The FCC just dropped a major surprise on us. It has documentation of a Google-branded HDMI dongle that runs Android TV and comes with a remote! It almost looks like a next-gen Chromecast. The documents show off pictures, specs, and even the manual.
The device is manufactured by “Shenzhen SEI Robotics Co.
The manual—which is full of terrible English and definitely needs an edit pass—describes an Android TV device with a quad-core Amlogic S905X SoC (four Cortex A53s at 1.5GHz or 2GHz), 2GB of RAM, and 8GB of storage. The device supports hardware-accelerated video decoding at 4K/60FPS from both H.265 and Google’s own VP9 codec. The manual doesn’t mention HDR support, but other manufacturers list the S905X SoC as supporting HDR10. There’s also a remote with all the usual set-top box buttons, along with a dedicated Google Assistant button.
Android TV really needs a Google-blessed device right now. Google’s last (and so far only) Android TV device has been the under-powered Nexus Player. While it had a legendary upgrade streak from Android 5.0 all the way up to Android 8.0, Google recently dropped major update support for the device. Google devices are the only Android products that get fast, reliable updates, and they have unlockable bootloaders, making them excellent developer devices. With the existing device lineup, there is no way to buy an Android TV device that will get Android P in a timely manner.
Google’s TV strategy had long been split between bigger, more functional Android TV set-top boxes and smaller, easier-to-use Chromecast devices. While this is totally in character for Google, it has been a confusing landscape for consumers. Android TV devices support Chromecast, so a small, cheap device like this looks like it would combine the best of both worlds. The device in the pictures (which is admittedly just a prototype) looks like it would be pretty cheap. The size and specs closely match the 2017 Amazon Fire TV, which has an MSRP of $69 and is often on sale for $50.
Hopefully we’ll hear more about this at Google I/O 2018, which is just a month away.