What Is Google TV? Here’s Everything You Need to Know


For years, Google’s Chromecast devices were just devices to cast content from a smartphone or tablet to them and only showed a screensaver when they were not in use. Additionally, you could control them via voice from a Google-enabled smart speaker, but they lacked an interface. As a result, Chromecast paled compared to Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, etc., as these devices have user interfaces and separate remotes. However, Google is changing with Google TV, which is available on the latest Chromecast and built in to some of the latest smart TVs and gives the device a user interface and a remote like most devices connected to a TV.

Here’s everything you need to know about Google’s streaming platform.

What is Google TV?

The user interface of Google TV.
James Holloway/Digital Trends

Google TV, at its core, is a user interface running on top of Android TV, although with a different look and feel than Android TV. It is pre-installed into the Chromecast with Google TV and comes with a dedicated remote. This lets you browse around Google TV as you would on a Roku, or you can “Ask Google” to find something to watch. Additionally, the interface curates suggestions for movies and TV shows based on your viewing habits. Google is known as the “search giant” and touts the feature of asking the Google Assistant anything.

Google TV’s focus is to ensure users can access their most viewed and recommended content directly from the home screen. Like other streaming device platforms, Google TV features Netflix, Apple TV, Hulu, and more. However, Google TV lets you access what you want to watch without diving directly into the specific streaming app as long as you are logged in to your account.

Google Nest cameras will also connect to the interface so that Nest camera owners can view their cameras via their TVs.

Does Google TV replace Android TV?

Throughout 2021 and beyond, Google TV will be the primary interface for TV manufacturers that opted for Android TV, which was also developed by Google for use on TVs, media players, set-top boxes, and more. The latest version of Android TV runs on Android OS version 9, while Google TV runs on Android OS version 10. Android OS releases for TVs typically run a little behind smartphone OS updates.

Google TV is essentially a re-skin of Android TV at its core with added features and will be used by Google going forward. Additionally, some TVs running Android OS version 9 may be updated to version 10 or Google TV; check with your TV manufacturer to see if your TV can be updated to Google TV.

How does it work?

Whether you purchase a Chromecast with Google TV or a Google TV-enabled TV, the experience is pretty similar. All Google TV-enabled devices need an internet connection. Some devices will give the option of using an Ethernet cable for a hard-wired connection, but they all work with Wi-Fi too. Setting up Google TV is pretty simple; download the Google Home app on your mobile device for the fastest experience, but you can do it directly from the TV itself. Furthermore, having a Gmail account makes this experience seamless.

After the initial setup, you will be presented with the Google TV home screen. The home screen features a slide show of various movies and TV shows that are recommended based on viewing preferences. Also, it may include advertisements for the latest movie releases. Below is the Top picks for you column, which is another recommended list of content, followed by Your apps. 

Google TV uses Knowledge Graph and machine learning to boost the discoverability of content aimed at the viewer. Google’s Knowledge Graph is the company’s collection of facts about people, places, and things. This allows Google to answer or present users with accurate information about movies, TV shows, historical facts, and more. The interface is divided into multiple tabs allowing users to browse by movies, shows, apps, and purchased content.

Google TV’s focus is to ensure that users never have to venture into apps to watch their preferred content. With just a click of a button, jumping back into Marvel Studio’s Loki is a seamless experience, and it can be done directly from the home screen of Google TV.

Parental controls are also built in to the interface, allowing parents to create separate profiles for kids. Kid profiles are tied to the parent’s account, so they do not have their email and password to worry about. There is also a Google Family Link app to set guidelines for their kids’ experience with Google apps and devices. For example, Google TV’s parental controls let parents set screen time, lock and unlock profiles, and set rating limits.

Stadia

A Google Stadia controller with Stadia logo.

Google Stadia is the company’s cloud-based game streaming service, which compares to Nvidia GeForce Now, Microsoft Cloud Gaming, and Amazon Luna. Stadia is available as a downloadable app on Google TV. With Stadia, users can play some of their favorite games without the need for a console — just a controller and a Stadia subscription is all you need.

Games

There are a lot of games available for Google TV. You will find titles like Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, Final Fantasy, Oceanhorn, and more. The only downfall is that in comparison to Android TV, Google TV does not have direct access to the Play Store; searching for some games has to be done through voice or word search.

What are some Google TV voice commands?

Chromecast with Google TV remote.
Google

What you ask the Google Assistant is predicated on the apps that you are logged in to. For instance, “Play Master Chef on Hulu” will only work if you have a Hulu subscription. However, Google TV does offer universal commands, such as:

  • “Play some R&B music.”
  • “Open [app name].”
  • “Tell me about Chef Ramsay” gives a detailed description of the person as well as content from various streaming services that they appear in.

Availability

As mentioned before, Google TV is available on the latest Chromecast with Google TV. However, Sony’s latest Bravia XR lineup includes Google TV. Additionally, TCL has announced that it will debut a Google TV series of TVs sometime in 2021. Therefore, expect more TV manufacturers to adopt Google TV for their future products. In addition, Google may send out updates for TVs and devices currently running Android TV to replace it with the Google TV interface.

Google TV has been available for Android users since September 2020 as it replaced Google Play Movies and the TV app.

Is Google TV right for me?

Google TV is an excellent alternative to Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV. If you are intertwined with the Google ecosystem, then the Google TV interface is perfect for you. In addition, having a Google Assistant on your TV helps make the experience more seamless and intuitive.

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