Android TV box: what are they and what can they do?

What is an Android TV Box?

An Android TV device is a set-top box or dongle that connects to the TV. You can use the box to watch on-demand video apps, video sites, and network TV shows.

“Android TV box” is not a strictly defined term. They come in many different shapes and sizes and can have very different capacities. The one thing they all have in common is their ability to run the Android TV operating system.

What is the Android TV operating system?

Android TV is the version of the Android operating system specifically designed to run on televisions. It has been around since mid-2014, when it replaced the now defunct Google TV.

Just like the mobile version of Android, the Android TV operating system is very fragmented. Many Android TV box manufacturers have modified the operating system to suit their whims and requirements. Amazon’s Fire TV OS is also a heavily modified version of the Android TV OS.

And like the mobile version, there are many different versions out there due to erratic update cycles. Google regularly releases new versions, but they can take a long time, in some cases years, to filter down to all devices via the manufacturer’s over-the-air updates.

The Android TV operating system is also found integrated into smart TVs. At various times, Sharp, Sony, Philips and Hisense have used the Android TV operating system to enhance the smart features of their televisions.

Finally, the Android TV OS is the most common backend for Kodi boxes. For those who don’t know, a Kodi box is a set-top box that launches directly into the Kodi app. And no, don’t worry – Kodi boxes won’t get you in trouble with the law. We’ve explained the legality of Kodi boxes if you want more information.

How to find content on Android TV Box

Despite using the Android moniker, the interface on Android TV boxes bears little resemblance to its smartphone counterpart.

Your apps appear on scrolling tapes on the screen. On most Android TV boxes, you can set your favorites, as well as see recommended content from your apps in additional tapes further down the screen. Android TV boxes do not support widgets.

What can you watch on Android TV?

Android TV users have access to the Google Play Store. However, it’s not the Google Play Store you will be used to if you are an Android mobile user.

The list of available apps is heavily edited. An app developer must make their software compatible with Android TV for it to be listed on the TV version of the store. This means that many smaller developer apps are not available.

However, there are all the apps you would expect to find. You can download and watch Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Crackle, YouTube, HBO Go, NBC, ABC, BBC iPlayer, MLB.TV, and so much more. Some apps are geo-restricted. Use a high quality VPN provider like ExpressVPN or CyberGhost to get around the blocks.

However, even though the Google Play Store is smaller than the mobile version, the Android TV boxes allow you to load apps . It means you can take the APK file of any app you want to run on your box and install it.

Note that side-loading apps may not be compatible with your remote. The simple solution is to download an Android TV remote control app for your smartphone; allow you to use your finger as a mouse cursor.

Are other content available on Android TV Boxes?

Android TV isn’t just about watching videos. There are music apps like Spotify and Pandora, video players like VLC, and various utility apps like file explorers and sideload app launchers.

However, the most important form of alternative content on Android TV is games. Some Android TV boxes, most notably Nvidia Shield, even offer alternative app stores where you can download and run different games like Grand Theft Auto and Sonic the Hedgehog.

What other features do Android TV Boxes have?

This is where it starts to get dark. Different Android TV box designers have integrated different features into their products.

Some of the features you may encounter on Android TV boxes include:

Chromecast support built in

You can cast directly from your phone, tablet or desktop Chrome browser straight to your TV.

Google Assistant

Mid-range and high-end products increasingly offer Google Assistant integration. Sometimes, it’s in the form of an always-listening set-top box. Other times, you need to activate the assistant via the remote control of the Android TV box.

Be sure to check out our list of amazing Google Assistant features if you’d like to learn more.

Additional ports

Again, the situation varies greatly from device to device. Depending on the manufacturer, you may find USB ports, SD card slots, and Ethernet ports for a wired internet connection.

You can use the USB ports to connect keyboards, mice, game controllers, and other peripherals.

Bluetooth

If your Android TV box is Bluetooth enabled, you can use the connection to connect it to your phone, keyboard, laptop or other device.

Who should buy an Android set-top box?

Android TV is my favorite smart TV operating system. I’ve used Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and various alternative smart TV operating systems and keep coming back to the Android option. If you like customization, flexibility and integration with other Google apps and services, it is highly recommended.

Given the wide variety of price ranges, you can easily install a premium Android TV set top box on your main TV and then use cheaper Android TV dongles on other TVs in your home, thus achieving a consistent user experience throughout your home for a price. reasonable.

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