When purchasing a smart TV, Android users are split between two nearly identical products,: Android TV and Google TV. Both will support a Google browser, Google Play, YouTube, and Google Assistant and have built-in Chromecasting and all of your favorite entertainment and streaming apps. In fact, there are so many similarities that it can be confusing to first time buyers: Android TV or Google TV? This comparison guide takes a look at Android TV vs. Google TV, with the most clear-cut, up-to-date information.
Tip: check out our list of the best Android TV boxes.
1. Operating System
Both Google TV and Android TV run on the same operating system: Android TV OS, which was first launched in June 2014. There is no difference between the two, other than Google TV supporting the latest Android versions (currently 13/12), while Android TV can have older versions.
The fact that both smart TVs have the same underlying OS can be confusing, especially since there was previously a commercially unsuccessful television OS by Google that was also called “Google TV.” However, that has been discontinued.
Any Android TV launched on the market, whether by a manufacturer, set-top box, or USB dongle (like Amazon Fire TV), always has an Android software underneath it to deliver the security patches.
To verify your own smart TV’s operating system, check its system settings. The words “Android TV” will be prominently displayed.
As Android TV OS is an open operating system, any television manufacturer can create its own Android-based OS software.
On the other hand, there are more restrictions with Google TV, as Google controls the appearance of its TV homescreen and apps. A Google TV screen has its own Google TV interface and logo but still works on an Android TV OS build at its core.
2. User Interface and Appearance
Android TV is not a proprietary brand unlike Google TV. There are many variations of user interface for Android TV. They differ depending on the television manufacturer or dongle service/set top box provider. All of them resemble an Android smartphone or tablet in terms of app placements.
For anyone who’s ever used an Android phone, it’s very easy to switch to an Android TV experience. It feels natural and does not require any learning.
Whether your Android TV was designed by Philips, Sony, Sharp, LG, TCL, Samsung, Haier, Amazon Fire Stick or others, you will find a few common features:
- scrollable installed apps on the homescreen
- search or discovery button and Settings gear icon on top
- connected to your Google Play or App Store account on an Android smartphone, iPhone or iPad.
Google TV’s user interface is quite different, as the entire experience is a highly personalized one, with a focus on easy browsing and streaming channels rather than recreating a typical “Android” appearance.
You can identify a Google TV by its prominent icon on the homescreen. The launcher discourages jumping between the apps, and you can have your own personal profiles. This TV is designed for a more sophisticated smart home experience, with support for virtual remote, video calls, and Nest devices.
Unlike Android TV, there are very few manufacturers that have built-in support for Google TV, with Sony Bravia, HiSense, and TCL being the most popular ones.
The Google TV experience is not just restricted to the big screen. You can also download it as an app on Google Play and the App Store.
Google TV is also available as a television-only app called “Google Play Movies & TV” that works on any Android TV model.
To convert an existing TV into a Google TV, you need to purchase a Google Chromecast with TV (HD) Media Streaming Device. It is also available in a 4K version, provided your television screen supports the configuration.
Good to know: Chromecast Wi-Fi not working? Try these fixes.
3. Apps and Features
Depending on your television’s storage space, both Android TV and Google TV can scale to accommodate thousands of apps.
A variety of Android TV apps are available as preinstalled software. Alternatively, you can download them via Google Play (on the television) just like on an Android phone or tablet. Apps that are not available in Google Play for your country or region also will not be available for your Android TV.
Google TV currently claims access to over 10K apps. They include Plex streaming services, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Kodi, Spotify, social media, and entertainment apps.
Google TV is a one-stop shop for any movie or TV show title. If you can’t find one on a given app/channel, you don’t need to quit the app, as the title may be available on another streaming service.
Unlike Android TV, Google TV even allows access to Apple TV and Apple ecosystem programs, though not the App Store itself.
4. User Profiles
There is a slight difference between how Android TV and Google TV register their user profiles. The former works similar to an Android smartphone, while the latter requires creating a fresh user account.
Android TV transfers your Google Play user profile to the big screen. This is helpful if you want to cast videos from your phone to the Android TV screen. You can register multiple Google accounts (Gmail-based) on an Android TV, and they will be compatible with your phone-based Google Play accounts.
With Google TV, it’s slightly different. To run it properly, you need to create a first-time user account for Google TV on your Android/iPhone. This has nothing to do with Google Play, although you can use the exact same account on both.
Tip: need a mobile device with a larger screen? Check out our Android tablet vs. Fire tablet comparison and make an informed choice.
5. Remote Control
Both Android TV and Google TV manufacturers will provide their own physical remotes. Google TV users can either use a physical remote available with a Google Chromecast Media streaming device or download and install a TV Remote app. It comes bundled with the Google TV app that is downloaded on your device.
The good news is that Google TV’s remote can also work with any Android TV model. You only need to pair your Android television via Bluetooth.
Once you pair your TV remote app with the television screen, you will receive a Bluetooth pairing request on the Android TV hardware. Connect the two and you’re good to go.
6. Parental Controls
Both Android TV and Google TV have parental control features. The former may have a dedicated PIN access to enable parental controls that allows you to create a kids’ profile with restricted access.
Google TV, on the other hand, has more sophisticated controls that are accessible from the Profile icon. It further allows selective enabling or the blocking of apps. It has family library rows and app library rows. You can also enable content censorship based on ratings.
Both Google TV and Android TV support third-party parental control apps via Google Play for enhanced restrictions.
7. Compatibility with YouTube
YouTube is available as an installed app on any Android TV model. No matter which TV you use, you should be able to view YouTube in its app drawer on the homescreen. Once you sign in with your existing Google account on phones or laptops, you can view the same videos on the big screen. There is 100% sync between the videos watched on Android TV and your other home devices.
While Google TV lets you connect to your YouTube account, it offers a few additional services, such as YouTube TV, a streaming service similar to Netflix that is currently only available in the United States.
In the following example, Google TV is showing a downloaded film title borrowed from YouTube.
The Google Play Movies & TV app can import any titles saved to YouTube on your phone or computer.
Tip: did you know that you can use Google Assistant even if your phone is locked? Learn how in this guide.
8. Compatibility with Google Assistant
All smart televisions are required to be compatible with virtual assistants. With Android TV and Google TV, that job is handled by Google Assistant. This works equally well for both types of devices.
While your television model may have its own Google Assistant support, the easiest way to create this access is to use a Google Home/Nest or Nest Mini device. Just plug it into an outlet and wait for the lights to blink and be ready for instructions.
You will need to use a Google Home or Nest app to voice match your Google Assistant for it to understand your voice. This is done through a series of tests.
Once Google Assistant is activated, you can use it to cast YouTube videos on the Android TV/Google TV from an app screen or give a voice command to run a particular program or video.
You can also connect your Netflix and other streaming services to Google Assistant. This allows you to cast your favorite Netflix program directly to the big screen.
Both Android TV and Google TV require software updates. Android TV runs a standard update paradigm based on your Android version’s timely updates. Just like your phone, you can check for updates on a screen like “App Updates.” The placement of the update’s icon varies depending on your Android TV model. Your TV manufacturer’s website will have a detailed list of updates to be performed for specific models.
With Google TV, the updates are based on Chromecast firmware versions, which mostly happens in the background. You don’t need to manually check the updates as much. With the latest Android TV models, it is easier to update the firmware without even noticing anything new.
This is a big one! The cost of an Android TV or Google TV is a major factor in your decision to buy either of them. The costs may vary depending on whether you buy a new model with Android/Google TV built in or convert an existing television device to a smart model.
As a rule, Android TVs have thousands of brands and manufacturers to choose from with a huge price variation that can range from dirt-cheap to extraordinarily high.
As Google TV has limited manufacturers, the cost of a television device that ships with Google TV is much higher on average than similar hardware that ships with with Android TV.
However, you don’t have to spend that much for a new Google TV, as the same can be achieved with the help of a Google Chromecast with TV (HD) Media Streaming Device. The problem is that not all Google TV apps will be supported for your specific TV model or in the region/country where you live.
Google TV vs. Android TV: Our Verdict
Having examined the key differences between Android TV and Google TV, the question remains: which one should you buy?
If you need a proper Android experience at the end of the day, we recommend sticking with the familiar interface of an Android TV device. It is also more cost-effective and convenient to have in most countries. There is no core Google feature in Google TV that you can’t find with Android TV.
If you can spend more, you may find more value with Google TV. It has access to many streaming services not found elsewhere, feels more secure and has the extra features to support smart home integration.
Good to know: enjoy more content on your Android TV by sideloading apps.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Google TV replacing Android TV?
Previously, Google made an announcement that it was planning to focus on Google TV more. However, Android TV has remained much more popular, as it supports many more devices and is compatible with the Android ecosystem. Clearly Google TV isn’t going to “replace” Android TV anytime soon.
Can you watch your regular TV channels on Android TV or Google TV?
You can easily watch your regular TV channels on both Android TV and Google TV without requiring access to any apps or streaming services. Just make sure the TV signal is working as it should.
Can I browse the Internet on an Android TV or Google TV?
Both Android TV and Google TV offers a compatible browser, such as Google Chrome for standard browsing. Before surfing online, check that the TV connects to Wi-Fi properly and troubleshoot any issues.
Image credit: Pixabay. All screenshots by Sayak Boral.
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