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Smart TV app building guide 2023

The use of smart TV is not restricted to the fact that users can access live TV shows on such smart devices through the internet. They can play games, interact with live-streaming news and even connect with families and friends through video calls. There is much more scope for a smart TV in terms of its utility.

Smart TV app

However, getting into the Smart TV app development can be challenging if you are not aware of the right approach to its development. In this article, we will cover the most preferred smart TV platforms and a brief development guide for each of its apps.

What do you need to consider before getting into Smart TV app development?

The most important factor that you must consider is what type of audience you want to target. It also includes which countries you want to consider. The demand for different smart TV platforms varies based on country. After considering this factor, you have to focus on the business model that you are currently working on. Also, you can make this preference based on the concept of VOD (Video On Demand).

Whatever the choice in terms of target audience and business model, the market share of Smart TV will exponentially grow in the future. Most of the viewers are trying to get over the conventional TV devices and get adapted to Smart TV streaming devices.

Another context that you cannot miss is the choice of OS.

Define OS (Operating System)

You can refer to Operating Systems as software. It is installed in set-top boxes. This lets users connect their TV to the internet. You have to use a boot program to load OS into smart TV sets.

Let’s discuss the most popular OS.

Tizen TV OS (Samsung TV)

Samsung smart TV operates on Tizen TV OS. This TV platform, with its innovation, is aiming to expand its consumer base across the world. Also, they aim at expanding the ecosystem of Tizen OS. In terms of its popularity, Samsung as a smart TV operator is renowned across 197 countries.

If you are a developer and want to build a Tizen TV app, either you need to know HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS or you can hire a Samsung TV app developer. The high speed offered by Tizen OS is due to the lean programming technology used by the platform.

Getting more familiar with the Tizen OS

Tizen is a Linus-based OS. its easily handled UIs make it one of the used TV Os in the global market. You can get the option of customization while developing smart TV apps with Tizen OS.

Now, as Tizen TV OS celebrates its 10 years, its usage has expanded to non-Samsung TV users. International ODM brands like HKC, Tempo and Atmaca, and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd have joined hands and come to this agreement. So, if you are based on Bauhn, Linsar, Sunny, and others, you can embed the Tizen OS in your smart TV devices.

Extension libraries for an enhanced TV experience

  • TOAST- It is a Cordova Plugin used in Samsung smart TV. It can be used to build TV web apps. Most importantly, this plugin makes the TV app development process much easier since you only need to design code once and use it multiple times.
  • WebAssembly- It is a supporting extension of smart TV. It can complement JavaScrip and run along the same lines. Also, note that you can use the WebAssembly supporting extension in your Samsung TVs, only if the embedded Tizen OS is 5.5 version or newer.
  • CAPH- It is such an extension that is useful for building web apps. It is a UI framework for web apps.
  • Have Good WITs- With this extension, you can improve the quality of web apps, which are based on Tizen OS. It supports the live loading features which make it easier for you to make alterations in both JS and CSS-based codes.

The designing criteria for Samsung smart TV

  • The clarity in terms of app navigation should be ensured.
  • You cannot randomly design the composition of the app interface for smart TVs. It has to be distinct from that of a mobile device. Also, its color and resolutions have stark differences.
  • The options written on the remote control unit should match that of the TV. The main intention should be not to confuse the users.
  • You need to maintain consistency in remote controls, screen layout, and app navigation.

Android TV/ Google TV

As far as the Smart TV experience is concerned, Google TV cannot be overlooked. While discussing Google TV, it is necessary to take Android TV OS into consideration. It is the core OS of Google TV. However, if you are confused between Google TV and Android TV, let me clarify that the smart TV devices which are based on the TV OS of Android but do not have the interface of Google TV cannot be called Google TV.

Selecting the Google Tv platform can be profitable since developers who are acquainted with the basic architecture of Android app development can easily build smart TV apps for Google devices. However, it needs some minute changes. Also, you have to abide by the terms and conditions of app quality.

Additional criteria- AAB format into execution

While developing an Android TV app for Google TV, you cannot launch the app in APK format. Rather, you have to consider the `AAB format. Compared to the APK format, adapting to the AAB format is much easier. Given the small storage size of smart TV devices in comparison to mobile devices, users don't need to think about which apps to keep and which apps to uninstall from their TV devices.

Setting up the Development Environment

. Prioritizing the media formats- You should learn about the particular media formats. For example, you need to understand the supported video encoding parameters., audio formats, video formats, network protocols, and others. For further understanding, you can visit the documentation page.

You also have to learn about licensee verification, i.e., the DRM framework to stay aware of the issue regarding unauthorised distribution of applications.

The utility of ExoPlayer is significant in developing TV apps for Google TV.

It is an app-based media player. If you are developing TV apps, you can use ExoPlayer to get different media formats like adaptive formats in the form of SmoothStreaming and DASH.

. Set up a TV project- For the TV app, you have two opinions. Either you can develop a TV app from scratch or you can make an android mobile compatible with the android TV app. For the latter case, you need to set up the configuration and make alterations in the UI of the mobile app to support it on TV devices.

Also, the pre-requisite criteria that you have to consider are as follows.

  • The SDK tool set that you are using for the development should be at least version 24.0.0.
  • To access the newest APIs for TV apps, you have to use Android version 5.0 (API level 21).
  • You have to either update or build a new project. You can check the documentation page of Android for further details.

For the project setup,

  • You need to declare a launcher activity for TV-based apps. You can do this in the AndroidManifest.xml file of your app.
  • Then you need to mention the leanback support in your project’s manifest file. Here, the required option for the leanback support should be false.
  • Also, you don't need to activate the touchscreen mode for your smart TV apps.
  • Embed a banner on the home screen of your TV app. You can add the app banner in the project’s androidmanifest file.
  • Lastly, you have to change the launcher color of the app.

Required TV libraries got the TV app environment setup

For the TV app development in Google TV or the Android TV platform, you have to install the following libraries. With these, you can access the smart TV APIs and UI widgets.

  • Androidx.leanback.system
  • androidx.leanback.preference
  • androidx.leanback.database
  • Androidx.leanback.widget
  • androidx.leanback.widget.picker

Now, let's see how Amazon Tv operates.

Fire TV OS (Amazon TV)

Amazon TV is based on Fire TV OS. You have to use tools like Android Frameworks or Android studio for making TV apps for the Amazon platform. In this regard, you can also consider Fire App builder.

The features embedded in the Amazon Fire TV such as 4k video output, HDR, and Dolby Atmos audio makes this TV platform one of the best choices for streaming video. However, for Amazon products, you need to create a specific account payment-based amazon profile.

Fire OS is considered the prototype for all Android apps. This means that you can run Android apps on every Amazon Fire product.

Getting started with TV app development on the Fire TV platform

Here, we will become more familiar with the options and choices available for Fire TV app development. Also, we will discuss the framework and the TV app setup process for this platform.

  • For the custom android app, you have to integrate individual versions of Fire OS. These include Fire OS 5, which supports Android 5.1; Fire OS 6, which supports Android 7.1; and Fire OS 7, which supports Android 9.
  • Fire App Builder supported by Amazon is a framework designed for creating media apps on the Fire TV platform. It uses Gradle and Android Studio. If you are familiar with Java, you can build media apps using Fire App builder. During the development process, you customize the parameters for the app's screen layouts, functionality, and data feed. This is achieved through a sequence of JSON files.
  • If you are familiar with the web development algorithm using HTML5, you can easily execute amazon WebView to build games and apps. Also, you get the choice to make Cordova apps, hybrid apps or HTML5 web apps.

For further queries or feedback, you can check the Developer Forum of Amazon Fire TV.

TV OS of Roku

Not as popular as Tizen Tv OS, Fire TV OS, and Android TV but Roku TV OS provides a broad variety of OTT content to its users. This TV OS supports automatic software updates. Also, it has a simple home screen. There is a wide range of TV models that support Roku TV. These include onn., Westinghouse, element, Hisense, MAGNAVOX, RCA, SANYO, SHARP, PHILIPS, and TCL. to connect the smart TV devices with Roku devices, you have to consider HDMI cables.

If you are into Roku TV app development, you need to be familiar with SceneGraph and BrightScript. Here, BrightScript is the scripting language and sceneGraph is the XML Framework useful for creating the app’s UI.

Tools required for building Roku channels

  • Remote Web tool
  • Automation tools supporting Channel testing
  • Stream-based Testing Tool
  • Application Packager
  • Application Installer
  • Roku Plug-in- Eclipse IDE
  • XML Schema
  • Remote tool

Key resources to be taken under consideration

While developing Roku channels or apps for Roku TV, you have to keep the following points in account.

  • First, make an account in the Roku Developer Dashboard.
  • Consider the text editor and terminal application in the Roku Development workstation.
  • You can use web browsers like Firefox for building Roku channels.

For the other development terms in the Roku platform, check their documentation page.

Final Notes

Given the expanding market share of smart TV platforms, TV app development can be profitable. Go through the article to check how each of the discussed Smart TV platforms integrates with the respective TV OS to give an excellent lean-back TV experience to its audience. Also, before selecting a specific smart TV platform, research the framework, APIs, and SDKs compatible with each TV OS.