Philips is the latest brand to come to the US offering consumers the option to buy a new TV set powered by Android TV. Funai, who currently owns the licensing rights to the Philips brand in North America confirmed the new products this week, marking the first time Philips-branded TVs running on Android TV have become available in the region.
The announcement explains there will be two new TV sets (with varying screen size options) available to buyers in 2019 with both utilizing Android TV as the underlying operating system. The first to arrive is the 5704 model which is actually available to buy in the US now - from select retailers. The other option is model 5904 and this one is now confirmed to arrive in the latter part of 2019. Prices for the new TVs have not been provided in detail with Funai simply stating the entry-level option will start as low as $349.99. This latest announcement was made to coincide with CES 2019 where both of the new TV lines are expected to be on show when the event officially opens its doors.
The difference is in the listening
Generally speaking, the difference between the two models (5704 and 5904) is fairly minimal. For example, both sets are 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) TVs and are expected to become available in the same variety of sizes including 43, 50, 55, 65, and 75-inch variants. Likewise, both utilize the same implementation of Android TV (based on Android Oreo) which among other things also includes built-in Google Assistant functionality. This is in addition to USB connectivity, High Dynamic Range (HDR10) support, and a number of other tweaks designed to improve the viewing and listening experience in general.
The difference between the two seems to mainly come down to far-field technology due to the 5904 model coming equipped with a far-field microphone. So while both models employ Google Assistant, and both models offer the option to press a button on the included Bluetooth-enabled remote control (equipped with a near-field microphone) to activate Google Assistant, the later arriving model will come with the added option of far-field support allowing owners to simply say the “Hey Google” hotword to activate Google Assistant - no remote needed. Although not confirmed, the addition of far-field technology is likely to result in a price increase compared to the 5704 model so the value on offer with the later model will likely depend on how useful hands-free voice control is to an individual buyer.
Android TV continues to gain traction
Android TV, at the consumer set-top box/streaming device level remains an issue due to the general lack of off-the-shelf options available to consumers. In spite of this, Android TV over the last couple of years has been gaining in market share thanks to the platform's adoption by a number of TV makers and operators. This latest announcement acts as the latest confirmation of this increase in adoption, as while Philips-branded TVs in other parts of the world already feature Android TV, Philips in the US has typically continued to output solutions that primarily rely on the company’s own NetTV solution. Although there's has been developments recently that have suggested the use of Android TV on Philips TVs would be coming considering this is not the first time the company has been toying with third-party solutions. For example, Philips already offers models boasting Chromecast built-in, as well as some that are powered by Roku OS. Like Android TV, Roku OS is a full end-to-end operating system, and one that's also proved popular in the US at both the consumer and device maker levels.
Philips might be late to the party, but late is better than never
Funai has not made any grand announcements confirming unrivaled support for Android TV, and so it would seem the plan is to offer just these two models (for now) and continue to make available newer versions of the alternative models that feature either Roku OS or NetTV. Essentially, it would seem Philips is looking to provide as many different operating system options as possible in the US and likely as a means to cater to the different emerging preferences of US buyers. Whether this approach proves to be successful remains to be seen but with prices starting as low as $349 for an Android TV-powered solution, these particular models are likely to attract some attention. The question will be whether they will attract enough attention considering many competing brands also now offer Android TV options, and some that are not only compatible on specs and features, but also on price.