YouTube TV has finally arrived on Android TV. Although this is a service Android TV users could already make use of via a smartphone, the Android TV dedicated version of the app is something that many device owners will have been waiting for before giving the service a try. Which means this is a fairly big app addition to the Android TV world and if you are someone now considering trying YouTube TV, then here is a quick overview of what you can expect.
Surprisingly, Google and YouTube have managed to get a very good level of consistency between the layout of the Android TV app and the mobile Android app. So those moving over from the mobile version will immediately feel quite at home. The app opens up with the same three tab menu, consisting of dedicated pages for 'Live', 'Home', and 'Library.' Home is where Google congregates many of the recommendations it thinks you might like, including highlighting some of the shows you have watched, ones you have recorded, and ones you might be interested in based on your preferences.
Library, also manages to offer a very similar experience to the mobile app, and in some ways feels even better due to its TV-focused interface. Library content is broken down into the same categories as on mobile but it is much easier and quicker to navigate due to everything being largely in-view.
The Live section works OK although each channel listing is a little big due to the use of thumbnail images and so navigating through (down) the list feels more time-consuming than it needs to be. Even more so considering the thumbnail images are static – they do not provide a view of the live content at the time and instead make use of a placeholder image. So this section may benefit more from the lack of those images altogether.
Search on the other hand, works extremely well which is probably to be expected with this being Google. Results populate quickly, and if it is a popular title you are looking for the first letter of the title is usually enough to bring up the correct result(s).
One major improvement is YouTube (non-TV version) is now far better integrated than before. Those who were using the mobile version will be aware that although YouTube clips show up in YouTube TV listings clicking on the clips forces the user through to the standard YouTube app each time. This is not the case with the Android TV version and any clip which does show up in the YouTube TV listings will open within the YouTube TV interface.
Watching content has also been designed pretty well. On the face of it, the playing interface looks a bit basic and limited but the more you navigate through, the richer you will find the experience to be. It is just some of the controls/features are hidden away. While playing you can bring up show content, see when the next episode is airing, add future episodes to your library, and also check through the main live TV guide – while the picture plays in the background. This includes when playing YouTube-specific content through YouTube TV.
Overall, and considering this is a first release of the Android TV app, the interface and experience is fairly well polished and constructed. It certainly does feel more TV-like than the mobile app and navigating the system is easy and straightforward enough. There are some small teething issues which hopefully will be worked out in the future (for instance it is not easy to close the app), but overall this is definitely a very good start for YouTube TV on Android TV.
As for the service in general, YouTube TV starts at $35 per month on a no-commitment basis and in return provides access to over 40 networks, including ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and ESPN. With the option of adding additional premium channels (such as Showtime) for an additional monthly charge. Some of the other benefits on offer include the option to share a subscription plan with five other users (six in total) as well as unlimited cloud DVR storage (with access on all Android devices associated with an active account). Unfortunately, YouTube TV is still not available everywhere in the US although Google is continually expanding the availability of the service. Likewise, owners of the Xiaomi Mi Box are currently not able to install and use the Android TV version of the app. In spite of the Android TV version of the app now being available, YouTube is still offering a free Chromecast to those who sign up and pay for the first month of services ($35). In either case, YouTube TV does currently come with a one-week free trial so there's nothing to lose in giving the service a try. One point to keep in mind, in spite of this being a standalone Android TV app it still does require the user to log in via a mobile browser. This is regardless of whether you are a new or existing user. Although the setup process is straightforward and guided through the use of on-screen prompts.