Wednesday , November 22 2017

Foxtel’s $99 Foxtel Now Box goes on sale this Friday – it’s running Android TV and has 4K Chromecast built-in

Foxtel today launched its Android TV streaming device, the Foxtel Now Box. Formerly nicknamed “the puck” for its interesting shape, the device goes on sale this week direct from the Foxtel Now website, with retail sales to follow soon after.

First announced to the world at Foxtel’s event earlier this year where the company relaunched their streaming service as Foxtel Now, the Foxtel Now Box offers access to the company’s own on demand streaming content and live channels, but also features an antenna input so you can watch live TV in the same “Live TV” interface. As it’s an Android TV device, you can also access Android TV apps in the Google Play store and it functions as a 4K-capable Chromecast receiver.

Physically, the Foxtel Now Box is perhaps disappointingly not shaped like a box. It looks a little like the bottom half of a Google Home, cast all in black plastic. There’s a big flat button on top that wakes it or puts it in standby, just like the power button on your phone. A ring of LEDs in the base glow green when it’s on, and red when it’s in standby, and an array of ports and connectors (power, ethernet, USB, HDMI and antenna) lives at the rear. There’s a non slip rubber ring around the base to help it stay put wherever you place it in your AV setup.

Conversely, the remote control seems unlikely to win design awards. It’s a chunky affair but the directional input and Android navigation buttons are all present and give a satisfying click when pushed. There’s also a microphone on top for voice input. Like any Android TV device, you can take control using an app on your phone if you lose it.

The Foxtel Now Box runs Android TV (it’s on Android 7.0 Nougat), so like any other Android TV device it officially has access only to a Google-curated subset of apps in the Play Store and runs a “leanback” interface that offers access to all of Android’s features in a TV-remote-friendly interface. Unofficially, you can sideload apps if you can get the APK, but that doesn’t mean all your apps designed for touch input will work on a big-screen TV.

Foxtel’s device also has a customised launcher that’s designed to tie heavily into the content on offer from the Foxtel Now streaming service, including content recommendations and live streams of the channels permitted by your subscription directly on the home screen. While customised to focus on Foxtel Now, the launcher still offers the standard Android TV “app row” featuring the Play Store and most recently used apps.

It’s not surprising to see this amount of integration. In fact, you’ll need a Foxtel Now account – even if you don’t have an active subscription – to set it up out of the box.

On the app front, you’ll find apps for a number of Australian streaming services and broadcasters on the device. Foxtel called out ABC iView, Plus7 and TenPlay on the broadcaster side, while Stan was mentioned on the subscription video-on-demand front.

A Netflix-shaped elephant

There’s a glaring omission from the apps available on the device which caused a bit of a stir at the event. While it’s certified to run Android TV with access to the Android TV Play Store, you won’t find Netflix in there.

Foxtel seems to be laying the blame for this at Netflix’s feet, saying they’re happy to have the app on the Foxtel Now Box but that it’s Netflix’s responsibility to release the app. They also say the two companies are in discussions.

It’s unlikely that Foxtel is actually doing anything nefarious to break Netflix. Their device is based on the Technicolor “Skipper” which runs a Marvell processor, and it’s possible Netflix’s app doesn’t support this architecture.

Regardless of the reason, Netflix supports Chromecast so you should just be able to cast to the Foxtel Now Box from your phone or tablet while the two titans work it out. It might not be that simple though, as Netflix has been known to block “Chromecast Built In” devices from running their Chromecast Receiver app.

Foxtel has just become Android TV’s biggest proponent in Australia. If you’d asked us how likely this was a year ago we’d probably have laughed on your face and walked away.

The price point is about right for a streaming box, and the devices Android TV nature with access to the Play store should play in its favour. It also makes the Chromecast Ultra redundant by coming in at the same price and also offering its built-in 4K Chromecast streaming.

The lack of Netflix seems likely to turn off potential customers and is hopefully something Foxtel will be looking remedy sooner, rather than later.

If Foxtel gets its eventual retail presence right, this will be Australia’s first mass-market Android TV device and it will hopefully finally drive adoption of the platform here.

Will you be looking to add a Foxtel Nox Box to your home AV setup? We’ve got a device on the Ausdroid test bench, so if you have any questions ask away!

Jason Murray   Deputy Editor

Before discovering the Nexus One, Jason thought he didn’t need a smartphone. Now he can’t bear to be without his Android phone. Jason hails from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane depending on his mood and how detailed a history you’d like. A web developer by day with an interest in consumer gadgets and electronics, he also enjoys reading comics and has a worryingly large collection of Transformers figures. He’d like to think he’s a gamer, but his Wii has been in a box since he moved to Sydney, and his PlayStation Vita collection is quite lacking. Most mornings you’ll find him tilting at various windmills on Twitter – follow @JM77 and say hi!

Join the Ausdroid Conversation

27 Comments on "Foxtel’s $99 Foxtel Now Box goes on sale this Friday – it’s running Android TV and has 4K Chromecast built-in"

avatar
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Member

No channel nine support yet either fyi iview, seven, ten are all online

Daniel Tyson
Ausdroid Manager

Channel Nine has Chromecast support in their Android app, is the Foxtel box able to act as a cast receiver? Not ideal, but better than nothing.

Member

Fairly misinformed article. Number of errors and lack of research. Seems the writer forgot about Australia’s first mass-market Android TV device, and the other devices that have Android TV built in such as Sony Bravia which has been commercially available for a number of years now. Yes, Foxtel Now Box is going to assist in the take up and development in the Android TV space in Australia but won’t be the first.

Daniel Tyson
Ausdroid Manager
Jason, and the rest of the Ausdroid team who discussed this article and the launch of the Foxtel Now Android TV box prior to launch are quite aware of the other Android TV systems currently in play from Sony, Philips, TCL and even Toshiba, however they’re not generally priced at the point where they are prone to be pushing general uptake. A $100 device is more of a driver of the platform to mass market than a $1,000 TV or the now defunct Asus Nexus Player which though priced well never received a large marketing push from either Asus or… Read more »
Member

No Netflix is a deal breaker. I need 3 apps to run… Plex, Netflix and Foxtel Now.
Additionally, Android TV makes my soul shed tears of despair. So much potential yet so seemingly useless.

Member

More tears than their d grade attempt at messaging with allo and sms?

Member

The netflix thing is weird. Wonder if it just sideloads fine.

Daniel Tyson
Ausdroid Manager

You can sideload the app, but it doesn’t run. It’s prevented from running.

Member

So is Kodi. You’ll find it in the A-TV playstore but it won’t work.

Mark
Valued Guest
Mark

You cannot Chromecast Netflix to the box, this is covered in the Foxtel FAQ.

Member

Does it allow you to timeshift Free to Air TV? I’m guessing there’s no full on PVR functions or they would have been advertised, but the majority of smart TV’s can at least timeshift a bit, so I’m hoping they have done this (maybe via expandable USB memory? I see a USB port on the rear) which would instantly make it better than Telstra TV’s new offering for me.

Member

If anyone else cared about this question, I have now tested my own and surprisingly it was the opposite of what I assumed might happen. You can pause and timeshift the Foxtel channels because the stream allows you too. FTA channels do not allow pause or timeshift functions. I’m hoping an update down the track might allow the addition of this via expandable memory. Not being able to pause the TV to go grab something is not good enough in this day and age.

Mark
Valued Guest
Mark

Can I use this with an existing Foxtel login? Would be nice to have a Foxtel Go app for the Apple TV so I can watch on-demand stuff and live streamed stuff on the Apple TV

Ausdroid Director

Foxtel Go and Foxtel Now are completely separate product offerings. Foxtel Go is a companion for Cable/Satellite STBs, and so doesn’t allow casting. Foxtel Now does, because it’s for customers who either (a) don’t have a cable/sat STB, or (b) subscribe to an extra service.

Neerav Bhatt
Ausdroid Team

No you need a seperate Foxtel Now subscription to your HFC/Satellite Foxtel subscription

Craig
Valued Guest
Craig

I remember reading somewhere else that the reason Netflix wasnt getting included is that they wanted a dedicated button on the remote but Foxtel said no – cant seem to find the article that said that

Reg
Valued Guest

In preparation for this, it seems Tenplay is now Android TV compatible in the play store. Will check it out tonight on the mibox

David Porter
Valued Guest
David Porter

Technicolor skipper runs Netflix in Italy, so hardware isn’t the reason why Netflix isn’t on this device.

Does it run Plex and can you install APKs?

Member

Plex is available for install, I haven’t tested it yet

Member

I’d love to know if there is a launcher and whether the foxtel apk runs as a secondary…

Might be able to sideload the apk on a Sony TV.

Edit: What is the version (1.x.x) of Foxtel Now??

rpack
Valued Guest
rpack

What audio does it have? Does it run Stan 4K? Is the on demand content HD at least and what is the ausio from this?

Damian
Valued Guest
Damian

It’s my understanding that you will not be able to Chromecast Netflix via the device.

Member

How is that even possible? I can’t think of a single other chromecast app that was selectively blocked by any Chromecast-compliant hardware.

Member
whitelunchbag

Netflix doesn’t support ‘Chromecast built-in’ devices, I can’t cast to my Sony Android TV without the Netflix app on the TV being signed in to the same Netflix account as the casting device.

Bob
Valued Guest

Optus Sport will not run on Nvidia Shield TV when casting but will fine to a normal chromecast.

Craig
Valued Guest
Craig

Couple of questions while you’ve got it on the bench..

Will it run Kodi? Does it support CEC over HDMI or am I stuck navigating two remote controls?

Thanks

Member

eager to knowas well

wpDiscuz

Check Also

OnePlus answer the question of Australian availability of the 5T in their AMA

Usually anyone who does an AMA is referring to Reddit but of course OnePlus like …