Google TV Gets Android, iPhone Remote Control App

Google said it is rolling out upgrades for its Android-based Google TV service. The Netflix app got smarter and Google launched a Remote App for Android and iPhone handsets.

Google this week is issuing its first over-the-air upgrades to Google TV, enriching the Netflix application preloaded in the service and offering a Google Remote application to control the service.

Google in October launched the ambitious Google TV service, which lets users surf the Web and TV channels using Google's Android-based operating system, Chrome browser and Intel chips.

Many reviewers believe the service was half-baked and were concerned about the price points for the hardware needed to power Google TV. Google TV-enabled hardware such as the Logitech Revue companion box cost $300, while the Sony Internet TVs ran $1,000-plus, with Blu-ray players selling for $400 a pop.

While the mixed reviews and price points cast a cloud on Google TV, the team is undeterred. As promised earlier, Google Dec. 15 launched its own Google TV Remote app for Android smartphones in the Android Market.

The Google TV Remote app connects to Google TV through a user's WiFi network. While this app works like Logitech's Harmony Android app to let users change channels, adjust volume and access DVR content, users will also be able to use the app's voice search capability to find shows and movies by speaking into their Android handset.

This app, which users can see a demo for here, is available on Android phones now and is coming to Apple's App Store for the iPhone soon.

One of the more prominent applications preinstalled on the Logitech Revue box is the Netflix app. Users can play their instant Netflix content via the app, and fast forward, rewind, pause and remove movies.

However, users must still put content in the instant queue from their Netflix account on a PC or Mac. That's changing soon.

When Google's upgrades reach Google TV-owning households, consumers will be able to search, browse and watch any movie or show that is in the Netflix streaming catalog from the Netflix app.

Similar to Netflix from a computer, the Netflix app will also provide personalized recommendations based on what users previously watched. Users will also be able to add these titles to their DVD queue.

Google also added a movie results page that shows users all films associated with a title they've searched for in Google TV. This tool will sift through live TV, Netflix and Amazon Video on Demand content to find films showing user summaries, photos and cast lists.

In addition, Google improved the dual view option that lets users minimize a TV show they're watching to a small box in the right-hand corner of the screen as they browse the Web. Now users can not only move the window all around the screen, but resize it on the fly.

Google is going to have to keep pumping out the features in 2011 to lure users to Google TV versus Apple TV, Roku, Boxee and other Web TV rivals.

The company will have to make sure it is able to surface content from all major networks, both from their live TV and their Websites. That means clearing up some of the current blockages.