Every year comes a new version of Android, and with it, usually a bunch of new features and changes behind the scenes. This year, with the launch of the first Android 12 Developer Preview, we also saw the first time the release was accompanied by previews for Android TV and Google TV. There is reason for excitement in itself, but the updates themselves do not really have much to offer.
Android updates do not usually provide new TV features
I’ve been playing with Android TV 12, especially the Google TV flavor, the last day. From setup to settings, I honestly can not find anything remarkable to tell you about, and there have been pairs for the course on Android TV since the beginning.
The last time an Android update delivered major features and UI revisions on Android TV was Oreo, when Google completely renewed the experience. Since then, not much has changed. The next release, Android 9 Pie, was one of the major updates, but it still did not do much. Google did some performance optimizations, added autofill support (which has never been widely used), and added a new installation method that loaded much of the work into a nearby smartphone. The streamlined settings menu was the biggest change towards the user.
Android TV 1
The simple fact is that most of the new features Google provides their TV platforms do not come from Android updates, they come from launch updates, apps and other methods. It’s also a smart strategy, as many of the changes that users actually care about can be rolled out without worrying too much about OEM partners.
Most of the new is behind the scenes
If you have not detected a pattern at this time, most of the changes found in Android TV platform upgrades will be made out of the user’s view. Some people may encounter the adjustments, but for the most part they will be invisible. Google described what’s new, at least in the first preview of Android TV 12, as follows:
And for the largest screen in the home, the first preview of Android 12 for Android TV is also available. In addition to bringing the latest Android features to your TV with this preview, you will also be able to test your apps on the brand new Google TV experience. Learn more on the Android TV Developers website and get started with the ADT-3 developer package.
It’s … not helpful.
Based on the timing alone, it is quite clear that Android TV 12 will see wider adoption, and as such it means that this update will probably be the first time Scoped Storage has any effect on Android TV / Google TV. For the average user, this will never mean anything but those who want sideloading apps can encounter problems, although we can not say that we have experienced any to date. We also speculated that some of the tweaks in Android 12, such as HEVC encoding, AVIF, multi-channel audio and more, can be felt on TVs running the platform.
As far as Google TV based on Android 12 goes, it was literally just a user-facing feature I could find. On the “For You” tab, the home screen now displays a “Recommended Videos” list powered by YouTube, complete with the logo. There’s really nothing to get excited about, because Google could roll it out to the new Chromecast with an app update. Honestly, they probably already have, and we’re only seeing it here for the first time by chance.
More up-to-date updates are the real reason for the hype
Does this mean that there is no reason for Android TV and Google TV users to get excited about Android 12? Absolutely not! The truth is that major Android updates have never been a big deal for Android TV. The platform is usually a full version behind and has literally skipped entire versions of the operating system more than once.
Having an Android 12 update so early for TVs is a leap forward, and it’s also quite telling that the preview building we ran on an ADT-3, also packed the security update from February 2021. I do not want to build up expectations, but it seems like updates will finally be a priority for google with this renewed platform interest and i have to say i’m so here for it.
When will Android TV 12 roll out?
It seems reasonable to assume that Android TV 12 will start rolling out stable builds around the same time as phones, which are scheduled for around August or September at this time. Of course, this may not mean that consumer devices such as the new Chromecast, TCL TV and others get the update quickly, but we hope that is the case.
We’re continuing to install new Android TV and Google TV previews as they become available, so stay tuned as we report important changes we find.
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