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Product Review: Apple TV Doesn't Deliver

With tremendous room for opportunity, Apple fails to deliver on its newest Apple TV.
Apple TV

When Apple announced the new Apple TV this fall, it was all about apps. Game apps, shopping apps—and of course video streaming apps. In addition the new gen Apple TV has an entirely new interface, fully integrated voice control (Siri), and a revolutionary remote control.

And what a remote!  The touch interface keeps the number of buttons way down, nearly everything is controlled by swiping up, down, or side-to-side on the smooth touch interface.  It’s familiar to anyone that has used a smartphone, which is pretty much everyone.  The build quality on the remote is excellent, it’s obvious as soon as you hold it, much better than the cheap plastics the competition uses.

The integration of Apple’s voice command system (Siri) is also excellent.  As Apple demonstrated on stage at the launch, asking Siri “what did they say” while watching a movie or TV show causes the system to back up 30 seconds or so, turn on closed caption for about a minute, then turn it back off.  Apple has done a brilliant job of integrating voice control in a practical way.

Apple TV is compatible with third party Bluetooth game controllers. The process of purchasing a game app (any app really) is virtually the same as doing so on an iPad and an iPhone. Apple has this nailed down. There are more game apps than any other category in the Apple TV App store right now. I’ve played a few and Apple TV makes for a solid, if lightweight, game console. It’s not a PS4 or Xbox, but it’s not trying to be.  This is your father’s game console—or your toddler’s.

But the point of Apple TV, the entire point of it, is to deliver video content to the biggest screen you own.  And here is where the problems start.  Apple content is easily accessed, and there are some apps available for streaming (Netflix, Hulu, HBO, etc.).  But if you own Ultraviolet movies you cannot watch them on an Apple TV. Call me naïve, but I expected Apple TV to launch with all of the video streaming apps found on the iPad or iPhone. But, this is not the case.

Looking forward to the former Top Gear gang’s new show next year on Amazon Prime?  Not on Apple TV.  At least not yet. Amazon’s not on there as of this writing, and I’m not confident they ever will be.

Another ‘feature’ of Apple TV is that it connects directly to your iCloud photo library.  So, take a picture with your iPhone and it is automatically copied down to Apple TV for viewing on a big, HD screen.  Great.  So that nasty, pus-filled pimple on my back that I snapped a picture of so I could see what the hell is going on just popped up in my living room, pissing off the wife and terrifying the young ones. Thanks Apple. 

I’ve been a Roku owner for years. It works and every content provider is available, with one exception—Apple.  The Roku is less than half the cost of Apple TV and the Roku’s cheap plastic remote comes with a headphone jack that cuts off the TV speakers, a handy thing to have in a home with more than one person in it.  No such feature with Apple TV—a missed opportunity. 

The bottom line is that the Apple TV is a well-made product that has enormous potential.  However, until Apple makes available all the mainstream content providers (Amazon, Vudu, Flixster, etc.) I’d pass.

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