Although many 2020 TV models based on the Android TV platform have just caught up to the Android TV v.9 Pie OS, system developer Google is officially extending its latest Android 11 OS to the Android TV platform.

The news came in a Google blog post this week, in which new features and improvements available through the software were confirmed. These include Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), which TV enthusiasts will recognize as a key new feature for videogamers supported by the new HDMI 2.1 connection standard. Recent televisions supporting HDMI 2.1 (or ALLM over HDMI 2.0b ports) will be able to have the television automatically kick into the proper gaming settings on a supporting television to minimize latency in game play.

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Android TV 11 will also support third party game controllers including Nintendo’s Switch Pro controller (Bluetooth and USB) and Valve’s Steam controller (USB).

The new version of the OS will also bring better memory management and privacy features, in addition to a much publicized new “Instant Apps” feature that allows users to try out a program in the Google Play Store before committing to installing it on the television or mobile device.

Another new addition will be the use of PIN codes to confirm Google Play purchases instead of more cumbersome and easily forgotten passwords. It also enables one-time permission requests and an enhanced “Gboard TV” keyboard with speech-to-text and predictive typing.

So, when will you see this along with other owners of Android TVs — like certain Sony, Hisense, Philips, Sharp, TCL, Skyworth, Konka and other brands of sets, not to mention Android TV media streamers like NVIDIA Shield and Tivo Stream 4K?

The only device running Android 11 for Android TV today is the ADT-3, a 4K/HDR box with a quad core A53 processor. But this is intended exclusively for Android TV product developers.

It will be up to TV makers to determine when the next line transition to Android TV 11 will take place. We were told by one company that plans had already been made to bring in at least some models with Android TV v. 10 in 2021. Can or will they jump to v. 11 instead? We’ll have to wait and see.

And when will existing Android TV models get version 11?

Remember that Sony only updated a few select 2018 and 2019 Android TV series (not surprisingly, many of its more powerful higher-end models) to v.9 Pie in the United States about this time last year, with a number of the other brands following suit shortly thereafter. Most of the rest came in line with the new year’s model line refreshes this spring.

Version 9 Pie brought a number of improvements including snappier response time in apps and menus, certain user interface customization benefits and support for a few newer media codecs, like xHE-AAC profile audio files supporting both music and voice with more efficient streaming ability and relatively high-quality sound for both.

In general, representatives of Android TV manufacturers have told us that updates to new versions of the Android TV OS are dependent on a range of factors, with one of the biggest being hardware compatibility. TV brands don’t want the headache of updating an OS only to find models in the field with compatibility glitches that drive frustrated users to support lines or retail stores.

In addition, even in the best and most powerful models, Android TV OS updates general don’t see more than three major version updates in the life of the product, one TV manufacturer’s representative told us.

But Google is reportedly making a major push in the connected TV business and Android TV 11 could be a bridge to increasing the system footprint around the world. The company is planning to unveil new products on Sept. 30th, when it will reportedly introduce a long-anticipated new Chromecast HDMI dongle that supports Android TV.

We’ll also have to wait and see if a new version of Amazon’s Fire TV OS for integrated sets will be issued with any of the Android TV 11 features. The current Fire TV 0S 7 was based on Android 9 Pie.

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By Greg Tarr

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