What is Google TV exactly? The new streaming platform explained

Rumors of Android TV's demise have been greatly exaggerated

What is Google TV exactly?
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Android TV is not dead. But Google TV has gone live.

You may be wondering how those two statements are both true. In the leaky period before the new 4th-gen Chromecast was made official by Google, it was widely expected that the Google TV moniker that was doing the rumor mill rounds would be a replacement for Android TV.

But, not so.

In fact, Google TV is a smart TV platform in its own right; effectively a fork of Android TV, with apps like Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Netflix, Disney+ and HBO Max all on board.

That means that the new Chromecast isn't just a receiver, like a Chromecast-enabled speaker or TV; it's a smart streaming device to take on the likes of the just-announced Amazon Fire TV Stick and the popular Roku range.

You will, of course, need a remote control to operate it and you'll get one in the box - a remote that has a built-in microphone for Google Assistant commands - but more on that in a bit.

In 2021, at CES, Sony and TCL became the first brands to use Google TV in their TV line-ups. We expect more brands to follow.

Google TV UI and guide

Google TV is actually a version of Android TV that, like Amazon's Fire TV user interface, brings together shows and movies from a range of different sources for your perusal, depending on what you subscribe to.

Google described it as a layer that sits on top of Android TV, with an emphasis on presenting videos from a range of streaming services front and center on the menu screen. The tech giant said it's the "biggest leap yet to help you navigate your entertainment choices."

You simply need to toggle what services you want to see shows and movies from within the settings.

Then, on the For You tab you'll see personalised suggestions from across your subscriptions, organized and based on what Google thinks you'd want to watch.

Your Watchlist lets you bookmark films and TV shows you want to save for later. You can add stuff to your Watchlist from the new Chromecast, your TV, or from your phone, tablet or computer - wherever you're signed into Google, basically. And, let's face it, that's probably everywhere.

Google TV, with the might of Android TV behind it, means access to more than 6,500 apps and the ability to browse 400,000 films and TV episodes.

There's also live television - in the US, at least, with YouTube TV.

google assistant on new Google TV

Google Assistant is along for the ride

The Google Assistant is on board - built into that new Chromecast remote - and is on hand for not only smart home commands but to help you find the content you want to watch with the new Google TV.

Just say, "Ok Google, what should I watch" to get a list of popular films and TV shows.

You can also ask Google's voice assistant for sepcific recommendations based on genres, actors and the like.

And, if you've had enough TV, you can say, "Hey Google, show me my photos from today" to kick start a slideshow on your TV.

All fun and no Play

Google is also using the Google TV branding for what is currently called the Google Play Movies & TV app on smartphones, tablets, computers and smart TVs.

Android phones will see the new branding first and then it will be rolled out to other platforms.

It's from within this revamped app that you'll be able to add things to your Watchlist, as mentioned above.

That name rings a bell

If the Google TV branding sounds familiar that's because it is.

Back in 2010 Google TV first went live but it was killed in favour of Android TV, five years later.

Another five years on and we're back to where we started... naming-wise at least; but the all-new Google TV looks to be a hugely superior offering to the dumpster fire that was canned back in 2015.

And it's not just for the new Chromecast - Google said when it was first announced that Google TV will be hitting other devices in the future, and we've already seen TVs from the likes of Sony and TCL adding the platform to their arsenal in 2021.

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