Google didn't forget about the big-screen experience in Android 7.0, and two new features are here that are designed to enhance the experience on your Android-powered television.
Google knows that many folks want a great media ecosystem on the biggest screen in the house — the television. They're not alone. Apple and Microsoft see the space and are playing on their own strengths, too. Microsoft has the Home Theater PC market pretty well wrapped up, but Apple and Google still think they can offer something valuable to folks looking for more than what the cable company can deliver, and have been busy refining existing features and adding new ones to their TV offerings. This type of competition is great for us — the people buying the products.
Google offers Android TV both as a stand-alone box you can use with an existing television or as the built-in operating system on high-end TVs. For most purposes, they act the same way and do the same things, but the set-top models are a pass-through and have no TV tuner. The Live Channels app for Android TV uses an IP-based TV tuner to bring television shows to set-top boxes, while all-in-one Android TV sets like this 70-inch beauty from Sharp can use the built-in tuner. This brings us to the first new (and much-awaited) feature of Android Nougat for the telly — better DVR capabilities with TV recording.
With Marshmallow, Android TV was able to pause, resume or rewind a live broadcast through what Google calls time-shifting APIs. These placed the video and audio from a broadcast into a buffer that was saved as a recording, and we were able to view the recording while the live stream was being added to it. Android 7.0 takes this to the next level by adding full-blown recording support.
You'll be able to record live shows and save them for later, schedule a recording and have multiple recordings saved on your TV at once. Basically, you'll have DVR-like capabilities built in. The new APIs also have error handling that lets an app developer save a portion of a recording if an error is encountered rather than throwing everything away. Missing three minutes of your favorite show isn't a good experience, but it's better than missing all of it.
Google also makes it clear in the documentation that a new Live Channels app is coming that supports these features. Developers of other apps that want to use DVR features will need to add them to their existing apps and target them for Android 7.0.
The other new feature for Android TV in Nougat is picture-in-picture mode.
This is an extension of Android 7.0's multi-window display that can put an application's viewable portion into a 240x135dp (dot pitch) top-layer window, much like we have seen from traditional televisions in the past. It has several really cool differences, though.
A developer can use the PiP mode to display one view of an app while a different view of the same app is on the main portion of the display. Example use cases they give include playing the tail end of one show or video in the picture window while a summary or promo plays in the main view, or showing what's currently playing in the picture window while a user navigates the program menu or settings in the main window. This would be great for building a queued playlist on video night, or for seeing what else in on when you're not into the live broadcast that's currently playing. It could also be a way to do horrible things like interrupt a video stream with an ad. Developers, don't do that, please.
Of course, the rest of the changes and improvements in Android 7.0 apply to Android TV, too. The update should breathe some new life into Android in your living room.
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