Introduction to Android TV app development on React Native

Let us guess, even if you don’t watch boring news and silly shows, you still probably have a TV, because it’s 2022, and everyone has a TV at home. Alongside mobile apps, TVs have operating systems, and Android TV is one of them. There are many articles covering Android TV app development from a coder’s point of view, but none of them appeal to startups.

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Android TV app Development
Table of contents

At Purrweb, we have decided to create a detailed guide and tell you everything you need to know to execute a robust Android TV app on React Native. Especially, if you are a startup owner and don’t speak the developers’ language. Dive into the world of Android TV app development to learn about its differences from mobile apps, design requirements, functionality, costs, and timeframes. Enjoy!

What is Android TV exactly?

Nowadays, technology has evolved to the point where you can not only watch news channels but also download apps to your TV, stream music, play games, and watch Netflix all in one. Smart TV technology connected TVs with the internet and opened Pandora’s box: a new big niche for startups emerged in the app development market.

Android TV app Development

In 2014 Google launched Android TV, an operating system for TV sets, digital media players, set-top boxes, and soundbars. It is integrated into Smart TV hardware, like ones produced by SONY, Philips, or LG. The release has boosted the Android TV app development — to the point that there are now more than 7,000 apps available.

Millions of potential users

Today, Smart TVs are almost as common as personal computers. According to 2021 statistics, 64% of US households have a Smart TV. It is 6 percentage points more than in 2020 and 17 percentage points over 2018. Similar numbers appear in Europe: nearly 67% of UK households reported owning a Smart TV. Germany and Spain are not far behind with 65% and 53% respectively.

Average global numbers are lower, but with the same tendency towards growth. By the end of 2020 34% of households owned a Smart TV worldwide. Researchers expect a steady increase towards 51% by 2026. For your app, this would mean millions of potential users.

Android TV is a promising new market that has a great deal of room for creativity. A lot of software products that are common on mobile devices are suitable for TV as well:

  • video streaming apps like YouTube and Netflix;
  • music streaming apps like Spotify;
  • gaming apps — from storytelling games to action RPGs;
  • utility programs and tools like media players, weather forecasts, or meditation apps.

However, Android TV development and Android mobile app development are not as similar as they might look, so there are a few things you should address beforehand.

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UI/UX challenges

Android TV development has its upsides. For one, with most Android TV devices, you only have to consider the 16:9 aspect ratio and two resolutions, Full HD and Ultra HD. This is also why there are many standard UI solutions available. But the way people interact with TVs is different from mobile apps, so you should be ready for a few unique challenges.

😇 Upsides 👿 Challenges
  • One aspect ratio and only two resolutions
  • Landscape layout and many screen sizes
  • Standardized UI components
  • Unfamiliar navigation patterns
  • No touch screen interactions
  • Extra controls and input methods
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Difference in size and layout

First of all, Android TV apps deal with a greater distance between the user and the device. When we watch TV, we usually sit on the couch at least 6 feet or 2 meters away from the screen. So all fonts, icons, and other elements should be bigger than on a phone. You also need to consider that different screens have different pixel densities.

Secondly, Android TV apps have a landscape layout, which also affects navigation and arrangement of elements.

Android TV app DevelopmentAndroid TV apps use a horizontal screen layout. 

High demands for navigation 

Users spend all day with a smartphone in their hands and get used to portrait orientation. TV’s landscape layout and big screen size make it difficult for the brain to process. So it’s important to keep everything else simple. Your Android TV app should be intuitive and easy-to-navigate. Make sure users always know on what page they are at the moment, which element they’ve selected, and how to get one step back.

Extra controllers and voice input

Since Android TV shifts towards being more like a media hub than just a streaming device, users might ask for something other than a regular TV remote. It’s possible that your app will have to support Bluetooth keyboard or game controllers, both within its code and its UI. 

Also, no one wants to look for a remote every time they need to turn the volume up or switch an app. That’s why we recommend adding voice input to your solution.

Functionality considerations

To provide a great level of user experience, Android TV app should offer a certain range of features. Here are a few functionality-related things to consider before planning your app.

Search functionality

Easy-to-use search is a must-have in Android TV apps based on streaming services. If this is something you are planning to do, we also advise including voice search for the best user experience.

Content suggestions

Consider adding this feature to increase engagement. The more content people have to watch, the longer they stay in the app. Again, this is especially true for video and music streaming Android TV apps.

See also  App engagement: what is it and how to increase it

Thorough QA testing with a real device

Make sure you test the solution on the go alongside Android TV application development to find and close all potential bugs before its release.

Stress-free monetization 

The most logical way to monetize a streaming service is to employ a subscription-based model. But for other types of Android TV apps, you might want to go with advertising. It’s very important to not let it compromise user experience.

Video ads are an obvious choice for this platform. They shouldn’t link to a website but lead directly to Google Play since Android TV doesn’t have a pre-installed browser. They also should redirect to content that is compatible with Android TV.

What makes a good contractor for building an Android TV app

Choosing a development partner for your Android TV project is not something to take lightly. Here are a few steps to minimize potential risks and help you make a decision:

  • Give preference to a full-cycle professional agency. Android TV app development includes several concurrent steps – UI/UX design, APIs, and testing. It’s better to entrust everything to one team with established communication, rather than individual outsourcers.
  • Make a thorough background check. Smart TV is a relatively new technology that requires both a deep understanding of a user’s behavior and tech expertise. So, when you are looking for a developer to build Android TV app, make sure to study their experience, portfolio, and reviews from previous customers.
  • Pay extra attention to their UI/UX design expertise. In order to create Android TV app, one has to overcome a few design-related challenges. It is best if your development partner has an efficient design process and experienced specialists on board.

Is React Native good for Android TV app development?

Android TV app Development

Long story short, yes. Android TV app development and React Native framework get along well. Creating an app with React has 4 key benefits for startup owners — cross-platform development, native-like elements, high performance, and community support.

1. It is cross-platform

The framework has a shared codebase for different operating systems and a bridge to invoke the rendering. Basically, it means that you can write one React Native component for the Android TV app, and it will smoothly and seamlessly work on other Smart TV devices. This feature makes the development process faster (and cheaper, since it is usually hourly-paid). Plus, in the future, you can quickly turn the app into an Apple TV app and multiply your audience.

2. Native-like performance

React Native uses native APIs, so the app will render native components and scroll or tap like a native one, while the development process will be more time-effective than the native development.

3. Great productivity

The framework interacts with native components through the bridge, so the performance is fast and smooth. It helps you focus on testing and UI/UX instead of performance optimization. Also, React Native has a Hot Reload feature that allows it to discover, trace, and close bugs in real-time, all without rewriting the whole code. 

4. Community support

React Native is an extremely popular framework among developers from all over the world. There is a vast supportive community that will have your back and help with any challenge that pops up while developing.

You can read more about React Native and its pros and cons in one of our articles.

See also  React Native development: pros and cons

Costs and timelines

We know that budgeting at an early stage is important, so we’ve got you covered. Here we are sharing how much it costs to build Android TV app on average and how long the process takes.

At Purrweb, we usually start with creating an MVP that stands for a minimum viable product. It is the first fully-functioning version of your solution that you can use for testing the idea, collecting feedback, and raising funds. We have cost and time limits for the MVP – $40,000 and 3 months. Meaning, that in 3 months after our first meeting you will have a ready-to-use high-quality product to work with.

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Let’s wrap it up!

Nowadays, Android TV app development is a relatively new and dynamic market for startups. There are 119 million people that you could potentially reach with your app only in the US, not to mention other countries like the UK, Germany, or Spain. 

However, the development process for an Android TV app is different from that of mobile devices. First of all, it has a horizontal orientation instead of the vertical one that we are so used to on our phones. At the end of the day, after watching Instagram Stories and TikToks, our brain and focus might find it difficult to switch to a TV landscape layout. Secondly, the distance between the user and the screen is greater. Overall, the way people interact with Android TV apps is different from the regular mobile app. This fact prompts studying and accommodating the user’s experience to build a reliable, friendly solution.

Here are 5 key considerations when you are about to create Android TV app:

Android TV app Development

At Purrweb, we offer Android TV app development with a focus on UI/UX design and QA testing to build a robust cutting-edge solution. We have a blog where we openly share our experience and a portfolio with previous works where you can check our style. Plus, we work with cost- and time-efficient React Native, which helps us develop high-performing Android TV apps in 3 months.

For Android TV app MVPs, we offer a $40,000 cost limit and 3 months time-to-market.

Read more about the services we provide and schedule a free consultation to chat about your idea and see how we can help.

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