Roku TV sets are getting an exclusive feature that’s not available on the company’s streaming set-top boxes: the ability to pause live, over-the-air TV. Today, Roku TVs from TCL, Sharp, and others are being updated with version 7.5 of Roku OS. If you’ve got an antenna running into your TV, you can now pause content for up to 90 minutes. A USB drive (with at least 16GB of free storage) must also be plugged in for this feature to work, since Roku needs somewhere to store the parts of shows you’re missing. This is nothing close to a full-fledged DVR; it’s really just a simple, convenient feature that’s there if you’re interrupted in the middle of a show or sports game.
Another new feature in the 7.5 update is private listening using your smartphone instead of the Roku remote. On other Roku players, private listening lets you plug headphones into a 3.5mm headphone jack on the remote control, but not all Roku TVs ship with that. Now, Roku is updating all TVs running its OS so that you can listen to programming through the Roku app on your phone. This only supports streaming content; trying to do it with live TV presents a number of challenges, with latency at the top of the list.
On the regular set-top boxes, Roku OS 7.5 lets multiple people use the “Play on Roku” function at once, brings screen mirroring to more models, and allows Roku remotes with physical volume buttons to adjust TV loudness over HDMI CEC.
Roku seems particularly proud that it’s continuing to update products that are no longer on the market with new functionality. “In many cases these updates go to products that are no longer available for sale but are in full use in customer’s homes.”