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Android 7.0 brings DVR features and picture-in-picture to Android TV

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.

Android TV and Nougat will make the biggest screen in your house even better.

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 (opens in new tab) 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.

Better 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.

Picture-in-picture

PiP

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.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

40 Comments
  • I'll be interested to see this pushed out to sony's android tv's. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Was just thinking about how my Sony will never see this lol. Oh well, I bought the TV for the TV itself, the built in Android TV was just a bonus, a very nice bonus that I am very pleased with. Worst case, I can get a stand alone Android TV if it is never upgraded. Posted via the Android Central App
  • This is why I don't like smart TVs. I want my TV to just be a really nice, dumb screen that I can hook up a set top box to. I don't update my TV very often (I have a six-year-old Vizio that I see no reason to replace), and no OEM will ever offer software updates for a TV for more than a couple of years, if at all.
  • And nothing stops you from doing that on a smart TV... The problem with STBs is that there is no good STB with HDMI pass-through. No reason in this day an age that one should have to switch inputs to view a quick picture, video. Furthermore the PIP options will be great for viewing content while also watching tv...
  • Both versions of the Xbox One feature HDMI pass through. It's a bit pricier than a standard STB, but it's there.
  • Exactly, buy a brand new TV for 3.000$ and get updated for...two to three years? And then there's android auto. Same thing, scrap it within five years:) Posted via the Android Central App
  • I think two to three years is a wildly optimistic expectation for smart TV updates. If I were to buy a high-end TV with Android TV on it, there is absolutely no way I'd expect to see it updated to Android P in a couple of years. And I'm with you on Android Auto, too. Android Auto is neat and all, and I've really enjoyed using it when I get rental cars that feature it, but I don't trust car manufacturers to keep that updated *at all*. I'm not even all that confident that Google will continue to give it even the amount of attention they currently are. Getting a high quality car dock and hoping for a really good car mode in future Android updates is probably a better bet.
  • Android Auto's interface is controlled by the Android Auto app. Your head unit's manufacturer has no say in the interface, and it gets updated whenever the app gets updated.
  • Android Auto is just a remote display into the phone so as long as no one ever changes the agree protocol for doing this it should work for a long time its kinda like the phone is Casting into the car display in a way.
  • I'm with you. Give me a top quality TV that is just a TV and I'll worry about a set top box myself. One of the main reasons for that is startup time. It's frustrating to have to wait almost 2 minutes for all functions to become available when I turn on my TV just because it's a smart TV. That may not be as much of a problem on newer smart TVs, but it sure is for the couple I have that are 3 and 5 years old from LG and Sony.
  • I agree with you. I have a 2013 Samsung with no smart features. The TV is amazing and is perfectly calibrated and configured for my needs. I hook my pc, consoles and apple tv on it, and it does what it should do that is show the image.
    On the other hand the other screens on the house are 2015 samsungs and one lg with smart features, when i turn it on i can't even change the volume or channel because the OS is loading. That's why i am keeping my tv for even longer time, i hope in next years there is a 4k tv with no smart features.
  • That's how I feel about my Sharp. I bought it since the screen is 4K and giant, an Android TV is a nice bonus. if Android TV stops working for some reason, I've got my Xbox One for "smarts."
  • I just asked my Sony NSX40GT1 (Google TV) released on 12/22/2010, last updated on 9/17/2012 and it said "maybe one major update but that's it" Also don't expect selling features like YouTube or Podcasts to work 6 years later because that would just be silly!
  • I haven't kept up with Android TV other than to read what Nvidia had accomplished with Shield and that's pretty compelling. Are there other vendors out there doing Android TV at least as well or possibly better? I only ask becuase it seems likely Nvidia will step away from the Android TV/Tablet/Device market now that it's all but a done deal that Tegra is the new Nintendo NX platform of choice, I'd be interested to see how Android TV evolves, particularly with regard to baked-in/TV set versions of the software (even if adding some more expensive hardware to the TV itself is necessary. TV's of really terrific quality are dirt cheap these day...I'd like to see some compelling reasons to keep the prices "more" even but with added features so we don't see that quality dive in the epic "race to the bottom" it's become.
  • Xiaomi announced a small set top box earlier this year. I imagine there will be a new Nexus Player eventually, if for no other reason that to have reference hardware for developers. But most Android TV devices sold are Smart TV's that have Android TV as the OS, which sucks because those will never see this update. On your comment about NVIDIA, they have the scale to handle Android TV and the Nintendo NX at the same time, so as long as the Shield TV is profitable to them (I don't see how it couldn't be), I imagine they would do both.
  • I don't see any reason to assume they step away for that reason. Otherwise they wouldn't be making a variety of hardware devices they make now that compete with products that contain their chips.
  • I've been approached just a few days ago to be a part of the "Nvidia Shield Insider program", which aims at getting user feedback to improve the lineup of products and spread the word about the platform... So id be really surprised if they stepped out of the game soon.
  • I have a 2015 high end Sony Android TV and it is still on Android 5.1.1. It should be required by the government for companies to provide updates for at least 1 year or 2 years. Hopefully Sony gives me an update to Marshmellow at least. Posted via Priv by BlackBerry
  • Oh yes... that seems like a very worthwhile use of government regulation. More pointless laws. </sarcasm>
  • Required by the government? No. I'm way more comfortable with the idea of government oversight of private industry than a lot of people, but that's a stretch even by my standards. Just deactivate the smart features of the TV and hook it up to an Android TV (or Apple TV, whatever) device that will actually get functionality and security updates.
  • you cant be too mad. Once you pay for the tv, the manufacturer wont see another dollar from you. Why would you (and your tv) be a priority for them? provided their products work i cant fault them beyond that. upgrades are nice but things like tvs (while very capable in 2016) are still primarily just screens for the majority of households. meaning you plug something in and enjoy you content. the r&d for old tvs isnt wouldnt earn any return only give you a good reason not to buy a new tv.
  • Here's hoping my TV (the first generation of Sony's native Android TVs) get's the 7 update. Doubt it though considering I'm still on Lollipop :|
  • Would have been nice if the Nexus player had a passthrough system vs what they did. Then this could be used on it. Been a fan of Google TV/Android TV since it's introduction. I would prefer Google handle a nice piece of hardware though.
  • " Microsoft has the Home Theater PC market pretty well wrapped up" What? Have you seen the mess that Xbox one has become. Nevermind that the PS4 is eating their lunch. Few years ago I'd have agreed. Then Microsoft drops mce from Windows killing many people's cable dvrs. Now they are abandoning TV tuners on the Xbox one. Now if silicon dust could get their hr series of network tuners working with these apis. It would take android TV to a whole nother level. Posted via the Android Central App
  • An Xbox is not an HTPC. It's a game console and personal data harvester. I mean actual media center computers.
  • So true Jerry, but when it was first foisted up to the public. It was positioned as a whole home entertainment system. Over the last couple of years that has proven to be false. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Because it didn't sell and the compromises they had to make to create that "center of the living room" device, made it notably slower than its competition. Everything about the refreshed Xbox One S model is about making you forget about all of that nonsense (not that it got any faster, but it's certainlyore "games focused")
  • Im just here to read all the complaints!
  • Wake me up when standalone Android TV boxes available in the US have HDMI passthrough. Until then, this feature is DOA.
  • Agree with the above comments on the Sony TV's they all need updating to 7.0 otherwise why did Sony bother using android TV on their TV's.
  • Yes true, are any Sony TV running 6.0+ right now? I have a 2015 and it's still running 5.1.1. We should at least get 7.0 though.
  • Not that I know off, mines still on 5.1.1. They don't seemed concerned with the version of android at the moment, however at least other functionality and improvements are happening.
  • Jerry right now I refuse to delete android central app(after watching all these topics with Pokemon and samsung) because of your reviews. Nice job sir.. Posted via the Android Central App
  • That's a pretty dope TV they're using in the pic lol
  • Confused ... How do you get live TV on Android TV? Specifically, I have Nexus players....?
  • With a tv tuner that's connected to the internet and a service package.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPTV explains it mostly correct.
  • But which devices will get it?
  • Google will make it available for all of them. It's up to the company who's name is on the box to do anything with it. Nexus Player will get it. I think the Shield TV will get it, too. Anything else is a crapshoot.
  • Not bad, I guess. Haven't really come across any wow features yet. At least this is not as big of a mess as AW 2.0 Posted via the Android Central App
  • So, if I understand this correctly, Android N *should* allow my Google Nexus Player to act as a DVR if I have an STB Emulator app and a sub to IPTV services as well as external drive space? That will be a neat trick...if it works...