2021-08-04

Android TV 12 adds refresh rate switching, 4K UI, privacy features, more

Google has announced new features coming to Android 12 for TVs, including refresh rate switching, 4K user interface support, microphone and camera indicators, and more.    

Android 12 for TVs

Some Android TV devices, like Nvidia Shield, provide frame/refresh rate matching systems but the functionality leaves a lot to be desired. Starting with Android 12, Google will offer Android-level support for 'refresh rate switching'. This allows a device to match its video output to the content's frame rate (24fps, 25fps, 50fps, 60fps etc.) for video playback without stutter. New setting options will be available from the user menu. - "For a smoother viewing experience, Android 12 now supports seamless and non-seamless refresh rate switching. Apps can now integrate these settings for playback of content at optimal frame rates. The Match Content Frame Rate user setting has been added to allow users to control this feature," said Wolfram Klein, Product Manager, Android TV OS. It remains to be seen how widely supported switching will be in streaming apps.

4K UI, privacy, gaming

Finally coming to Android TVs is support for a 4K user interface, up from the 1080p homescreen seen in all 4K and even 8K Android TVs today, along with background blurring that apps can take advantage of to create focus effects. In addition, Google detailed new security and privacy features that will be available on TVs running Android 12. This includes microphone and camera indicators in the top corner of the screen any time apps are using these. Users will also be able to toggle off microphone and camera access and see which apps that have recently accessed the sensors. At a separate event, Google for Games Developer Summit 2021, Google announced 'Play as you download' that will cut games up into app slices and let you start the game immediately after the first slices have been downloaded – much like games on Apple TV, PlayStation, and Xbox. Games are "ready to open at least 2 times faster", the company said.

Android TV 12 adds refresh rate switching, 4K UI, privacy features, more

Android 12 introduces 'Play as you download'

In May 2021, Google announced new cast and remote control features coming in Android 12. Also read: Android 11 for TV has support for third party game controllers Android 12 for TVs is expected to be released publicly later this year but you will have to wait for your device manufacturer to make the software available, so it may take a while. Nvidia Shield, for example, is still running Android 9 from 2018 whereas new devices launched in 2021 typically come with Android 10.

Android 12 for TVs – new features

In Google's own words: Media At the heart of the TV experience is beautiful and seamless media playback. In the US, users are spending well over 4 hours a day watching media on TV, and are always asking for the highest resolution playback possible. With Android 12, we are releasing three new features to better support ever-improving picture quality. - Refresh Rate Switching Settings: For a smoother viewing experience, Android 12 now supports seamless and non-seamless refresh rate switching. Apps can now integrate these settings for playback of content at optimal frame rates. The Match Content Frame Rate user setting has been added to allow users to control this feature, and apps can call Display.getMode to know if a user’s device supports seamless rate switching. - Better display mode reporting: We are improving how TV devices report display modes and making hotplugging behavior more consistent. App developers no longer need to use workarounds for accurately detecting display modes or for handling HDMI hotplug events. - Tunnel Mode Updates: Updates to Android’s tunnel mode are making it even easier for app developers to support consistent and efficient playback across devices by reducing media processing overhead in the Android Framework. User Interface A beautiful media experience needs an equally stunning user interface to match. Android TV brings two new additions to the UI that help developers provide users with a richer visual experience on high performance devices. - Background blurs: Background blurring using RenderEffect (for in-app blurs) and WindowManager (for cross-window blurs) can now be used to easily enhance the visual separation of different UI layers.

Android TV 12 adds refresh rate switching, 4K UI, privacy features, more

Example background blur used to separate UI layers

- 4K UI support: For added visual fidelity, Android TV OS now officially supports UI rendering at 4k resolution on compatible devices. 4K UI resolution can be tested in the upcoming Android 12 emulator for TV to allow app developers to prepare their app for devices with the higher resolution. Privacy and Security With Android 12, we’re continuing to focus on giving users more transparency and control while keeping their devices and data secure. Beta 3 for TV includes many of the new privacy features from the Android framework. - Microphone and camera indicators: Users will now see any time apps are accessing the microphone or camera by showing an indicator on the TV screen. For better visibility of recent app accesses to microphone and camera, users can visit their privacy settings on TV.

Android TV 12 adds refresh rate switching, 4K UI, privacy features, more

Microphone and camera indicators showing during a video call. Video credit: Ekaterina Bolovtsova

- Microphone and camera toggles: Two new global privacy settings are now available, allowing the user to easily toggle access to the microphone or camera. When those toggles are disabled, apps will be unable to access microphone audio and camera video.

Android TV 12 adds refresh rate switching, 4K UI, privacy features, more

Microphone and camera indicators showing during a video call. Video credit: Ekaterina Bolovtsova

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- Source: Google