Every new step in the technological timeline lands in a different way. Among the tech crowd, streaming boxes were an exciting glimpse into a future where “dumb” TVs would be a thing of the past.
Nowadays, even those who are not tech-savvy have heard of streaming boxes in various forms. The debate surrounding Kodi at the moment, for example, is represented in major news outlets. For those heavily invested into either company, however, the Apple TV vs Android TV debate might be a more interesting one.
Apple TV vs Android TV – What are those?
For those still unfamiliar with Android TV and Apple TV, allow me to explain what they are in a few simple sentences. Apple TV is a streaming box and platform all wrapped up into one in the classic Apple way of bundling software and hardware in its ecosystem.
Android TV is more of a platform as it is available on multiple devices and manufacturers can choose to include it in their own products. We will discuss more about this in the hardware section.
While this post will not contain a review or a detailed overview of the various devices you can find Android TV in, I will mention some of their features here and there. The thing you should know is this: both of these are platforms that transform TVs into interactive devices, complete with their own apps.
Design and ease-of-use
There is no denying that Apple knows how to design a product well. The company has undoubtedly made questionable decisions over the years but, overall, their products are defined by how intuitive and user-friendly they are.
Apple TV is no different in this regard. This is particularly true if you are already invested in Apple’s ecosystem. Like the external design, the software interface has Apple’s notes all over. Every app goes through Apple’s rigorous approval process so everything is fast, responsive, and appealing on the eye.
Android TV is also well-designed. Android’s ugly days are long gone as the latest iterations of the operating system have all followed strict guidelines set out by Google. Individual boxes will differ in design but the internals remain mostly the same across the board.
The interface relies on a card-based design made popular by Android 5.0 Lollipop. The basic idea of the interface comes from shelves, lists of card-based content separated by type such as recommendations, apps, and games.
In these regards, Apple TV vs Android TV are largely the same. Apple’s version should be easier for most users to navigate. That is not to say Google’s version is hard to navigate, but Apple has traditionally maintained a more user-friendly approach.
Apps and content
Here is where Android TV shines. If there is one thing that Google’s Android platform is known for, it is the sheer level of customization that it offers. Android TV has an incredible number of apps and services, both in the US and the UK.
In essence, Android TV will allow you to do most things you can already do on your smartphone but in a bigger screen. You will be given access to the Play Store, though not every app will be compatible with the TV platform.
The integration with other Google apps and services is what Android users will be looking for. Any app that is not natively available on Android TV can still be Cast via Chrome or by Android devices so you will not be missing anything.
Furthermore, you will have access to a lot of different games. Depending on the hardware you are using, these may be Full HD games or even console-like games with the Shield. And because this is Android, you are also free to load emulators.
Apps used to be the weakest point of Apple TV but that has not necessarily been the case since 2015 with the release of tvOS. The dedicated operating system for Apple TV has allowed a host of different apps to arrive on the platform, including user-favorites such as Netflix and HBO Now.
Moreover, the integration with Apple’s other services and devices is fantastic, as usual. AirPlay is incredibly easy to use and allows you to basically mirror any app from your iOS device to the big screen without any delays or lag in performance.
Another interesting tidbit for those heavily invested in Apple’s ecosystem is that you can stream any content purchased from iTunes directly to your TV. So if you have a large catalogue of movies and songs, for instance, accessing them on Apple TV will be a breeze.
Games do exist on the Apple TV too, and they are often incredibly fun due to Apple TV’s remote, which we will talk about below. Games can also be played on the TV with an iOS device as the controller but performance depends entirely on your connection.
Hardware and remotes
Touching upon the hardware is a difficult topic in the Apple TV vs Android TV debate. As I mentioned before, Apple TV is a contained ecosystem with its own hardware and software platform via tvOS.
On the other hand, Android TV comes in many different shapes and forms. For example, you can find Android TV in several Sony Bravia TVs and in dedicated streaming boxes, three of which are currently available: NVIDIA Shield, Mii Box, and Razer Forge TV.
Because of Apple’s tight grip on its own devices, performance is excellent across the board. The only thing missing, which most people will not care about, is support for 4K. If you do happen to own a 4K set, then Apple TV is simply not for you.
Android TV’s offering vary a lot in performance and price. For instance, the $69 Mi Box is underwhelming in some regards but offers 4K support for those who absolutely need it and prefer Android TV over a Chromecast Ultra or a Fire TV Stick.
If you like to game or want a streaming box with the best performance, then the $190 NVIDIA Shield will give you what you are looking for. In fact, the Shield is definitely the best streamer/console hybrid based on Android.
The remotes offered by Apple TV and the various Android TVs also vary widely. Apple’s remote is fantastic and can operate like a Wii’s nunchuck with motion controls for games and content. Voice controls exist both in Apple TV and every Android TV so there is not much difference there either.
In fact, both voice-operated services are not restricted to apps, movies, or games. You can ask Siri or Google Now/Assistant other questions too, just like you would on a mobile platform.
To sum up with, the choice of which TV platform you will go with depends mostly on which side of the fence you are in. Surprisingly enough, both platforms play quite well with each other but they are noticeable better with their own devices and services. This, however, also means that Apple TV vs Android TV comparisons can be made by all kinds of users.
There are other differences that might influence your choice too. If you are not willing to spend a lot, for instance, you might opt for a Mi Box even if you have other Apple products and despite the device’s other limitations.
Availability of content will also be a major decision point. Right now, Android TV reigns king in this regard but Apple’s 5th generation of Apple TV might change that, particularly with the rumored introduction of a subscription-based service for major channels.