Google’s emerging quest to make Android TV a player in the global connected TV market has taken another key step, with Chinese electronics maker TCL selling Android TV-powered smart TVs in the U.S. for the first time.
TCL is selling two Android TV models, both branded “3-Series,” and each primarily sold through Best Buy for starters: a $129 32-inch set with 720p LED display; and a $199 40-inch LED set with 1080p HD capability.
Both Android TV sets feature hardware that is very similar, if not identical, to the popular Roku-enabled smart TVs TCL has sold in the U.S. since 2014, and will continue to sell.
TCL recently overtook Samsung to become the U.S. smart TV market leader, according to IDC. (It still officially lists itself as America’s second ranked brand in marketing material.) TCL has quickly established its brand by selling lower margin LED smart TVs with high-end features and quality displays at a significantly lower price point than the competition.
It had previously sold Android TV-powered sets in other global markets, including Europe. TCL also recently announced that it will begin selling Android-powered smartphones in the U.S. for the first time.
As for Google, having a somewhat major smart TV marker market Android TV as a direct-to-consumer product is another step toward competing with Roku and Amazon for the connected TV market.
Google is also widely reported to be developing its own Android TV-powered CTV dongle—a device that would replace the minimalist Chromecast, which never was able to seriously challenge Roku and Amazon Fire TV for North American connected TV device share.
Currently, through both Android TV and Chromecast, Google controls less than 10% of the U.S. connected TV device market, with Roku owning the lions share and Amazon in second place.
"It is no secret that TCL's rapid growth coincides with the increasing adoption of smart TVs, but this resounding success is largely due to our innovation, vertical integration, massive business scale and of course, strong relationships with partners like Roku," said Chris Larson, senior VP for TCL North America, in a statement. "Our award-winning TV lineup helped propel us into America's second-largest TV brand just five years after we introduced our products in the U.S. and with those significant achievements, we believe this is the perfect time to deliver another option for consumers with Android TV.”
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Added Shalini Govil-Pai, senior director of product management for Android TV, Google: "From our robust content library available in apps and games from Google Play to having Google Assistant built into the TCL sets with Android TV, you're able to control the TV with just your voice and create the perfect viewing environment by controlling smart home devices. Together with TCL, we're making your time in front of the TV more rewarding."