IFA 2014: Philips demonstrate Android TV
Philips promise their new system will be as quick and intuitive as using your smartphone
When it comes to Smart TV systems, LG set the bar very high this year with their webOS powered Smart+ platform.However that doesn't mean the rest of the manufacturers are sitting on their hands and at IFA 2014, TP Vision were keen to demonstrate how their new Philips Smart TVs powered by Android actually worked. Much like LG's use of webOS, Android takes the slick and fast user interface found on billions of mobile devices and has adapted them for use on a TV.
The result is a platform that immediately feels quicker and more intuitive than many other Smart platforms. It should be noted that Android TV is included on top of Philips' existing smart platform, so you can still access all the content on there, including those 'specialist gentleman's apps.' You can find an in-depth review of Philips' own Smart TV platform here.
The main menu for the new Smart TV system opens over the top of a full-screen version of the picture you were watching when you pressed the Home button on the remote, rather than the picture being reduced to a thumbnail image. There is a simple tool bar along the top of the screen providing access to various hubs, including Now on TV and On-Demand listings, along with an Apps page.
What Android TV offers on top of the usual Smart platform is a user interface that is designed to deliver smartphone speed to a Smart TV. Any one of the billions of Android users around the world should be very familiar with the new TV-based platform from using their own smart devices. To make the platform as fast and effective as possible, the TVs use quad-core processing and adhere to the standards set by the the Smart TV Alliance, as well as GooglePlay.
This means you have access to all the apps that Philips offers as well as all the TV optimised apps in GooglePlay. As a result the number of apps now available on Philips TV has increase substantially. The cloud based apps will remain in the cloud but apps downloaded from GooglePlay are stored locally, so the only limiting factor is the memory built into the TV. The faster and more intuitive nature of Android TV means you can easily switch between live TV and online content. There's also a recommendation feature and the entire system is design to make it easy to find and access content.
One area that TP Vision were keen to stress was the growth of gaming with, according to the manufacturer, an average of two gamers in each household and 59% of people playing games. In fact non-console gaming has increased 35% in the last 12 months. To address this growing trend their new platform will offer OnLive gaming, a cloud-based gaming platform which streams games directly to your TV. The quality will be dependent on your internet speed, you'll need a minimum of 4mbps, and you'll also need a game controller connected to the TV's USB port but there are 300 titles to choose from and the quality in the demonstration was very good. Philips will also offer more games via GooglePlay and through Gamesloft.The cloud-based gaming was very effective, all you need is a controller and a good internet connection.Whilst the absence of a touch screen does preclude many of the apps developed for Android smart devices, there are still over 200 apps optimised for TVs. To make navigating as easy and seamless as possible the provided remote control includes both a QWERTY keyboard and a pointer. There is also a built-in microphone for voice control and gesture control using the built-in Skype video camera. In addition there is the Philips TV remote app, which is freely available for both iOS and Android. The remote app is quite handy as it allows you to preselect content without disturbing what is currently on screen.
Another area where TP Vision place a lot of importance is Spotify Connect. This feature makes it easier to listen to your favourite music than ever before. You just press the Spotify Connect button on your phone and it will find the TV on your network and automatically select the TV to play through. Once the music is playing on your TV, you can turn your phone off and continue to listen through your TV. Other areas where the new Philips Smart platform offers value include Hue control for both Ambilight and other connected lighting in the room; along with Smart Home for home security and home automation.
There's no doubt that Android will give a lot of TV manufacturers a boost when it comes to their Smart TV platforms and with regular updates and more apps coming online every day, it's certain that the system can only get better.
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