Converting Android app to Android TV

19. September 2016

Android TV platform was introduced with the release of Android 5.0 as it is Google’s another effort to penetrate TV market. Needless to say, it has been much more successful than the previous ones (e.g. Google TV).


Google realized that user interface and basically all applications for TV have to be designed to allow users to consume the content easily from their couch. Since its introduction, Android TV has been implemented by several TV vendors such as Philips and Sony, but can be also used via set-top boxes or consoles (e.g. Nexus Player or Nvidia Shield TV).

7 reasons why to develop an app for Android TV

  1. First of all, because it is Android. If you have any experience with development for Android, you basically won as you can utilize all Android SDK API that you know and normally use.
  2. If the first point applies to you, you will save a lot of money.
  3. You can recycle a lot of code such as data models, communication with API etc.
  4. Your app will be available on more devices.
  5. You can utilize richer user experience for media oriented app – people will rather watch movies/shows on a big screen than mobile devices.
  6. There is a possibility to further extend user interactions with live data (interactive ads, interactive content …)
  7. There are many mobile developers, but not many people focus on TV platforms. Great way to distinguish yourself (and your service) from the competition.

Specifics of Android TV app development

Even though that development for Android TV is practically similar to development for Android, it has its specifics and guidelines that have to be respected and followed. Some of which are (as there might be much more but we would like to point out the main ones):

  1. Technical prerequisites

    • There is no touchscreen, sensors, GPS, camera, accelerometer several other HW features which have to be considered if being used in mobile appOn the other hand, there is no battery to be depleted and in general fewer possibilities to interrupt the user (incoming calls, notifications etc.)

  2. Control    

    • You have to prepare your app for Android TV remote controller. If you are using the leanback library or standard Android widgets, there is no problem. However, make sure that you indicate focus when using custom views so that user can know, which element is currently selected.

  3. Design

    • People usually watch TV from a greater distance than do use a mobile app so keep that in mind and prepare user interface that is not only controllable but also readable from such a distance.
    • The less text, the better. People just don’t want to read on TV!
    • Basically, it is all about the leanback library.

Leanback library

Your best friend for development is library that includes several UI fragments designed specifically for Android TV.


BrowseFragment is usually used for directing the user to different categories of content showed in the left part of the screen with the specific titles in the right part as you can on our white label OTT application below.

BrowseFragment in MauTV OTT application for Android TV


As the name indicates, DetailsFragment is used for showing the detail of title, episode or another offering and allow users to interact with the item. In our white label OTT application, we put there play button & watch trailer.

DetailsFragment in MauTV OTT application for Android TV


Well, SearchFragment is also quite obvious. But even though that there is the designated button for searching on Android TV remote controller, it works as system search by default so Activity method onSearchRequested has to be rewritten to keep a user within the app interface.

SearchFragment in MauTV OTT application for Android TV

Content recommendations

Another specific option for Android TV is the ability to generate content from your app to the home screen and inspire the users even without opening the app. Of course in case that you have any content.

Recommendations work from the perspective of Android SDK as a notification, which you can generate through standard IntentService and launch it usually in intervals with AlarmManager. That means you have to make sure that this sets up after the boot of device using BroadcastReceiver to set up RECEIVE_BOOT_COMPLETED event.

Making your app public on Google Play

In order to publicize your app on Google Play without any problems it’s important to keep two things in mind:

  1. Google Play for Android TV is just a featured list so users won’t be able to find your app organically (meaning by clicking through categories), but only through searching.
  2. Applications for Android TV has to be approved in order to be available for searching and installation on Google Play. Every app needs to meet TV App Quality guidelines.

Here is an example why apps may often fail TV App QA: If your Android TV app is a part of standard mobile app, its disapproval is often caused by the fact that the app does not specify some of the HW requirements in AndroidManifest.xml as “false” – e.g. <uses-feature android:name="" android:required="false"/>


Despite the minor specifics and difficulties Android TV is still Android, and if you have mastered Android, development for Android TV will not be difficult for you at all. It's an easy and interesting way how to get your content to more users.

If you do not want to bother with Android TV guidelines and other technical details of development, let us know. Converting Android apps to Android TV is a piece of cake for us. So make sure to check out our Android TV OTT White-label and also the benefits of our Android app development.

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