Google TV is the latest attempt that the company is taking in taking over your living room. Between Android TV, Google TV and Chromecast, it can be a bit confusing as to what the difference is between the three platforms – all owned by Google. So, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about Google TV. So that you can make the right choice about which platform to use with your TV.
What is Google TV?
In the simplest terms, Google TV is a user interface that runs on top of Android TV. Think of it as a skin that runs on Android, like One UI, or Oxygen OS from Samsung or OnePlus. But it’s Google’s own skin, and it’s on top of Android TV. But not limited to just Google’s hardware. See, confusing isn’t it.
It was announced in September 2020, with the Chromecast with Google TV dongle. It takes what Android TV does well, and it expands on that. Giving you better and more recommendations and also providing a live TV Guide if you use YouTube TV or Sling TV. Among a few other features. It does a really good job with recommendations and telling you where you can watch specific shows or movies.
It, of course, also works with smart home products, like its Nest cameras. So you can easily bring up a feed of your camera onto the TV, or see when someone arrives at your door. As well as turn on or off the lights and anything else you might use Google Assistant for. But now on your TV.
Google TV vs Android TV
Google TV isn’t really replacing Android TV, at least not yet. But the biggest differences between the two is that Google TV focuses more on recommendations and live TV guide. Making it easier for the user to find something to watch, instead of endlessly scrolling through each streaming service, to find something to watch while they are eating their dinner.
Google’s partners have also jumped on the Google TV bandwagon, like TCL and Sony. However others have decided not to upgrade to Google TV, at least not yet. That includes the NVIDIA SHIELD TV. Though it’s likely that they will upgrade in the near future.
How does Google TV work?
Google TV works on a small number of devices right now. But the best option to get for Google TV is the latest Chromecast, which costs $50.
Much like Android TV, it needs to have an internet connection and a Google account signed in.
On the main home screen, which is the “For You” screen, you’ll see a number of movies and TV shows that are available to watch. The top row might have some “sponsored” options in there that apps are pushing. Below that, you’ll see your apps that are installed. This row is customizable. Simply long-press on the app and move it around. You can also change what apps are shown in there, but it is limited to around 10 apps. So it’s a good idea to keep your most used apps in there.
Below the apps, you’ll see the “Continue Watching” list. Which are movies and shows that you started watching and haven’t finished. This makes it easier to just jump in and start watching again. Then Google TV breaks down your recommendations into different sections below that.
Google also has other tabs at the top for movies, shows and Live TV. So you can get other recommendations, or see the live TV guide. But the guide only works for YouTube TV and Sling TV users right now. That might change in the future though.
How does Google TV know what you might want to watch?
Most streaming services are able to recommend movies and shows to watch, but Google TV is the first one to do it across all of your apps. It does it with the Knowledge Graph. This is a collection of facts about people, places and things. And it allows Google to answer or present users with accurate information about movies, shows, historical facts and more. And this information is all used to recommend different titles to the user.
In our experience, it has been very good at recommending titles to watch. And thanks to machine learning, it will get even better.
Will Google TV show me where I can watch a specific title?
If you see a title on your home screen that you end up wanting to watch, you can click on it. This will take you to a page that will give you a ton of information about that title. That includes its Rotten Tomatoes score, its genre, year it was released and its runtime. But you will also see a list of apps you can watch it in.
There’s also a way to add it to your watchlist, and mark it as watched, or give it a thumbs up or down to help the recommendations engine. And of course, you can watch a trailer from this page.
This is very useful if you are somewhat interested in a movie, but aren’t 100% sure about committing two hours to watching it. Or if you aren’t sure where you can watch it. Google TV makes that super simple.
Are there any parental controls?
At launch, there were no parental controls for Google TV. But that has since changed. In March 2021, Google announced that parental controls were coming to Google TV.
These parental controls allow parents to set how long kids can watch TV. As well as setting the limit on ratings for content that they can watch. And there is also a profile lock, so that kids aren’t able to make changes without their parents approval.
It’s pretty simple to do, and you can make a profile on Google TV specifically for kids. So that when the adults want to watch TV, they don’t have to deal with these limitations. The controls are simple, but they work.
What devices are available with it?
Google TV launched on the new Chromecast in September 2020. The “Chromecast with Google TV”. Since then, Google has gotten some of its partners on board with Google TV, but not all of them. Namely TCL and Sony. So any of the 2021 models from TCL and Sony will have Google TV on-board. Other partners have not announced plans to add Google TV to their Android TV models, however.
Google TV has also replaced the Google Play Movies & TV app on Android and iOS. So you can easily find titles to watch from your phone and then cast them to anything that supports Chromecast.
We should see more devices support Google TV in the future. But in the meantime, Android TV has been updated to look very similar. It has all of the recommendations, but with fewer tabs at the top of the screen.
Does Stadia work on Google TV?
Since Google TV is basically Android TV, yes, Stadia does work.
Stadia is available as a downloadable app on Google TV. You won’t have it pre-installed. Which is likely a good thing since streaming TV devices don’t typically come with much storage in the first place. All you need is a controller and a Stadia subscription to get started. Who says you need a PS5 to game at home.
Now there are also a number of other games available. Basically any Android game will work here.
What apps work with Google TV?
Pretty much any Android TV app will work on Google TV. However, not all of them work with the recommendations, nor will they show titles on the home screen. Here is the complete list of apps that is compatible with Google TV.
- Amazon Prime Video
- Apple TV and Apple TV+
- Cartoon Network
- Comedy Central
- DC Universe
- Disney NOW
- Epix Now
- Fox Now
- HBO Go
- HBO Max
- PBS Kids
- Pluto TV
- Showtime Anytime
- The CW
- Tubi TV
Video on demand is available from the following apps.
- YouTube TV
Can I see Live TV listings?
Yes, you can. Google has a dedicated Live tab for Google TV. Which you can see Live TV listings, making it easier to find something to watch, rather than having to browse the apps on your Google TV unit to find something. However, only a few streaming live TV services are compatible. These are those that are compatible:
- Philo TV (Starting October 5, 2021)
- Sling TV
- YouTube TV
What are some voice commands that can be used?
There are a bunch of useful voice commands you can use. On the Chromecast, there is a dedicated microphone button. Just press it and say any of these commands:
- “Play some R&B music.”
- “Open [app name].”
- “Tell me about Chef Ramsay”
- “Play Master Chef on Hulu”
- “Show me the [name of camera]”
- “How’s the weather”
Basically any voice command that you might use on your Nest Hub, Nest Mini or Android smartphone for Google Assistant, will work here. As this is just Google Assistant, but on your TV.
Should I use Google TV?
If you are an Android user, yes, you should definitely use Google TV. But if you use iOS, then it’s likely not the best option for you.
Google TV is really great at a number of things. Particularly recommendations. In my experience, Google TV has recommended a ton of shows that I ended up loving. And it was much better than Netflix or Hulu’s recommendations. Though that likely comes from it knowing what I watch from all of its apps, instead of just what I watch on Netflix or Hulu.
If you also have cut the cord and use YouTube TV, Sling TV, Philo or FuboTV, then it’s a really good option. As the live TV guide works really well, and it’s quicker than opening the app.