The NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV is receiving an update which brings with it an upgrade to Android 8.0 (Oreo). The update has now been confirmed by NVIDIA and arrives in the form of SHIELD Experience Upgrade 7.0. The update begins rolling out today and while some users will likely get the update soon, it may take a few days before the rollout has fully completed. In spite of this now making the SHIELD the only Android TV player outside of the Nexus Player to receive an Oreo update, it has taken its time in becoming available. NVIDIA's announcement on the update specifically references this point by explaining how this was a calculated decision. As due to the “dramatic shift” to Oreo, the company wanted to “make sure the experience was snappy and enjoyable, with all the content you’d expect.” Which is the first and main point to note about SHIELD Experience Upgrade 7.0 as it does radically change the look and feel of the SHIELD’s Android TV experience.
For example, Oreo on Android TV places a much greater focus on a content-first approach which means apps technically take a back seat to that content. Therefore, this focus less emphasizes apps in the same horizontal and prominent manner (there is still a row for apps but less are now displayed overall with this row focusing on favorites) and instead takes on a design where priority apps are listed down the left side of the interface. This is what the Android TV team refers to as a ‘channel setup' with apps now generally referred to as “Channels.” From here, content from each of these channels is actively displayed for each channel. In other words, the HBO NOW or Hulu app will now be replaced with a HBO NOW and Hulu row which highlights a number of shows, allowing the user to more quickly access specific content, more directly. As is the case with Oreo on Android TV in general, the apps shown on the new home screen, as well as their order, is customizable - providing a desired app has been updated to also support the new interface.
To ease users into using the new interface, NVIDIA has shared some tips on basic navigation such as holding the Home button to see all apps. Likewise, holding the Back button will now launch the Settings menu, while double pressing the Home button will highlight the Recent Apps view. “Play Next” is also a new feature with Oreo and this is a dedicated Channel on the home screen which will show either user-assigned content, or content the user might be interested in viewing - such as the next episode of a TV show, or content that has only been partly watched so far. Again, the usability of this feature will depend on support at the individual app level, though NVIDIA states app support is growing with “several more top apps expected to add support this summer.” To add content to Play Next, SHIELD owners can hold the Select button on the SHIELD Remote or the A button on the SHIELD Controller. The same action can also be used to add or remove an app by holding down the same button while hovering over a app -- channel -- icon.