We had some time to play with Philips’ TVs based on Android during IFA. The line-up has expanded with new high-end TVs, a curved model and inexpensive TVs. Here are our hands-on impressions with OnLive gaming and Spotify on the Android-based TV. Philips also confirmed that the current TVs will not be updated to Google’s Android TV next year.
Android on a TV
We have already shared our first look at the Philips Android-based TVs, but at IFA we had a chance to try out some of the new things, including OnLive gaming and the new Spotify app.
OnLive is an interesting concept. You can stream games just like you would stream a movie on Netflix – no game console box required. But does it work?
OnLive is very similar to Sony's new PlayStation Now service, which is rolling out in the US right now. OnLive requires a wireless game controller, like the one you know from game consoles, but the most important thing is to keep lag at a minimum. If the player experiences lag during game play it will be a frustrating experience. OnLive knows that. When we searched really hard we could notice a little bit of lag, but remember that this was at a trade show with thousands of devices using the same network. Sony and OnLive both agree that it is worth sacrificing picture quality first because game lag is the most important success factor for a game streaming service.
So what about picture quality? Sony and OnLive are both promising “console quality” games, and yeah it looks pretty good. Graphics scale up and down depending on the speed of your internet connection. If you have too slow internet OnLive will not work.
We do not expect concepts such as OnLive to replace the PlayStation or Xbox in the near future, but it works and will certainly appeal to the sporadic gamer and the younger crowd – just see how popular mobile games have become.
Philips’ TVs are also the first to integrate Spotify Connect. The nice thing about Connect is that you can push the music from your phone to the TV speakers, and then completely turn off your phone or just leave the room. The music will continue, and it seemed to function as intended.
Services such as OnLive and Spotify Connect (first in a Smart TV by the way) demonstrate that Android can be a powerful enabler on a TV screen. As many Android users already know you can download thousands of interesting apps from the Google Play store. Philips’ TVs actually use the apps that already exist, blown up in TV size. Developers have not developed the apps with a TV in mind, but some of them still work on the big screen, whereas others – for example touch-only apps – are excluded from the section of the Google Play store that Philips’ TVs connect to.
Existing TVs will not run Android TV
By now, you have probably heard that Google will release Android TV in early 2015. Android TV is a version specifically developed for the TV screen. This means no touch-based apps, a user interface that works from 2-4 meters away, a remote-friendly interface, and streaming services in HD – among other things.
Philips’ TVs are currently running a “skinned” version of Android 4.2.2 for tablets. At IFA, Philips confirmed that the current TVs with Android will not be updated to Google’s Android TV next year. Instead, you have to buy a 2015 Philips TV or the Philips UHD 880 player (free for owners of 8000 and 9000 UHD TVs).
Philips calls its current Android platform a soft transition from its old Smart TV platform to the new Android TV, which will be controlled solely by Google – not Philips. Either way it might be a hard pill to swallow for current owners to know that they own a TV based on a platform, which is already being phased out. Unfortunately, this is a general trend among TV makers today.