TVs and media players with Android TV are currently running version 5.1. The 6.0 update will improve stability / performance, introduce a revamped voice search function, and add some new features. It will start rolling out soon.
Android TV version 6.0
Oddly, none of the manufacturers at CES wanted to confirm when the 6.0 Marshmallow update is coming. Sony - the largest manufacturer of Android TVs - did not even want to confirm whether the 2016 TVs on display at CES 2016 ran 6.0 or not, and had nothing to say regarding new hardware either. However, Sony did confirm that 6.0 is coming to both its 2016 and 2015 TVs. Sony also told us that the 2016 TVs will support YouTube in HDR.
There was no doubt that the 2016 Sony TVs at CES were based on an updated version of Android TV that felt snappier and more reliable than the current 5.1 version. An improved voice search function offered better voice recognition (even in the loud CES halls) and appeared to react much faster. The voice search UI will get a refreshed look. The Google Play store also has a new, fresh look, and Google will furthermore introduce a “Child mode”.
We were informed by sources that the Sony TVs did indeed run a 6.0 preview version of Android TV. We also heard that Google’s main focus with Android TV 6.0 has been to improve stability and performance, to fix security holes, and to fix bugs, instead of adding major new features.
Remember that manufacturers are not allowed to change the user interface of Android TV.
At CES, Nvidia confirmed that their Shield media player will get an update to 6.0 Marshmallow “very soon”. The company also confirmed a few new features, saying that the update will add “Adoptable Storage, which helps you super-size your storage capabilities. When adding an SD card, USB drive or external hard drive, Shield Android TV can recognize the new storage as internal memory”.
Nvidia added that the update will simplify the startup process so there “are even fewer steps you need to take before launching your favorite apps, movies, music and games”. You can say "OK Google, set up my device" to your phone/tablet and it will automate the process of setting up your new TV. It will even transfer over your WiFi passwords.
It will be possible to take control of the top Recommendations row and select which apps are allowed to push content. The other rows (apps and games) can be re-organized.
Based on what we have heard, we believe that the 6.0 update will start rolling out around March-May, depending on your device.
New apps and games
Apps and games are being added to the Google Play store on Android TV all the time but a few notable additions have just been added or will be added later in 2016.
UltraFlix offers a library of 600 hours of 4K content, although heavily compressed and much of it has been upscaled from HD. Recently, HBO Now, Showtime, and Twitch were added. Two game streaming services, Gamefly and Gametree, will be introduced soon.
In the gaming category Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance will come to Shield.
New Android TV partners
Hisense, TCL, Bang & Olufsen, Vestel, Arcelik (Grundig), and RCA have all signed on as Android TV partners, Google confirmed at CES. Only RCA had a TV on display.
TCL confirmed to us that it will introduce the first TVs with Android TV this autumn, possibly at IFA 2016 in Berlin. TCL also told us that they are waiting for the 6.0 update. This makes sense as Google has likely agreed to give its early partners at least one year of exclusivity.