An update coming later this year will add Android TV controls directly to Android phones — allowing users to navigate apps and type long passwords.
Google is upgrading Android phones with a built-in remote control for Android TV — a feature that the iPhone and Apple TV owners have enjoyed since 2018. While Google has long offered an Android TV remote control companion app on the Google Play Store, this new integration looks to make the experience considerably more intuitive than it’s ever been.
While the Apple TV is often mocked for its exorbitantly high price, there’s a reason why a lot of people (specifically, iPhone users) keep buying the streaming box. Similar to other devices within the Apple ecosystem, the Apple TV and iPhone work seamlessly together in a way other streaming devices just can’t match. Want to control an Apple TV without the physical Siri Remote? Just open Control Center on an iPhone, tap the remote icon, and a virtual remote for the Apple TV pops up instantly. Start watching a show on the Apple TV and then want to continue it on the go? Open the Apple TV app on the iPhone and pick up exactly where it was left off.
During its opening keynote for Google I/O 2021, Google announced similar functionality is now coming to Android phones and Android TV. As part of an update rolling out “later this year,” Android phones will get a built-in remote control for Android TV devices. Google says it’ll work instantly for the over 80 million Android TV users across the globe, including televisions with the new Google TV interface. It’ll replace the aging companion app that hasn’t been updated since 2017, hopefully with better performance and a more intuitive design.
How The Built-In Android TV Remote Will Work
Similar to the current Android TV remote control app, the built-in one will offer nearly identical functionality. It can be used to navigate the interface, open streaming apps, and initiate Google Assistant voice commands to find something to watch. It’ll also come with keyboard support, making it substantially easier to type in a long password when logging into a new application.
None of that will be new to people that have already been using the Android TV companion app, but by integrating these controls without the need for a separate download, they should be much more accessible. Not only is the current app looking pretty outdated these days, but it also appears that a lot of Android TV owners don’t even realize it exists. Google says there currently 80 million+ Android TV devices, yet the Play Store shows the companion app as having around 10 million installs.
Overall, this is a good update for Android TV. It’s nice to see Google integrating the platform more deeply with Android smartphones, especially in a way that brings Android TV up to feature parity with its Apple competition. The current rift between Android TV and Google TV is still more confusing than it needs to be, but regardless, this is a step in the right direction.
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