Google TV Updates Bring Some Very Welcome Improvements

When we last looked at Google TV, I was smitten with a product that I really enjoyed, but that wasn’t catching on. It was okay according to most reviewers, but needed a lot of improvement.

After updating my TV to the latest and greatest, I can say that Google (once again) did a really nice job on the product.

Improved TV and Movie Search

First and foremost, they’ve seriously improved the way you can browse TV shows and movies through Google TV. Not only can you search movies and TV shows by genre (including Movies on TV, Comedy, Drama, etc.), but you can also organize those searches by time (up to the next hour) and quality, filtering out non-HD channels.

Each listing has some information with it, including how much time is left for that show or movie, and what channel it’s on. Obviously, you can also press Enter on your remote to go to that channel (so long as your remote is configured for your TV). Google TV will also make recommendations for you based on shows you rate and watch.

Google TV Dashboard (from google.com/tv)

The other nice thing about the TV and Movies search (simply an app named “TV & Movies”) is you also have the ability to buy and rent movies and episodes. From what it looks like, they are using their own service as well as Amazon to allow users to get this content. I thought this was a nice move on their part!

App Support and Improved Interface

Possibly the best addition to Google TV is that of the Android Market and widget support. You can now go out to the Android Market and get apps for your TV. Initially, the store launched with 50 apps made for Google TV. There is now much more than that.

The App Store (from google.com/tv)

My personal favorite is Google Music, which allows me to play my entire music collation right on my TV (how awesome is that?). There are a ton of other ones out there, including games like Poker and Frogger, news apps by Fox, CNN, and The Wall Street Journal, and some pretty fun looking apps, like “The Karaoke Channel,” which turns your TV into a Karaoke screen.

Working on your own app? You can now side-load apps from a USB drive!

Google TV also got an interface overhaul, moving away from the lists on the left (which could get confusing) to everything being integrated or app based. With your home dashboard, you now get to choose which app icons you see most frequently, and you don’t have to worry about viewing strictly marketplace apps, like Amazon’s. That’s now completely integrated into the TV and Movies app, as well as search.

It also supports widgets and notifications, both of which are customizable, to give it a real Android feel. There aren’t too many widgets for Google TV right now (at least for my crop of apps) but there is a clock, one for Google Music, one for Pandora, and one for Twitter.

Better Media Integration

One of the really awesome things about a TV that connects to the Internet is that you have access to content on the Internet. Google wanted to improve the user experience when accessing the content for two areas specifically: YouTube and photos.

YouTube on Google TV (from google.com/tv)

With the new and improved YouTub app, you can more easily browse videos, check out your own videos and subscriptions, and watch and scroll through playlists easily. Plus, searching is as easy as typing and watching the results show up. With the right videos, the quality is incredible. There is really nothing lost on watching YouTube on your TV. And just as always, YouTube is also integrated right into search, to make it even easier to find videos.

You have the same thing with the new Photos app for Google TV. Any photos associated with your Google account will automatically be pulled to your TV for you to view and search. You can create a slideshow out of your albums and you have the ability to browse your friends’ albums, which I thought was a really nice touch!

I did notice that it’s only people your friends with on Google Photos, not Google+. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Another really awesome feature of the Photos app is the ability to connect to Flickr to view your photos from that site. Plus, your friends’ public photos then get added to the Friends area. As someone who personally thinks Flickr is better than most photo sharing apps, Google Photos included, I thought this was an incredibly nice touch.

The last feature that the Photos app offers is an area for you to view local media. Just plug in a USB drive and start viewing photos.

You can also play videos and music off of removable storage now.

Final Thoughts

We see a lot of improvements in Google TV’s latest update. With apps, widgets, a dashboard, notifications, and more, you can tell that Google has been listening and changing accordingly. I love that I can get apps and access files on a portable drive. The TV and Movies app is incredible and convenient. My favorite part however, is the Google Music app, which allows me to access all of my music right from my TV.

Do you have Google TV with the latest upgrades? What do you think? Did I miss anything?


  • jj

    My Logitech Revue just updated to Honeycomb tonight and I love the new interface. Internet is a bit more snappy as well. Plus there’s a ton of apps I can now download and let me tell you the fireplace app really is hilarious!

    • http://www.casabona.org Joe Casabona

      Haha yes I got the fireplace app too! It looks pretty awesome next to my Christmas tree, though I think I need to move my stockings to over my TV.

  • jeff

    I got my update yesterday and it is a game changer. Plex runs awesome compared to my roku box.

  • DrWeb

    Got my update yesterday, but haven’t had a lot of time to tinker and configure it yet. I’m excited, The Whole World Wide Web, plus cable, streaming movies & tv, video, pictures.. apps! It’s a real bargain at $99.. fun toy, and I will get that fireplace app tonight ;)

    Best,
    DrWeb

  • rob

    does the new update allows hulu plus?

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