Android TV is a growing platform, however one criticism that is often leveled at Android TV is the lack of available hardware options. In fact, recently we saw the issue where a new option was announced (the Xiaomi Mi Box) and in the same week one was taken away (the Nexus Player). So even when new options do eventually come though, it does not automatically mean the number of options have increased. With the departure of the Nexus Player occurring before the physical arrival of the Mi Box, as it currently stands, there are less Android TV options now available than before the Mi Box was announced.
Then there is the issue of price. Android TV as a platform, while affordable, is not the most affordable, which makes it harder for new customers to test it out. While you can find starting options for around the $100 marker, there is not much on offer below that price. In comparison, although Amazon’s Fire TV products are even more limited in variance than Android TV, $100 is considered the top whack price for Fire TV. If you are after a super affordable version of Fire TV, there is the Fire TV Stick which comes priced under $40. A perfect entry product to the market. This is where Android TV seems to have an issue as there is no super-entry level option and especially nothing which comes close to the Fire TV Stick. Of course, there is Chromecast, but that is not Android TV and in fact, the existence and popularity of Chromecast is probably one of the reasons as to why there are no Android TV Sticks. But that could be about to change.
Announced last week in Japan is the LEONET ‘Life Stick’. This is a Chromecast/Fire TV Stick sized device, but one which looks to bring the Android TV platform to its customers. This works in an almost identical fashion to the Fire TV Stick and is an HDMI dongle based product which comes with its own power supply and remote control. Once running, the interface seems to be the full Android TV experience with much of the same functionality on offer, including voice search and the ability to download more apps and so on. Not to mention, as this is Android TV it also comes with Google Cast built-in, essentially, making the Life Stick a Chromecast as well. Obviously the hardware is going to be limited in comparison to the current Android TV products, but the trade-off is the smaller and more portable form factor and presumably, a cheaper cost to purchase.
However, it is not quite clear at the moment how this product is coming to market on a wider scale, if it will at all. For instance, this is a Japan-only product at the moment and from the limited details available it seems as though it is being initially shipped to select residential and rental locations as an in-room amenity. Essentially, providing guests with a method to get Android TV. As a result, this particular room version of Live Stick comes with some additional software (LEONET My Room) which lets you control many of the other in-room connected devices like light switches, as well as get information about the weather and the news etc. A typical hotel TV interface along with the Android TV experience. That aside, what is clear is that this is a very interesting product and one which the wider Android TV market could really do with to boost adoption.