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Google TV adds user profiles to Chromecast streamer and smart TVs

The upcoming software update also improves the ambient mode screensaver and integrates live TV service Philo.

David Katzmaier/CNET

Google announced new features today aimed at further personalizing its streaming devices and smart TVs by adding user profiles and an enhanced screensaver. 

A software update rolling out soon lets Google TV users add individual profiles to their devices. The profiles are similar to ones available on Netflix and Disney Plus, but they encompass multiple services. Each profile gets its own TV and movie recommendations, along with its own watchlist and Google Assistant.


The new feature expands on Google TV's kids profiles, which rolled out earlier this year offering parental controls and kid-friendly content. Competing Amazon Fire TV devices also offer profiles, but they're not available on Roku.

The Google TV update will also enhance ambient mode (the photo screensaver that appears automatically after a few minutes of inactivity) by adding more profile-linked information to the screen. For example, the display will now feature customized recommendations, the latest game scores, weather information and more. You'll also be able to click on shortcuts to reach your photos or music. 

Additionally, budget live TV streaming service Philo will be integrated into Google TV's live TV menu, which also supports YouTube TV and Sling TV. Subscribers to any of those three services will see the program guide and cloud DVR in Google TV's menus.

Google TV, the new version of the search giant's Android TV platform, is available natively in all new Sony Televisions as well as some TCL TVs. It also runs on Chromecast with Google TV, one of CNET's favorite streaming devices. The $50 Chromecast with Google TV features Google Assistant, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos and 4K resolution. We liked the deep integration with other Google apps such as YouTube TV and Google Photos, though it's not as speedy as competitors when switching apps or using voice. 

Roku's platform is still the leader in the category due to its simplicity and speed, but the gap is narrower than ever before. We look forward to testing the new features soon.