Android TV box refers to an electronic device running the Android operating system that enables the owner to view streaming media content on television sets, digital media players and set top boxes. The Android user interface enables content discovery and streaming content from various media services. The device essentially streams media content through the internet and is an IPTV device.
An Android TV box can come in the form of a set top box or in the form of a dongle that you plug into the back of your TV. You can use it to watch on-demand video apps like Netflix, video sites like YouTube and broadcast network TV shows. As a rule of thumb you can watch anything using this device that you can access on your mobile phone. Android TV boxes come with the MINIX launcher that is used to access content but you can use a wide range of compatible launchers available from the Android software eco-system.
It is important to note that an Android TV box is not the same as Android TV that was launched by Google in 2014 as a platform for organising and searching content (including using Google’s voice assistant). Google’s Android TV is a customized version of the core Android operating system which does not run all apps that can run on Android. Instead it has apps that are specifically designed to be run on a TV instead of a touchscreen and use the TV remote control as an input device. Android TV is available for high-end smart TVs that (as a rule of thumb) were built after 2015. Android TV boxes provide similar functionality (minus a few features) on a wider range of TVs at a lower cost.
Android TV boxes are enormously popular. However, despite using the Android name, the interface on Android TV boxes is different to its smartphone counterpart. Apps are displayed on scrollable ribbons across the screen and you can set up your favorites, as well as seeing recommended content, in other ribbons further down the screen.
Android TV users also have access to the Google Play Store but it’s not the Google Play Store that you’ll be accustomed to if you’re an Android mobile user. The list of available apps only shows software that is compatible with the Android TV box. All the apps you’d expect to find for viewing content, however, are present. The Android TV box isn’t only about watching videos: there are music apps like Spotify and Pandora, video players such as VLC and games you can run as well.