Google TV users can expect some changes to the interface once their player or TV receives an Android 14 update either later this year or early next year.
Most new Google TV devices that you can purchase today, including the Chromecast with Google TV and Walmart’s Onn Streaming Box, come running on Android 12. While these devices were due to be upgraded to Android 13, that’s no longer the case. Instead, it has now been confirmed that they will jump straight to Android 14.
Following the release of the Android TV 14 beta this week, and thanks to detailed reports from 9to5 Google and Mishaal Rahman, as well as some of our own observations, we are now able to take a closer look at some of the changes coming to Google TV.
When discussing these changes, and even though Android 14 for mobile is already on its third beta, it is important to keep in mind that Google has only released the first beta for Android TV 14 so far.
This not only means that some of the changes described below could change before the final release, but other changes (that we don’t know about yet) could be added to Android TV 14 in a future beta or the final version.
Android TV’s Accessibility graduation
What seems to be quite apparent from the first beta is that Google is focused on improving accessibility. For starters, the entire Accessibility section has now graduated to the top level. While you currently have to click through System to get to Accessibility, the same section in Android 14 can be found at the same level as System, making it much quicker to access.
Once inside the Accessibility section, there are some additional changes. To begin with, a new Audio descriptions toggle is now present and this is used to enable or disable the setting at the system level. As is the case with any system-level feature, while the intention is for it to work across apps and services, it will require those apps and services to support and abide by the toggle.
Another new setting is Bold text. Again, this is a system-level toggle, which, as the name suggests, bolds all text for improved visibility.
In addition to the new system-wide toggles, Google has also added a new Color correction section and menu. Once here, users can choose between various Color Modes, including a Grayscale mode.
The relocation of Text Scaling
Another change, albeit not a new addition, relates to Text Scaling. Currently (in Android 12) this setting is located under Display & sound. As part of Android 14, however, it has been moved to Accessibility.
While we can’t say for sure, we suspect third-party Google TV versions might be the reason why this setting has been moved. To explain, the Display & sound section on Sony Android TV models opens up a customized version of the various display and sound settings to account for Sony’s additional features.
By moving Text Scaling to Accessibility, we suspect this will ensure that text scaling is more clearly, and uniformly, accessible across all Google TV products.
Power & Energy gets a makeover
An easy to spot change is the new icon for Power & Energy. While current (Android 12) users will recognize this setting by its lightbulb icon, Android TV 14 introduces a new leaf icon.
It also looks like Energy Saver has been rebranded as Shut-Off Timer, although we doubt this is a universal change. Energy Saver typically only shows up on TVs running on Android TV and not standalone devices like the Chromecast with Google TV.
On streaming players, the Power & Energy section only includes the When inactive sub-setting. While Shut-Off Timer means the same thing, and is actually easier to understand, some TVs come with their own additional power management settings within the Energy Saver section.
As a result, we would expect that whether Energy Saver is rebranded as Shut-Off Timer on an individual device will depend on whether there are other energy-related settings available on that device.
Potential call and headphone upgrades
The changes above seem quite straightforward, but there are some others that feel like they need greater explaining by Google. Specifically, Rahman has spotted what appears to be improved headphones support.
A new “show available headphones” option might be coming to make it easier (and quicker) to connect to nearby headphones. Potentially, this could make it easier to connect to additional listening devices, such as hearing aids.
Another interesting change noted by Rahman is the possibility of Android TV 14 gaining call notification support. In other words, the ability to receive calls on the Android TV device. As to be expected, this will heavily rely on apps supporting the feature.
Overall, Small but useful Android TV changes
As these changes are not massive, and mostly all settings-based, they may not matter all that much to any Google TV users who don’t often go digging around in the settings.
Accessibility changes, however, are a hugely important part of the viewing experience. For those that do need them, whether it’s correcting the color or changing text size, easier access and more granular control will help to improve the Android TV experience for everyone.