Every year, Google seems to try to figure out its living room strategy in front of our eyes, and this year is no different. Google I/O 2018 is a launching point for refreshed Android TV software based on Android P, new Android TV form factors and more. Here are all of the big announcements from the conference.
What's new with Android TV at Google I/O?
JBL Link Bar: The most notable announcement in the Android TV space at this year's conference is the JBL Link Bar, a new device that pulls triple duty as a soundbar, Android TV box and Google Assistant speaker. This is a typical-looking home theater soundbar, but when plugged into a TV it becomes a complete Android TV experience just like you'd get from a set-top box. But its capabilities go further — it has three HDMI ports and can actively switch between them with voice control, even providing Android TV interface overlays on content from other devices like game consoles. It's a new frontier for Android TV, and an extremely exciting one at that.
ADT-2: A little more behind the scenes, Google has also announced the ADT-2 development kit, which is a small HDMI dongle that runs Android TV and is designed for developers to use to make apps for the platform. Yes, this is the rumored Android TV dongle that passed through the FCC last month — and no, it isn't turning into a consumer device. It does, however, show Google's willingness to continue development work on Android TV, as the ADT-2 is running Android P and Google has fresh plans for the platform going forward.
Expansion to cable boxes: Google is also talking about its willingness to work with cable providers to hopefully load Android TV on first-party cable boxes in lieu of those slow and cumbersome proprietary operating systems they currently use. There are no announcements to be made just yet, but Google sees the cable box industry as a future third pillar of Android TV expansion, right next to being embedded in TVs and in standalone devices like the NVIDIA Shield and JBL Link Bar.
Improved setup: As part of the Android P update to Android TV, setup will be much quicker and easier — Google says that it's cut setup time by nearly 30%. If you're using Android, you'll be able to complete the setup process directly from your phone via a push notification from the Android TV device. Google is also introducing simpler setup through your web browser, meaning even iOS or desktop users can set up their Android TVs with ease.
App discovery: App discovery is now integrated as part of the setup process, as well. Before completing the setup, you'll be presented with a list of relevant Android TV apps, including services like Netflix, Hulu, and even Nest (for watching your security camera feeds directly from your TV). If you've used Android TV before, your new device will even download previously installed apps automatically.
Suggested settings: Just like with Android on your phone, Android TV will be gaining suggested settings. These are relevant options pinned to the top of the Settings app that you might have missed during setup — perhaps a notice to finish fully setting up Google Assistant, or a prompt to sign into your Google account.