Google is releasing an update to Android TV that makes it look a lot more like the new Google TV interface found on the 2020 Chromecast. This update essentially reskins the existing Home screen of Android TV now have a tabbed navigation menu and a large banner at the top for featured content. While this update isn’t going to bring all the new features of the Google TV interface to Android TV devices, it does add some new capabilities, like a new Discover menu for finding popular and trending content.
While the Home screen of this Android TV update looks a lot like the Google TV’s interface, it functions identically to the existing Android TV interface. The first row is still a horizontally scrolling list of app icons and the second row is still a list of recently watched content, formerly named “Watch Next” but now renamed to “Play Next.” Below those first two rows are still customizable rows that are generated by the various apps installed on the device.
The most significant new capability brought on by this update is a new Discover menu tab where you can go to find suggestions for what to watch. At the top, below a banner for featured content, is a row labeled “Top picks for you.” Below that is a row for “Trending TV Shows,” followed by a row for “New movies and shows.” It’s probably safe to assume that these rows aren’t locked in place and will vary from day to day.
The last section in the new tab menu is Apps, where you’ll simply find a list of all of the apps installed on the device. This is similar to the Apps section of the Google TV interface, however, it’s missing the row of App categories that Google TV provides as a way to discover new apps.
While this update to Android TV is visually very different, it lacks many of the functional changes introduced by Google TV. Missing are individual sections for Live content, Movies, and TV shows where you can find each type of content in the Google TV interface. Also missing in this reskinning is the watch list functionality of Google TV that allows you to save content across different apps in one place, although Netflix has notably excluded its content from being added to the Google TV’s watch list.
This update helps to bridge the gap between Android TV and Google TV a bit, but it also now creates a third variant of streaming devices running Android into the mix. There will now be Android TV devices that will forever remain on the old Android TV interface, Android TV devices that get updated to this new reskinned Android TV interface that looks like Google TV, and Android TV devices with the full-fledged Google TV interface. Google says that this update will start rolling out today to devices in the US, Australia, Canada, Germany, and France, however, it’s entirely unclear which devices will or won’t be getting this update.