Google has released the latest version of Android TV, its universal operating system for Smart TVs: here's what changes and when we'll see it in action
It's been a long wait and it was finally announced without even too much hype, but it's here: Google has released the official and stable version of Android TV 12, its latest operating system for Smart TVs that is used by many manufacturers such as TCL, Hisense, Panasonic, Xiaomi, Metz and many others.
The first beta of the new operating system for televisions dates back to July 2021 and the final version was expected in September (Android TV 11, in fact, was released in September 2020), but that wasn't the case and Google took a couple of months longer than expected to fine-tune the new Android TV. Now, however, the final version of Google's TV OS is available to smart TV manufacturers and app developers: it will be up to them, in fact, to allow users to update their smart TVs and create apps compatible with the new version.
Android TV 12: what's new
Android TV 12 isn't a revolution, but it does bring technical, interface and user privacy improvements. From a technical point of view, it improves the management of HDR content and surround sound, as well as the management of different refresh rates between one content and another.
Also arrives support for the HDMI CEC 2.0 standard, the latest version of the technology that allows (among other things) to manage with a single remote control both the TV and any external audio system, such as a soundbar. It also improves the management of the tuner for digital terrestrial TV signal.
With Android TV 12, then, it will be possible to show the user interface in 4K on Smart TVs equipped with a panel with this resolution (today, instead, upscaling is used). From an aesthetic point of view, however, the semi-transparent blurred windows that show part of the background are now available.
New features are also important for privacy: when you use apps that access the microphone or camera (if present on the TV), such as those for video calls (Meet, Zoom, Duo...) the operating system shows small icons in the upper right corner of the screen.
This way you can know if there is any app that secretly accesses the microphone and camera. From the operating system, it's also possible to prohibit access to these components for each individual app, just like it's already done on Android phones.
Android TV 12: when it arrives
Android TV 12 is available in an official version as of today, but users can't download and install it on their own. Just as with smartphone operating systems, Android TV requires the intervention of the hardware manufacturer, who must adapt the new OS to the individual TV model.
Each manufacturer will choose which models to update and when, so today it's not yet possible to know which TVs will be updated to Android TV 12. On the other hand, even Google itself has not made official if, and when, it will update to Android TV 12 its Chromecast with Google TV (which is stopped even at Android TV 10).
Discussion is different for the new models of Smart TV that will arrive during 2022: it is likely that, already from the second quarter of next year, you can find on the market the first TVs with Android TV 12 preinstalled. Sooner is difficult, because you have to give Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and all the other streaming platforms time to update their respective apps.