content providers will charge you more to actually watch the higher resolution content. This is already a common occurrence on Amazon Instant Video, MGO and even on Google Play. You’re charged an extra dollar (on average) to watch movies in HD compared to Standard Definition (SD). So what will be the typical premium for 4K and how will that fit into the pricing structure?
Then there is a more fundamental issue. Even if there was 4K content widely available and even if it was offered without the premium price, does the consumer want it. Do you? I mean Ultra HD (as is it otherwise known) has been said to be only minimally (at best) noticeable compared to 1080p. Of course, the manufacturers will tell you there is a difference, and presumably there must be. But from the distance you are away from the screen, how impactful is that difference? In fact, gaming might only be the area (and stretching to justify this) where 4K might offer a more meaningful android end user experience. As this is completely a pixel dominated industry, maybe 4K will offer android gamers a richer experience. But is that enough?
In truth, it is difficult to know if Android TV, as a platform, has anything to offer the ‘4K revolution’. Movies are good enough in HD and gaming on android is looking better than ever. So, whichever way you look at it, having 4K capabilities on an Android TV device is only likely to open you up to more costly payments for the content. Then there is also the streaming issue. 4K will not come cheap when it comes to data and will eat up data like there was no tomorrow. So, even if you have the Android TV 4K device and if you have paid extra for the 4K content, how’s your internet speed gonna work for you? How does it work now when streaming HD content? Of course, you will probably be able to pay extra again for that too. Noticing a trend?