AirTV in Action

Dave Zatz —  January 9, 2017 — 12 Comments

Cord Cutters News has posted a video demonstration of AirTV from CES… and it sure looks intriguing.

AirTV is a small Android set-top that comes bundled with a USB tuner ($130) and boots directly into Sling TV. While you don’t actually need to be a subscriber of the streaming service, there’s no point in picking up this box (vs say a Roku or Apple TV) without it — as its biggest, baddest trick is merging local over-the-air television content into Sling TV’s “cable” guide. Even better, should you happen to subscribe to Netflix, video recommendations also pop up via some sort of deep linking. Beyond that, Air TV also provides full access to the Google Play Store – including a dedicated button on the universal remote.

Sadly, AirTV does not provide any local DVR capabilities and outbound OTA streaming was left on the cutting room floor.

12 responses to AirTV in Action

  1. If it comes with Android 7.0 Nougat, OTA DVR capability comes for free. I haven’t seen any reviews on how well it actually works, but the functionality exists.

    The SlingTV service still doesn’t include a DVR, which renders it laughably useless for me. They do have “cloud DVR” functionality in beta, though, which is promising but the major blocker is they say it “isn’t available for all content”, which feels ominous.

    I find the device cosmetically quite fugly but do love the universal remote functionality to turn on the TV and adjust volume. EVERYBODY should do that. Down with multiple remotes!

  2. Assuming those recordings can’t be scheduled or played back via Sling TV UI, may as well get budget MiBox or get high end Shield with Google Assistant and always listening controller.

  3. I assumed the OTA TV stuff would be integrated into the Sling guide, as they’re bundling it with the OTA adapter. I guess it’s possible they’re recreating the wheel rather than using the Nougat OTA DVR functionality, but that seems like a lot of work for little gain.

  4. What really disappoints me about this box is that it does not stream the OTA signal over the local network à la HDHomeRun. I would have recommended it to a friend if it had had that ability, but it does not. His mother (who’d need a very simple OTA solution paired with a cable alternative service) lives in the basement of his house, and it’s doubtful that she’d get a good antenna signal there. Pity. The lack of DVR functionality makes this box even more of a joke!

  5. Rodalpho, guess we’ll wait for owners on Reddit to chime in or Jared Newman, wherever he decides to post. Cord Cutters News generally doesn’t get very technical. Heck, he called the PM’s pitch and his demo a “review” ;)

  6. The people who benefit the most from this already have the technology they need. Still not simple enough for the tech-phobes either.

  7. I think it’s a ground breaker but Id really like to see the option for a the channels to appear in the traditional old grid guide view: it’s not very exciting but I don’t think anyone’s come up with a better solution yet. Also, if you’re trying to convert traditional viewers rather than techies, that’s going to be what they’re most comfortable with. Why not have it be an optional view?

  8. MJR, if it does or will do local DVR, the merging of online and OTA would be compelling for many I think. Regarding, the less geeky you mention – Luke H raises a good point about these new fangled guides vs the traditional grid guide. Will be interesting to see how the new Hulu services presents its content. Some of the feedback seemed to appreciate their approach, which is newer but good. Supposedly.

  9. Does it have HDMI passthrough? I would LOVE a product that puts Android over the top of TIVO so I can pull up Android apps while watching TIVO recordings for a simply better Netflix experience without having to switch inputs to fire TV etc.

  10. Adam, I haven’t read anything about HDMI passthrough for the AirTV — I doubt it has it. But your idea about Android + TiVo is a good one. I concluded a year or so ago that the best way forward for TiVo — assuming they would still produce retail DVRs that also offered streaming — would be to port their code over to run on Android so that they could benefit from the significantly larger and better-support base of streaming apps available on Android TV. Streaming has long been TiVo’s weak point, one that becomes increasingly glaring the more hours that TV viewers devote to streaming versus traditional TV.

    Imagine an Android TV box similar to the AirTV that defaults to a TiVo app, rather than the Sling app, when you start it up. There you’d find your live TV (from OTA and/or CableCARD), along with a master list of recorded and streaming shows you watch, just like now. When you click on a streaming title, it would launch the appropriate Android TV app. When exiting out of the streaming app, you’d go back to the TiVo app. And you can also exit out of the TiVo app to the standard Android TV UI (“Exit to Apps”) where all your apps plus the Google Play store exist. Voice search in the TiVo app would search their own database while voice search in the standard Android TV UI would trigger a Google search.

  11. I believe SlingTV’s “not all content” able to be cloud DVR recorded refers to Disney owned channels/content (ABC, ESPN, etc.), the most agressive media company when it comes to compensation and terms or limited rights. At end of the day, all these OTT MVPD’s are gonna have to pay whatever to offer the Cloud DVR for every channel they offer OR at least available as VOD after it airs. This is still a new service, OTT MVPD, and subscriber number are still minimal compared to cable and sat. But as these services gain critical mass, we will have OTT MVPD’s have the same functionality and experience as cable and sat today. There is still a lot of low hanging fruit out there, but costs are still prohibitive to a lot of the demand for a cable/sat experience until the critical mass is acheived to pay for it.

    As for AiRTV, it is just like every other solution/device for this market: great at a few things we demand, but falls short on other things we demand. There is not a single device/service today that meets all are desires like the cable/sat services today. Again, the companies offering these new boxes and services can’t put the cart before the horse in terms of COST before reaching critical mass that can pay for the entire list of wants by the consumer. I think we will have to be patient and wait for the mass migration before we can get “all” our wishes granted.

  12. Ha! Well apparently this article over at TechHive was already up earlier today when I left my last comment about TiVo riding atop Android TV, although I swear I didn’t come across it until just now. I guess maybe TiVo came to the same conclusion I did.

    http://www.techhive.com/article/3155943/streaming-hardware/tivo-is-developing-a-new-set-top-box-user-interface-that-can-also-run-on-top-of-android.html

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