First, it was Apple TV 4: ‘Must. Bake. Longer.’, a missive about how Apple really needed to leave Apple TV 4 in the oven a little longer because the first version of tvOS was not fully baked. Second, the more I used Apple TV 4 the more upset I became because, you know, ‘beta tester‘ and penned (keyboarded doesn’t sound right) Hey Apple, Listen Up. I’m Tired Of Being Sir Jony Ive’s Product Beta Tester. Guess what? Apple heard me.
No Apple TV Love Fest
This weekend I put Apple TV 4 to the most extensive test and play period ever (and I’ve had Apple TV 1, 2, and 3) and maybe, just maybe, I’m beginning to see some light at the end of the long, dark tunnel. I just hope it’s not a train coming from the opposite direction. Apple TV users seem to fall into two camps. Love it. Or, hate it.
Allow me to create a third camp. Learning to like it. Here’s a list of the good in Apple TV.
Games – I own Xbox. And Playstation. AirPlay games from iPhone to Apple TV are not the same. Fun, yes. But just not so powerful. Apple TV 4 can change that. The first few games available are merely the start– and an expensive start– of the game platforms future, and it’s likely to become larger than both as game developers port everything they can to Apple TV. You just can’t beat fast action on a big screen with the controller of your choice (your MFi certified choice, of course).
General Purpose – As much as I hate to say it, Apple has laid out Apple TV 4 so it can be much like the iPhone or iPad or Mac. Something for everyone. Fun for everyone. Children and elderly can navigate with ease, and all the noise about the trackpad remote is just that. Noise. It works, and exploring Apple TV’s menus are an exercise in not using your brain. It’s easy. The light colored background is annoying at first, but it’s obvious Apple needed to do something different because the old Apple TV interface was, well, tired. Categories work like tabs, and any app or section that is selected pops out larger so young children figure it out quickly, and that includes scrolling (trust me, there will be plenty to scroll within a few months).
Apple Remote* – Apple decided to rethink how a TV or entertainment system remote should work, and about all they came up with was a home button and a trackpad. The most important feature in the remote is the add-on Apple Loop*, which attaches to the remote and secures itself around your wrist. Apple is likely to do a good business in remote replacements. Otherwise, once you’ve used Apple Remote for a few days it just works. Menu, Home, Siri, Pause and Play, and volume (I’m impressed that sound volume can be controlled from the Remote).
Siri – Alright, I’m pissed that Siri cannot search my entire music library for songs and playlists but once I’m completely switched over to Apple Music, and Siri gets updated to handle it, that will not longer be an issue. Siri has improved notably in recent years on iPhone and iPad and it shows up in Apple TV, which can lower the background TV sound while listening to you. Fast forward and rewind on the two most used options so far, but once Apple has a streaming cable TV service available, Siri will become much busier and more useful.
Tech Stuff – Apple TV has this interesting way of handling applications. Memory is finite, of course, and though I bought the 64GB version, every Apple product I’ve ever owned came with the most storage I could afford, and it’s likely there will be some moving apps around to avoid running out of space, but Apple TV puts a limit on an app’s initial size so they can be downloaded quickly, and additional support files can be downloaded later as needed. That makes apps feel responsive even when everything hasn’t been downloaded and stored yet.
Curating Works – We should have learned this from the iTunes App Store for iPhone and iPad (and less so the Mac App Store, but that’s a story all by its lonesome). App curating works. One of the great benefits to Apple’s app library is how app developers are forced to step up their game and design great apps that compete with other great apps. The Apple TV App Store is anemic at best now, but it seems new apps show up every day or so, and the only negative appears to be the price tag. The early adopter app developers love their work and they’re charging for it far beyond typical iOS app prices.
Platform & HomeKit – Apple TV is more of a new platform that merely an entertaining video product. I, for one long time Apple customer, cannot way for HomeKit integration apps to have their own category. Think of how cool it will be to FaceTime from Apple TV while watching a video (or, later, live TV), to view the front door, and control lights and appliances for anywhere in the house or condo– while watching TV.
If ever there was a time when Apple was skating to where the puck would be it’s with Apple TV. Yes, I’m unhappy about an unfinished product and Apple TV 4 feels more beta than ready for prime time (but that was the case with Watch, too, and watchOS 2.x has shown fast improvement. Already Apple has released tvOS 9.0.1 (obviously, the version numbering scheme is there to keep pace with iOS 9.x) with a few improvements. A co-worker has the updated beta version, now at tvOS 9.1 and says there’s built-in support for Siri search for Apple Music.
Am I in love with Apple TV? No. But I have more respect and it’s likely that a fondness may develop over the next year.