TV apps use the same structure as those for phones and tablets. This similarity means you can modify your existing apps to also run on TV devices or create new apps based on what you already know about building apps for Android.
Important: Your app must meet specific requirements to qualify as an Android TV app on Google Play. For more information, see the requirements listed in TV app quality.
This lesson describes how to prepare your development environment for building TV apps, and the minimum required changes to enable an app to run on TV devices.
Determine media format support
See the following documentation for information about the codecs, protocols, and formats supported by Android TV.
Set up a TV project
This section discusses how to modify an existing Android app to run on TV devices, or create a new app. If you have an existing Android app, adding Android TV support lets you design a user interface for TV while re-using your existing app architecture.
These are the main components you should use to create an app that runs on TV devices:
- Activity for TV (Required) - In your application manifest, declare an activity that is intended to run on TV devices.
- TV Support Libraries (Optional) - There are several support libraries available for TV devices that provide widgets for building user interfaces.
Before you begin building apps for TV, you must:
Update your SDK tools to version 24.0.0 or higher
The updated SDK tools enable you to build and test apps for TV.
Update your SDK with Android 5.0 (API 21) or higher
The updated platform version provides new APIs for TV apps.
Create or update your app project
In order to access new APIs for TV devices, you must create a project or modify an existing project that targets Android 5.0 (API level 21) or higher.
Declare a TV activity
An application intended to run on TV devices must declare a launcher activity for TV
in its manifest. It uses a
filter to do this. This filter identifies your app as being enabled for TV, and lets
Google Play identify it as a TV app. When a user selects your app on their TV home screen,
this intent identifies which activity to launch.
The following code snippet shows how to include this intent filter in your manifest:
<application android:banner="@drawable/banner" > ... <activity android:name="com.example.android.MainActivity" android:label="@string/app_name" > <intent-filter> <action android:name="android.intent.action.MAIN" /> <category android:name="android.intent.category.LAUNCHER" /> </intent-filter> </activity> <activity android:name="com.example.android.TvActivity" android:label="@string/app_name" android:theme="@style/Theme.Leanback"> <intent-filter> <action android:name="android.intent.action.MAIN" /> <category android:name="android.intent.category.LEANBACK_LAUNCHER" /> </intent-filter> </activity> </application>
The second activity manifest entry in this example specifies that activity as the one to launch on a TV device.
Caution: If you do not include the
CATEGORY_LEANBACK_LAUNCHER intent filter in
your app, it is not visible to users running Google Play on TV devices. Also, if your
app does not have this filter when you use developer tools to load it onto a TV device, the app
does not appear in the TV user interface.
If you are modifying an existing app for use on TV, your app should not use the same activity layout for TV that it does for phones and tablets. Your TV app's user interface (or TV portion of your existing app) should provide a simpler interface for easy navigation using a remote control from a couch. For guidelines on designing an app for TV, see the TV Design guide. For more information on the minimum implementation requirements for interface layouts on TV, see Building layouts for TV.
Declare Leanback support
Declare that your app uses the Leanback user interface required by Android TV. If you are developing
an app that runs on mobile (phones, wearables, tablets, etc.) as well as Android TV, set the
required attribute value to
false. If you set the
required attribute value
true, your app will run only on devices that use the Leanback UI.
<manifest> <uses-feature android:name="android.software.leanback" android:required="false" /> ... </manifest>
Declare touchscreen not required
Applications that are intended to run on TV devices do not rely on touch screens for input.
To make this clear, your TV app's manifest must declare that the
android.hardware.touchscreen feature is not required. This setting identifies your app as being
able to work on a TV device, and is required for your app to be considered a TV app in Google
Play. The following code example shows how to include this manifest declaration:
<manifest> <uses-feature android:name="android.hardware.touchscreen" android:required="false" /> ... </manifest>
Caution: In your app manifest, you must declare that a touch screen is not required, as shown this example code; otherwise your app won't appear in Google Play on TV devices.
Provide a home screen banner
If an application includes a Leanback launcher intent filter, it must provide a home screen banner image for each localization. The banner is the app launch point that appears on the home screen in the apps and games rows. To add the banner to your app, describe the banner in the manifest as follows:
<application ... android:banner="@drawable/banner" > ... </application>
The banner should be an xhdpi resource with a size of 320 x 180 px. Text must be included in the image. If your app is available in more than one language, you must provide separate versions of the banner with text for each supported language.
Change the launcher color
When a TV app launches, the system displays an animation that resembles an expanding, filled
circle. To customize the color of this animation, set the
attribute of your TV app or activity to a specific color. You should also set two additional
transition overlap attributes to
true, as shown in the following snippet from a
theme resource XML file:
<resources> <style ... > <item name="android:colorPrimary">@color/primary</item> <item name="android:windowAllowReturnTransitionOverlap">true</item> <item name="android:windowAllowEnterTransitionOverlap">true</item> </style> </resources>
For more information about working with themes and styles, see Styles and themes.
Add TV support libraries
The Android SDK includes support libraries for use with TV apps. These
libraries provide APIs and user interface widgets for TV devices. The libraries, which are
located in the
<sdk>/extras/android/support/ directory, are as follows:
- v17 leanback library - Provides user interface widgets for TV apps, particularly for apps that do media playback.
- v7 recyclerview library - Provides classes for managing the display of long lists in a memory-efficient manner. Several classes in the v17 leanback library depend on the classes in this library.
- v7 cardview library - Provides user interface widgets for displaying information cards such as media item pictures and descriptions.
Note: You are not required to use these support libraries for your TV app. However, we strongly recommend using them, particularly for apps that provide a media catalog browsing interface.
If you decide to use the v17 leanback library for your app, you should note that it is dependent on the v4 support library. Thus, apps that use the leanback support library must include the following support libraries:
- v4 support library
- v7 recyclerview support library
- v17 leanback support library
The v17 leanback library contains resources that require specific steps to include the library in app projects. For instructions on importing a support library with resources, see Support Library setup.
Build TV apps
After you have completed the steps described above, it's time to start building apps for the big screen! Check out these additional topics to help you build your app for TV:
- Build TV playback apps - TVs are built to entertain, so Android provides a set of user interface tools and widgets for building TV apps that play videos and music, and let users browse for the content they want.
- Help users find your content on TV - With all the content choices at users' fingertips, helping them find content they enjoy is almost as important as providing that content. This training discusses how to surface your content on TV devices.
- Build TV games - TV devices are a great platform for games. See this topic for information on building great game experiences for TV.
- Build TV channels - Present your video content in a linear, "broadcast TV" style with channels and programs that your users can access through a program guide as well as the channel up/down buttons.
Run TV apps
Running your app is an important part of the development process. You can run your app on TV devices configured to support USB debugging, or use virtual TV devices.
Run on a real device
Set up your TV device as follows:
- Use a USB cable to connect your TV device to your development machine. If needed, refer to documentation provided by your device manufacturer.
- On your TV device, navigate to Settings.
- In the Device row, select About.
- Scroll down to Build and select Build several times until you get the message, "You are now a developer!"
- Return to Settings. In the Preferences row, select Developer options.
- Select Debugging > USB debugging and select On.
- Navigate back to the TV home screen.
To test your application on your TV device:
- In Android Studio, select your project and click Run from the toolbar.
- In the Select Deployment Target window, select your TV device, and click OK.
Run on a virtual device
The AVD Manager in the Android SDK provides the device definitions that allow you to create virtual TV devices for running and testing your applications.
To create a virtual TV device:
- Start the AVD Manager. For more information, see the AVD Manager help.
- In the AVD Manager dialog, click the Device Definitions tab.
- Select one of the Android TV device definitions and click Create AVD.
- Select the emulator options and click OK to create the AVD.
Note: For best performance of the TV emulator device, use the x86 emulator and enable the Use Host GPU option. Also use virtual device acceleration when it's available. For more information on the emulator's hardware acceleration see Configure Hardware Acceleration.
To test your application on the virtual TV device:
- In Android Studio, select your project and click Run from the toolbar.
- In the Select Deployment Target window, select your virtual TV device, and click OK.