Google offered an update on its TV platform, Android OS, at its Google I/O developer event on Tuesday. The company said its Android TV OS now reaches over 80 million monthly active devices, including through its new experience Google TV for Chromecast, as well as other platforms like smart TVs. The company also previewed a series of upcoming features for Android TV OS, including a remote control feature for consumers and several developer updates around casting, emulators, and more.
The company repositioned Android TV OS last fall with the introduction of the Google TV experience. The new experience, which runs Android TV under the hood, now powers Chromecast with Google TV, smart TVs from Sony, and is coming soon to some TCL TVs. Android TV OS saw 80% year-over-year growth in the U.S., Google noted, when announcing its 80 million monthly active devices milestone during the Google I/O event.
Google’s milestone may seem to put Android TV OS is ahead of rivals like Roku and Amazon Fire TV, with 53.6 million and 50+ million monthly active accounts, respectively. However, these are different measurements.
Android TV OS figures are actually calculated by counting the number of devices that were actively used in a month — which means a user with multiple devices could have those devices counted separately, but a family with multiple people watching on one device would be counted once.
Roku and Amazon define monthly active users as “accounts” that have been active during the month. That means, even if that account streams on several different devices during the time period, it would only be counted once. If Roku or Amazon were to calculate active devices as Google is doing, their numbers would be higher.
In addition, Roku and Amazon Fire TV power both their respective company’s own device lineup and select TVs from partners, but Google’s Android TV OS also powers devices and services from TV and streaming device brand partners as well as TV service providers. That means this global number includes operator-tier and set-top boxes also powered by Android TV OS. It’s a different type of market.
Google today also announced it’s adding remote control features directly in Android, so users will be able to control their TV even when their existing remote goes missing. This feature, arriving later this year, will make it easier to type in usernames and passwords or search for longer titles, Google notes. It will work for all users of Android TV OS, including Google TV.
Meanwhile, for those building Android TV experiences, the company announced a handful of new features coming soon. A Cast Connect feature will allow users to cast from their Chrome browser on their phone or tablet to an Android TV app. Stream Transfer and Stream Expansion will allow users to transfer media to other devices or play audio on multiple devices.
Google is also making its first Google TV Emulator available, running on Android 11, along with an Android 11 image with the traditional Android TV experience. And developers can now also use a remote that more closely mimics TV remotes directly within the Emulator.
Following developer requests, Firebase Test Lab is adding Android TV support, as well. Initially, Firebase Test Lab Virtual Devices will run the developer’s app in the cloud on Android TV emulators to scale a test across hundreds or thousands of virtual devices. Support for physical devices will come soon.
Finally, the Android 12 Beta 1 is being made available for TV on its ADT-3 Developer Kit, starting today.
Article updated 5/19/21 to clarify 80% growth figure is YoY in the U.S. Had originally said over 80% growth was from the U.S.