This year we saw a big expansion of Apple’s AirPlay streaming protocol into the living room, with news arriving back in January that major TV brands were adding AIrPlay 2 and more to their smart TVs. Alongside Samsung, LG, and Vizio, Sony also joined the club in announcing that both AirPlay 2 and HomeKit support would be coming its 4K and 8K TVs “later this year.”
However, while most other TV brands were quick to deliver support for Apple’s new streaming technologies, with Samsung even getting the iTunes Movies and TV Shows apps on their sets in the spring, Sony lagged behind, failing to deliver the software updates that would enable these features, which were originally expected to arrive in the spring and summer.
It looks like Sony has finally made good on its promise of getting the technology out by the end of 2019, however. According to MacRumors, Sony has begun rolling out the update in the U.S., Canada, and Latin America for several 2018 and 2019 models of Sony Smart TVs, including the 2018 A9F and Z9F models as well as the 2019 A9G, Z9G, X950G, and X850G models, in 55, 65, 75, and 85-inch sizes. Notably, the earlier 2018 models weren’t listed as being compatible in Sony’s original announcement, so this is a bonus for those who already own these models from last year, before any public announcements had been made of enhanced Apple support for Smart TVs.
What’s particularly interesting about these Sony TVs, however, is that they actually run the Android TV platform. In fact, the update that is rolling out to the Sony sets is Android 9 Pie, which also adds Dolby Atmos support and several other new features.
Of course, there’s no technical reason that Apple features can’t be added to the Android operating system, but it’s intriguing nonetheless as the implementation of AirPlay 2 on Android TV could theoretically open the door to delivering features like this to other Android devices, since the code has now been written for the Android operating system.
This also means that the Android-based Sony Smart TVs will no longer be tied as closely to Android smartphones as they have been in the past; users will have a choice between Google Chromecast and AirPlay 2, and thanks to HomeKit support will also be able to integrate their Sony TVs into the Apple home automation ecosystem.
At this point, however, the update appears to be limited to adding AirPlay 2 support, which will allow users to stream videos, music, photos, and other media directly from an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, along with HomeKit support which will enable the TVs to be controlled using Siri voice commands and tied into home automation routines.
However, what still appears to be conspicuously missing from the Android 9 Pie update for Sony’s TVs is the Apple TV app, which is crucial to letting users natively watch Apple TV+ on their Smart TVs. When Apple announced the launch of Apple TV+ in September, it noted at the time that the app was still to come to several smart TV platforms, including Amazon Fire TV, LG, Roku, Sony, and Vizio. Amazon’s Fire TV and Roku devices have since received the update, but so far the Apple TV app remains missing in action on all Smart TV platforms other than Samsung, which already included the iTunes Movies and TV Shows apps from the beginning.
Of course, with AirPlay 2, content can be easily streamed from an iPhone or iPad, but a native app and viewing experience is still preferable for most people. It’s unlikely, however, that the Apple TV would be built into the Android update itself, so it’s much more likely to simply make an appearance on the Google Play Store at some point. Whether it will be exclusive to Android TV in general or Sony TVs specifically remains to be seen, however, but this could also be the first step in Apple releasing its TV app for the Android platform in general.