I've gone through a lot of phones, Chromebooks, headphones, and a verifiable flood of phone cases in the last four years, but my NVIDIA Shield TV is my constant entertainment companion. I've banged out hundreds of articles while listening to old episodes of this show or that — I like quoting along to shows as I work, it helps keep my vibes up — but I've also burned hours and hours at a time when I should've been cleaning my kitchen, baking something to eat, or lately, getting out of my apartment.
NVIDIA did a bang-up job on the Shield TV and four years on, it remains the best and only real contender for getting Android TV unless yours came with the software installed. In fact, with the NVIDIA Shield TV Controller and the ability to quickly navigate search results and multiple seasons of a show for the perfect episode, it's easier than ever to keep the stories flowing and get whatever emotional or comedic punch I need. That's why I really hope that for Android TV, the next major update brings the same Digital Wellbeing we've enjoyed on our phones to the TV.
YouTube has technically had Digital Wellbeing for almost a year now, allowing you to see how much you watch and can encourage you to take breaks, but the "Take a break" setting is not available on the Android TV version of the app. I imagine this is because if you're watching YouTube on a TV, Google assumed you've got time to kill — or because features often take a while to get to the Android TV app.
Even if YouTube had "Take a break", which it doesn't, YouTube isn't the only app on Android TV, and binges hit me in Hulu and Funimation just as often. And unlike a phone, which can serve a functional, useful purpose alongside distracting the user from the absolute insanity happening in the world, the entertainment apps on Android TV want you to use them as long as you can.
There's no real incentive for them to police themselves — especially on a platform that is designed first and foremost for content consumption — but Digital Wellbeing would take the onus away from app developers and instead give users the controls they need to help rein in the viral video and ONE MORE EPISODE addictions.
Digital Wellbeing on Android TV would also be a great place for a new feature I really hope comes to Android phones eventually: a cumulative screen time limit. Currently, you can only set time limits on a per-app basis, but hitting the time limit on a single app in Digital Wellbeing would make me behave no differently than Funimation's servers going down for the fifth weekend in a row: "Okay, let's see what's good on Hulu tonight."
I know that this is a personal problem and at the end of the day, personal responsibility must win out, but I do wish the tools were out there for Android TV the way they are for phones. Between Autoplay and the clock not appearing unless you're on the home screen, it's very easy to lose hours at a time — days, when you start a show like Critical Role with its massive 4-hour episodes — and as someone who's forgetful by nature, it's very easy to get sucked in while making dinner and then look up episodes later wondering where the last eight hours went.
I'm already using Google Assistant to help me break these cycles, using Google Routines to turn out the lights around midnight and three alarms in two apps to make sure I take my sleepy-time drugs at a reasonable hour, but the more tools I could use, the more visibility and control I can exercise to get a grip on my viewing habits. And I'm sure I'm not the only one who could use them.
Still the best
Control your smart home with your Shield
The latest Shield bundle includes a SmartThings Link that connects via USB to convert your Shield into a Zigbee and Z-Wave smart home hub. This lets you connect and control an ever-growing number of compatible smart devices right from your couch. This is a great deal that makes the Shield that much more useful.
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Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.