Android TV 12 has officially launched and nobody cares

When a new version of Android launches, it’s usually a big deal, at least when it comes to phones. That’s not the case with Android TV as version 12 has now officially launched but it doesn’t matter to anyone but developers since the only device that it’s available on is the ADT-3 Developer Kit. Google’s own flagship Andoird TV device, the 2020 Chromecast, is still running Android TV 10 with no indication that it will be updated. Similarly, the newest Amazon Fire TVs are based on Android 9 and have also shown no indication of being updated.

The underlying version of Android on streaming devices really doesn’t make much of a difference to the overall experience, which is why most streaming device manufacturers skipped upgrading to Android 11 or even Android 10, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they do the same for Android 12. The majority of Fire TV devices in the wild are using an OS that is based on Android 5.1, a version that is 5 years old, and it makes very little difference compared to newer OS versions.

This is because there really isn’t much that can be added, on an OS level, to significantly improve a streaming device. The short list of what’s new in Android TV 12 is fairly insignificant and some of the new features have already been added long ago by device manufacturers like Amazon and Nvidia, such as refresh rate switching.

The primary benefit of a streaming device being on a newer OS version is avoiding the scenarios where streaming apps and services draw arbitrary lines for support. For example, Netflix only supports Dolby Atmos on devices running Fire OS 7, despite other services supporting Dolby Atmos just fine on older OS versions, and NBC Sports stupidly block Fire OS 5 devices from accessing certain streams.

Google’s overview of what’s new in Android TV 12:

  • Media: Avoid motion judder during playback using refresh rate switching
  • Media: Certified API-accuracy for reporting display modes, HDR formats and surround sound formats
  • User Interface: Background blurs using RenderEffect and in WindowManager
  • User Interface: 4K UI support
  • User Interface: Accessibility settings for font sizes
  • Privacy & Security: Microphone and camera indicators
  • Privacy & Security: Microphone and camera toggles
  • Privacy & Security: Device attestation via Android KeyStore API
  • HDMI & Tuner: Support for HDMI CEC 2.0
  • HDMI & Tuner: Tuner HAL 1.1 with DTMB support and performance improvements
  • HDMI & Tuner: Better protection model with Tuner Service

8 comments
  1. max says:

    “The underlying version of Android on streaming devices really doesn’t make much of a difference to the overall experience, ”

    For European users the changelog-entry
    “Media: Avoid motion judder during playback using refresh rate switching”
    is a big deal. Playback of 25fps-material when the screen is set to 60Hz is not a good experience.
    Of course the apps have to support this, too.

    • I’m certainly not saying that new features don’t make a difference. I’m just saying that they aren’t tied to the core OS version. Fire TV and Shield TV have had refresh rate matching for a long time, even though it is only now coming to the core Android TV OS.

      • Chris Holzer says:

        *NOT ENTIRELY CORRECT!!!*

        On the FireTV the refresh rate switching is *ONLY* supported by the Prime Video app!!!!!!
        It does not work in ANY other app! (except Plex which does the switching on its own)

        One the Shield it more often than not will simply FAIL to switch refresh rates automatically or switch to the wrong one (this applies to both the built in beta refresh rate switcher as well as the app from the playstore).

        The *ONLY* streaming player where automatic refresh rate changing is actually working across (almost) all apps is the Apple TV 4k…..

        I had to figure this out the hard way actually buying all these devices….. You’d think that automatic refresh rate switching for judder free playback is a standard….

  2. TechyChris says:

    My Sony TV, which I assume is a 2020 model since I purchased it January 2021, updated to Android 11 last night which I thought was fairly impressive because just a few months ago it updated to Android 10 (It came out of the box Android 9.)

  3. Russ says:

    I would think some of the security fixes would apply and be beneficial.

    • Security fixes for Android devices are not tied to core OS updates. Security updates are pushed out separately and available to all devices, regardless of the version of Android. So a device running Android 5 can still have all the latest security updates.

  4. Nobody says:

    They could add 21:9 resolution support, though

  5. John Smith says:

    still no support for cameras over 480p ?

    I want to use my logitec c920spro webcam with my Android TV for duo
    but there are only options for 480p and 480P
    that is all , it looks like potato , you think it would at least support 720 if not 1080

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