Android TV is very much alive, as was made abundantly clear by the plethora of new Android TV powered televisions with Google Assistant capability shown off at CES 2018. Streaming boxes powered by Android TV, however, are conspicuously missing—the last Android TV set-top box to be released in the United States was the Xiaomi Mi Box in October 2016.
Apple TV and Amazon’s Fire TV products both received hardware refreshes last September, while Roku products received hardware refreshes in October. In comparison, the three year old Nexus Player—arguably the flagship of Android TV—last received a software update in November, and will not be upgraded to Android 8.1 Oreo. So, where have the boxes gone?
A brief history of Android TV streaming boxes
There have been curiously few Android TV streaming boxes actually available in normal retail channels. In the United States, only five have been made available for purchase. Other devices—like Google’s ADT-1—were available to developers, but not available for purchase outside of grey markets.
Nexus Player (2014-2016)
Google’s inaugural streaming box should have been good. Being the first retail device, it bore the responsibility of building the Android TV ecosystem. Early reviews were unkind—the processor was undercut by the paltry 1GB RAM and 8GB storage, and the $100 price tag made it a tough sell. It started seeing steep discounts, eventually being dumped for $25 each at Target within a year of release. It has also been subject to a spate of bugs, ranging from a networking problem causing massive uploads of junk data, to a configuration mistake which caused the remote to work erratically.
By default, the Nexus Player is still the standard bearer of Android TV. It also has the rare distinction among Android devices of receiving official updates for four major versions, taking it from Lollipop 5.0 to Oreo 8.0, though it will not