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Android TV apps are still second-class citizens

Compatibility means more than “I can download this app and hit play.”


I’m someone who loves to watch re-runs, who loves to quote along to her favorite films, and someone who has a fast-forward button and is NOT afraid to use it! As such, I’m very particular about how apps are laid out and how they control playback on various platforms. Last time, I was cheering about how wonderful fast-forwarding and rewind are on the Disney+ Android TV app, but today, I come with ill omens.

Mostly because I want to watch Good Omens without being reminded what an absolute load of crap Amazon Prime is on Android TV.

There are actually plenty of apps that are just this side of horrible on Android TV, but Amazon Prime Video is the one that gets the most flack, and for good reason: the interface and app flow on Prime Video absolutely suck. From trying to find a show to watch to rewinding that perfect scene to show your partner, the Prime Video experience is just miserable.


Let’s start with how Prime Video came to Android TV: NVIDIA and Amazon made a deal to bring it to the Shield TV years before it became available on any other Android TV devices — a list that is still pitifully small today. While NVIDIA is very hands-on in demanding the best experience for its users, even they apparently couldn’t convince Amazon to make the Android TV app pleasant in any way.

As a matter of fact, if you have Prime Video on your NVIDIA Shield right now, you’re probably dealing with the same outdated version of the app I have for the last two years because the pre-loaded app wasn’t set up to be auto-updated. You’ll need to hunt down the app in Google Play and manually update it to the new version in order to fix the most egregious long-term problems the app has had.


Prime Video’s spring update finally fixed the fast-forward and rewinding so that you’re not continually overshooting your target, but there’s still no way to turn off auto-play. So when you go to re-watch your favorite episodes, instead, it plays three seconds of the end-credits (that it skipped last time) and then auto-plays straight to the next episode. I’ve spent the better part of ten minutes trying to get to the rewind controls quick enough to prevent autoplay from skipping episodes before I can get it back to the beginning because the “Play from beginning” will trigger for the following episode, not the one you just selected.

This app is the worst, and that’s saying something on Android TV.

Browsing for a show to watch is a sea of tiny icons with even more miniature labels for “Prime Included” or 4K. Then when you get to a show’s page, browsing between seasons is time-consuming and annoying for anything longer than a miniseries. Swapping seasons is better than it used to be, but it’s still clunky as all get-out.

And I’m not the only one to notice the horrible, no-good, very bad interface on Prime Video’s Android TV app; its Google Play listing is chock full of user reviews with the exact same qualms I have with the app. It’s slow to load, the settings are limited and revert to defaults too often, and repeated time and time again: “this is the worst video player on Android TV.”

That is an even more damning criticism once you look at other Android TV apps. Another egregiously bad Android TV app is Funimation’s. I’ll start off by saying that Funimation’s playback interface isn’t nearly as bad as Amazon’s. Still, you’ll have to do your seeking blind because there are no previews here ever, as opposed to Amazon, where the seeking previews will load maybe 55% of the time.

And of course, navigating the rest of the app makes you want to scream your favorite Japanese curse words at the screen.


The layout is clunky, especially when trying to navigate between sections or navigate between seasons in a show. The sidebar doesn’t always load properly, and there will be weeks at a time where the SimulDub tab just refuses to load. You also better be sure to watch an episode all the way to the end, because like Prime Video, it’ll skip the episode and play the credits instead, and the Continue Watching carousel is absolutely filled with episodes that you actually finished and just exited out of the credits on. Funimation does get points for its auto-play not being as overbearing and insistent as Prime Video’s.

Now, this all isn’t to say that a good app experience is impossible to come by on Android TV. The Disney+ app offers a great experience, as mentioned before, and the YouTube and Hulu apps are great as well — though it took literally YEARS for Hulu’s Android TV app to catch up to the rest of its apps in getting the new UI. Funimation and Crunchyroll’s apps may be a pain to navigate, but VRV does things right at least — well, apart from how you go between seasons or between subbed/dubbed. And CBS would be alright if it didn’t go to pieces the second the Wi-Fi hiccups. Okay, let’s just say there’s room for improvement all around.


Part of the reason that these apps and so many more offer an inferior experience is that while Apple TV and Roku are relatively well-known, Android TV is an afterthought for consumers almost as much as it is for content services. It can be years before a new streaming service has an Android TV app, and it can take years more for that app to get bugs fixed and new features added, such as Amazon finally fixing the playback controls after three years of user complaints.

And without good apps, why would anyone want to buy an Android TV in the first place? Google may be about to give Android TV a shot in the arm with the new Sabrina-codenamed device, but unless Google gives serious incentives, the experience will remain as hobbled on it as it is on the NVIDIA Shield and other Android TVs.


Google Pixel 4a pre-orders go live with August 20 availability

Google’s newest phone, the Pixel 4a, is finally available for pre-order. Having blown by its expected May launch, the handset arrives with a wallet-friendly $350 price tag.When much of the fanfare and advertising for phones tends to center around flagships and devices approaching $1,000, Google’s latest is a fraction of the price. Nevertheless, it still has more than enough hardware and modern software to satisfy the needs of the masses.At just $350, the Pixel 4a runs Android 10 and largely features the same camera experience that’s found in the Pixel 4. Moreover, it also has a headphone jack and a bigger battery than the standard model.Android 105.81-inch FHD+ displayQualcomm Snapdragon 730 processor6GB RAM128GB storage12.2-megapixel dual-pixel rear camera8-megapixel wide-angle camera3140mAh battery3.5mm audio jackAs to why the Pixel 4a is less than half the price of the Pixel 4, there are plenty of reasons. It’s just up to the buyer to determine whether it’s worth spending the extra money.With that said, the Pixel 4a does not have wireless charging, nor does it have the soft-touch glass back and water resistant protection. Instead it has a polycarbonate body to keep price down.AvailabilityThe Pixel 4a is available for pre-order in the US at Google Store and on Google Fi where it can be purchased unlocked at just $350. It will be more widely available to customers on August 20 through the Google Store, Best Buy, Amazon, and more. Additionally, US carriers will offer the phone, including Google Fi, US Cellular, and Verizon.Customers who purchase the Pixel 4a receive three month free trials of YouTube Premium, Google Play Pass and Google One.Interestingly enough, the Google Pixel 4a appears to be offered in black only through Google’s online store. Other colors expected in the lead-up to announcement included white and blue. Perhaps various carriers and retailers will have different options.

Google begins dropping details on Pixel 4a (5G) and Pixel 5

Today might be the official arrival of the Google Pixel 4a, but that doesn’t mean Google isn’t already looking to the horizon. Indeed, Google is ready to share details about the next few models in the pipeline.According to Google, the Pixel 4a (5G) and the Pixel 5 will arrive “this fall” and both will feature 5G connectivity. Moreover, Google is already sharing its expected price for the former, putting it at just $499.Whether the true difference between the standard 4a and the 5G-ready version is 5G support remains unclear.Google often debuts its flagship Pixel phones in October, and that would definitely fit in thethis fall” timeline. However, with the ongoing pandemic, and the fact that the Pixel 4a arrived nearly three months later than expected, it’s hard to say for sure.As Google tells us both the Pixel 4a (5G) and Pixel 5 will be available in the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Japan, Taiwan, and Australia.If you’re interested in learning more about either of these phones, you can sign up to receive updates.

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