When Android TV first started landing in the hands of users, the platform was a little underwhelming. Of course, being in its infancy and with the Nexus Player being the only Android TV device you could pick up, it was understandable that the general experience was not up to scratch. That said, what was one of the very biggest issues at the time was apps. There were two reasons for this – the first was that the number of out of the box apps that were optimized for Android TV was too limited and secondly, the optimized Google Play Store was far too limiting and basic. The second issue probably a result of the first. Since then though, a good deal of apps have now been released, updated or optimized for Android TV. So the first issue is being somewhat self-resolved over time – as you might expect. The second issue though, Google Play Store, seems far more fundamentally flawed. So much so, that if you are looking for a new Android TV app, you are seriously better off not using Android TV's Google Play Store to find it.
To be clear, Google did roll out a massive update to Android TV's Google Play months ago. One which suddenly seemed to open the app flood games with a massively increased number of apps now visible. While that was all well and good, the issue still remains Google Play is just one of the poorest functional-designed apps on Android TV. First off is what seems to be a complete lack of customization of Google Play. While this might sound like a very first-world Android TV problem, those who do not make use of the platform will have to appreciate that searching through Google Play for apps is not the most user-friendly exercise. No touchscreen, no swipe up or down or fast scroll. It is all remote or controller-based, so this is a platform which needs to offer a more personalized, based on your preferences, sort of approach. There are no recommended app feeds, there are no you might be interested in feeds, there is nothing really except the standard and generic categories which never seem to change.
Now, there is a "featured" row which does highlight some apps that might be worth checking out. But again, this is so poor that it would be surprising if anybody actually uses it. Not only does this featured row never seem to change, but it shows you apps that you likely already have installed on your device. In fact, if you do have one of the apps installed, it will tell you that it is installed, so why does it still show up in the featured row?
The more of these you have installed, the even bigger the issue and the more useless the featured row becomes. Not to mention if you bother trying to search for an app though the search function, there is no way to actual filter the results. They just all display on one line which is unfiltered, slow to navigate and most of the time, shows what seems to be unrelated content to the target word. The whole process just feels too laborious and Google Play on Android TV needs to be far more intuitive.
So with no personalized or recommended apps, a never changing featured row, very generic categories, no ability to filter when searching, the Google Play Store is 100% not the place to look for your next app. At least not for an Android TV app. Against the logic, you are far better off searching for an app through the desktop Google Play, although, this can be problematic in itself as there are no dedicated Android TV sections. In fact, the best way to find an app is through the forums – other users – and while it is extremely pleasing to see the community pulling together to help each other find new apps, it does feel like the community have been left on their own with this issue. Which is a shame really. For a platform which has so much promise, Google seriously needs to rethink the Google Play Store for Android TV.