One of the biggest problems with TV news is that if you're not interested in a particular story – say, sports or celebrities – you have no option but to sit through it. Haystack TV aims to solve that by turning the news into personalized streams which are curated through artificial intelligence, big data, and editorial decision-making. The idea being that if you're especially interested in finance or international affairs, you can create a TV channel just about that.
In addition to being available through the browser and as a downloadable application for most major smartphone and Internet TV platforms, it is also available for Google's nascent Android TV platform, which can be found running on the latest-and-greatest Sony Smart TVs.
You can pair an Android TV box with any TV to get Google smarts in your set, but there are also a few TVs with Android TV built-in. They're usually a bit more expensive than similar TVs, but that's not the case for RCA's new Android TV 4K sets. They come in 50, 55, and 65-inch varieties, and the smallest one starts at just $499.
While it's hardly taking the world by storm, it looks like Android TV is gaining enough of a footing that there are now high-end televisions equipped with Google's entertainment OS being discounted on a regular basis. (Of course, that might simply indicate that no one is buying them. Either way, it means low prices for us.) Today's television deal comes from Sharp, and it's a big-un: the LC-70UE30U, a 70-inch, 4K smart TV. Buydig's eBay outlet has a new model on sale for $1599.99, a solid $200 off of the price for most remaining new stock.
The LC-70UE30U includes Android TV running on a quad-core processor of unknown origin (though I'm betting it's one of Qualcomm's inexpensive SoC systems).
Android N will be responsible for some big changes to phones and tablets, but that doesn't mean there aren't going to be some interesting things happening to the Android TV platform, as well. Installing the developer preview images onto a Nexus Player reveals some welcome improvements to the look and behavior of the Settings app, including a new visual layout and support for multiple accounts.
New Design for Settings
Left: previous version. Right: Android N Preview.
The Settings app has been given an entirely new look. Say goodbye to multiple rows of tiles, they've been replaced by a single column that looks very similar to the regular Settings app on phones or tablets, except it's anchored to the right side of the screen.
If you own an Android TV box or a television with it built in, there's a pretty good chance you've also taken the time to install Google's remote control app to go with it. It's not that the app is necessary, but it's a great backup in case your main remote is lost or the batteries die. All things considered, it's a pretty basic utility app; but it might not be quite so simple in the near future. A teardown shows that this little remote control is about to turn your phone into a full-fledged gamepad. There are also signs that it may soon take care of shutting off your TV for you and we might also gain control over the volume of voice responses.
Google has released a new app in the Play Store, but before you get too excited, it's not technically a new app. It's just new to the store. It's the Android TV Backdrop Daydream app. If you've got an Android TV device, it already has this app installed, but now that it's in the Play Store you should get automatic updates.
Android 6.0 already includes support for pausing and time-shifting on TV devices, but Android N adds a more robust method of creating multiple recordings in supported apps. These can be scheduled in advance or triggered as you're watching. There aren't any apps yet to test this, but it sounds very much like DVR functionality.
If you've ever tried playing an odd video format on your phone, chances are you've used one of a couple of well known video players like MX or VLC. After a slow start, the latter has been receiving rather frequent updates and improvements that keep pushing it forward. VLC also has an active beta program (of which you can be a part by joining this Google+ community and then becoming a tester on the Play Store) and its latest release is version 1.9.0 which is actually a beta for version 2.0.0. Let's pretend that's not unnecessarily convoluted and move on.
The most cost-effective way to experience Android TV is to buy a set-top box, but if you don't want something else taking up space near your TV, getting the software baked in does just that. Sony's latest line of 4K TVs run Android TV, and after going on pre-sale in the middle of February, they're starting to become actually available.