One Guy’s Experience with the New Apple TV
The new AppleTV device is about the best experience our family has yet had with any product like it. Is it perfect and actually the “future of television?” Nothing ever is, and this may-or-may-not ‘win’ the future, but in my view it’s about as close as anything has ever come to date.
For the last 15 years or more I’ve owned and dabbled with just about everything: satellite and cable boxes; TiVo; Boxee, Plex, Kodi (formerly XBMC) and other media center offerings; Roku; and finally AppleTVs (we own three of the ‘old’ ones). My frustration with most mainstream offerings delivering close to what I want—but also missing features I need like access to my own ripped movies, home videos, photos and music—that I ended up with multiple home theater devices connected up:
- Roku – Mainly to access Amazon Prime and AcornTV (my bride and I are addicted to British TV)
- AppleTV – for iTunes store, connection to our computers & media, as well as Airplay capability
- Plex media center to deliver everything else that is not in iTunes on my computer and/or NAS (network attached storage).
Headed to the Apple store on Friday, October 30th to buy the new AppleTV since the Best Buy close to my house did NOT have them in stock yet (even though all news accounts said they would be in stock). The Apple Store Southdale shelves were full so I bought it and headed home to hook it up.
Booting it up the first time the device asked me if I wanted to set it up manually or via an iOS device. Selecting the iOS option I was asked to hold my device close and it sucked off the Wifi settings. Impressive.
Immediately I was surprised to see how much more detailed, crisper and saturated the graphics were on it. That carried over to the videos and games too. That alone made the purchase worthwhile, but obviously isn’t enough.
Buying and setting up a new device is always somewhat of a pain-in-the-ass since, even though one usually uses a backup for a new computer, smartphone or tablet to accelerate the setup process, one still has to connect it up and set up all the accounts and the new AppleTV process is not user-friendly.
I had to use the new, very slippery remote (and replacements cost $79.95 so DON’T DROP AND BREAK IT!) to manually scroll an alphabet to laboriously put in my email address and password for ALL of the accounts. No remote app for iOS is yet available—that would have made this a painless process—and I found myself pissed off that I had to do it. A bluetooth keyboard connection or Remote App for iOS would instantly fix that issue.
Next I launched the TV App Store and added all the familiar apps: Netflix; Hulu; some games, and more. Since there isn’t yet a “Categories” feature in the App Store, the only way to see what apps are in the store is to use that damn alphabet to click “a” to see apps starting with an “a”; “b” for “b” apps; and so forth. What a drag.
Was stunned to find a glaring omission too: Where the hell is the podcast app? Especially since Apple was the first company to offer podcasts in iTunes; Google is now offering them so there is competition; and podcasts are accelerating in popularity.
Fortunately, once setup the AppleTV experience was phenomenal.
MY FIRST FRIDAY NIGHT
Actually using it this first Friday night was when I got very excited about this new AppleTV and could begin to visualize the possibilities: Besides the app store which I know will grow, the Siri voice integration and universal (across apps) search worked very well.
For the moment, universal search is limited to only a few sources that include Netflix, iTunes, Hulu, HBOGo, and Showtime, but Apple plans to make a universal search API available, expanding the number of apps that can take advantage of the feature.
WOW #1: So often (especially with BritishTV shows) my wife and I look at each other and say, “What did he say?” but with the Siri button on the remote, one can hold down that button and ask, “What did he say?” and Siri will rewind a few seconds AND play back those few seconds with closed captioning turned on! So even if you still can’t figure out what he said, now you can read it!
WOW #2: Next we started asking Siri to show us romantic comedies and played around with various iterations of that request. Some worked and some didn’t, but Siri often displayed the same content available on iTunes AND Netflix AND Hulu so one could choose: Should I buy it on iTunes or play it for free on my Netflix or Hulu subscription?
WOW #3: The Plex official app came out three days later! Now I can access all my Plex-managed media from the AppleTV.
WOW #4: Wifi connecting is PERFECT! Apple has made a huge leap forward on connecting Macs to AppleTV which makes both iTunes Library sharing AND Plex use so much simpler. My home theater setup includes a MOCA box (and switch) so I can connect all my home theater devices to my network. For some reason this always presented an issue with iTunes Library sharing or Plex, and I’d have to reboot the old AppleTV to get it to work. Most bothersome was having to go in to my home office and connect my iMac to ethernet since the Wifi bridging from the home theater area’s MOCA box to Wifi was hosed up somehow. Now it works perfectly so whatever Apple did, they made this guy’s life a lot easier!
WOW #5: I played some games. Why is this considered a “Wow”? I usually find non-social gaming a waste of time. Guess I’m too competitive so my juices get flowing as I try to master a game or beat it. With social gaming it’s fun because of who I’m with…not the game itself…so I play cards or board games (or online, social games with family and friends). The games I downloaded (and also bought) are simple, yet fun, and are graphically gorgeous and I may have to revisit my aversion to solo gaming.
- Rumor has it that Apple has delayed and delayed launching the new AppleTV since they are still negotiating with the major networks. This will continue to be an uphill battle and many think Apple released this new AppleTV to build a critical mass of users.
- Cutting-the-cable-cord is accelerating—and DVR skipping of commercials is basically the way we all watch recorded TV today—but the individual networks want to be able to deliver TV programming with their own apps so they can insert unskippable advertisements within their own shows. I predict if we are forced to watch commercials and can’t skip them (or do what I do now with Hulu: pay them more for zero commercial interruptions), people will go ballistic.
- We also don’t know if paying for apps from NBC, ABC, FOX, CBS, HBO, Showtime and other networks will add up to MORE than our current cable or satellite bills.
Inevitably there will have to be some consolidation of the TV-watching adventure by consumers. Who knows who will win these battles, let alone the war for internet-delivered TV. We’ll just have to wait-and-see what unfolds.
All-in-all I love this new AppleTV. Only way to really know about this for yourself, however, is to buy one or at least go to an Apple Store for an in-depth demo. You might like it too. Enjoy!
About Steve Borsch
Connecting the Dots Podcast
Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.