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It may have been only about 30 minutes, but Google unveiled a bunch of new stuff at yesterday’s event. One of the coolest gadgets is the Chromecast with Google TV — an updated Chromecast dongle that comes with a remote and runs special version of Android TV. The app that powers the new Google TV launcher interface has now appeared on the Play Store. It’s called Google TV Home, and even though it’s possible to install it on existing Android TV devices, it’s pretty useless right now unless you have the new Chromecast.
Placing this launcher app in the Play Store will allow the new Chromecast device homescreen to get UI tweaks, feature improvements, and more without needing to wait for an entire software update to roll out. Version 1.0.331643392 is the current build available on the Play Store, and it already has more than 5,000 installs.
Despite sharing the same icon as the Android TV Home app, the Google TV homescreen is much different. It’s built around the idea that people want to spend less time bouncing between different streaming service apps and more time actually watching stuff. In order to accomplish this goal, Google mixes in content from all your favorite apps and services together on the homescreen — although you can disable this if you prefer the old way of doing things.
Ready to check out that new interface for yourself? There are a couple ways to do it. The easy way is to download the Google TV Home app from APK Mirror onto your Android TV. Then you’ll need to download this third-party app that allows you to launch alternative launchers on Android TV — you can’t start the Google TV launcher without it. Using this method, you can go into the new Google TV interface, but it’s not really worth it.
Most of the new smart features like recommendations don’t seem to be working.
While the overall homescreen is functional, recommendations aren’t showing up for many users, and the search experience is pretty much broken. The apps section is functional, though, and shows on-device apps in your library along with Play Store apps. The library tab displays the new watchlist, movies and TV shows purchased on the Play Store, and DVR content from YouTube TV.
Left: the menu panel opens from the side Right: You can pick up to 10 apps to display on the homescreen.
There’s no Now Playing UI that shows up while listening to music. And while the account panel opens up from the side, nothing in it really works. Overall, it’s not really usable on existing Android TV devices right now — although your mileage may vary, and that may well change later on. There is a more difficult way to install the GTV launcher that involves uninstalling the default launcher and using ADB commands. It might unlock more functionality, but I wouldn’t recommend going that way unless you’re confident in yourself.
Google TV is the future of Android in the living room, and the company plans to upgrade eligible devices to the new experience at some point down the line. Is the new Chromecast with Google TV worth buying now if you already have an older device? Check out our full review to find out for yourself.
Updated with new details on compatibility with ATV
This has been updated with new info on how to get the app working on Android TV devices.