Nvidia Shield TV won’t be updated to Android 10 but Tivo Stream 4K might

Nvidia has confirmed on its product forum that the Shield TV will not be updating to Android 10, as spotted by @mrjuzmafia. An employee post states that “SHIELD development is still full steam ahead” and that “there is still a lot of development going into SHIELD” but Nvidia has decided to skip updating to Android 10 because “the effort was large and there was essential no impact to end users.” The Tivo Stream 4K, on the other hand, appears to be set to receive an Android 10 update, according to the Google Play Console, which @AndroidTV_Rumor spotted.

Android devices getting updated to the latest version of Android has always been a slippery slope, but that’s especially true for Android TV devices. Android 11 will have been out for a full year next month and Android 12 is already out in beta, yet there are no streaming media players (SMP) running the latest version of Android apart from Google’s ADT-3 development device. Very few SMPs run Android 10 and I don’t think any have been updated from Android 9 to 10. SMPs that run Android 10 are more recent models that launched with Android 10, even though Andoird 11 was already out when some of them launched.

Of the most notable Android TV devices, the Chromecast w/ Google TV and Walmart’s Onn devices launched and still run Android 10, while all Nvidia Shield TV models and the Tivo Stream 4K are still running Android 9. As for Amazon’s current SMP lineup, the 2nd-gen Fire TV Cube, 3rd-gen Fire TV Stick, and Fire TV Stick Lite run Fire OS 7, which is based on Android 9, and the Fire TV Stick 4K runs Fire OS 6, which is based on Android 7.1.

It’s understandable that SMP manufacturers aren’t rushing to update the version of Android TV on their devices because there is very little benefit to the user since the TV variant of Android, specifically, has received very few enhancements over the years. It’s system apps, with the launcher/home screen being the most notable one, where the vast majority of improvements live, and those system apps/features are rarely dependent on the underlying operating system version. This is why even Fire OS 5 devices, which are based on a version of Android that is over 6 years old, have nearly all the same features as the most recent models.

That said, the operating system version certainly isn’t irrelevant because 3rd-party apps and services very often draw arbitrary lines for support based on the underlying operating system version. Netflix, for some absurd reason, requires Fire OS 7 for Dolby Atmos surround sound, even though several streaming services support Atmos on Fire OS 6 without any issues. NBC recently decided, for an equally absurd reason, that Fire OS 5 devices couldn’t stream certain content in its NBC Sports app.

So, even though an OS version update on SMPs usually adds little to no new features, it’s still a reassuring marker to indicate whether a device will continue to be usable in the long run. Here’s hoping that Android 12, which should be released next month, will see wider adoption among SMPs than Android 10 and 11 have.

3 comments
  1. Russ says:

    (I’m definitely not an expert in android but:) I thought that they added more features to the OS since V5 to support DRM/protected content and HDMI versions more with each OS version. I didn’t think they supported any protected content until in some early versions of the OS. Isn’t the DRM/protected content/HDMI 2.2 support a big deal for the OS and streaming? and aren’t those the most important OS upgrades in these latest OS versions?

    • Support for newer versions of HDMI is pretty much irrelevant because even if the OS is updated to support it, the hardware will always be limited to the old version. As for DRM, yes, there have been instances where very old devices lose support because the DRM is considered too outdated, but that’s pretty rare. In many cases, DRM can be updated without updating the base OS version. For example, Fire TV devices running Fire OS 5 were updated to support Apple’s FairPlay DRM when the Apple TV app launched and the base OS version didn’t need to be updated.

  2. WOT Box TV says:

    The only two other SMPs that I’m aware of that released with Android TV 10 are the Nokia 8000 Streaming box and the Youin You Box. Both only seem to be available in Europe.
    Interestingly the OEM for both those devices is SEI Robotics, maker of the TiVo Stream 4k.

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