Apple TV (2015) discussion &Reviews
Apple TV (2015) discussion & Reviews
WIRED reviews the new Apple TV.
It’s called the ‘input one problem’. Every attempt to make a smart TV, games console, TV box or streaming stick faces it. Because although any one of the rapidly multiplying gadgets designed to plug into your HDMI ports might have enough services, content, style or unique features to seem attractive, unless it’s the first thing you see when you turn the power on, its impact on the industry, your life and where you spend your MONEY will be limited.
Why? Because by definition, TV is lazy — fantastically, exhilaratingly lazy — and people are lazy when they look at it. Switching inputs on a remote takes less than a calorie of energy, but the mental energy to remember to actually do it — let alone keeping track of which inputs have Netflix, or run the game to which you’re currently addicted, or let you switch from any of those things to The Big Match, instantly, check the score and switch back, is complex and maddening. People don’t do it, or they don’t do it enough to make being HDMI 2, 3 or 4 really worth it.
For some TV gadgets, especially those with specific and unique content like a Nintendo console or Blu-Ray player, or for that matter the previous generation Apple TV and Airplay, its best feature, relegation to that lowly place might be endurable: these are augmentations to TV you’ll bother to switch inputs for, not replacements for the entire interface itself.
But for a company like Apple — or Microsoft, or Samsung, or Sky — the ultimate ambition is to become your TV, not something on your TV. To be the ‘top layer’ on your big screen — the remote, the voice control service, the on-demand portal, the universal search that lies above and under everything else you want to do — and make it so you viewers never need to switch over. That’s ultimately how TV becomes searchable, accessible and more open, and it’s also how those companies are going to make their cut.
WHY IS TV SO HARD?
So why has no one managed it? Partly, it’s as straightforward as none of the current options being good enough products. But also, it’s because TV as an industry just hasn’t been ready. Live TV is still a fundamental need for most, and though the availability of ‘live content’ on the web or via apps is growing, it is not ubiquitous. Some boxes like the Xbox One or higher-end Smart TVs have HDMI pass-through, and most have Digital TV tuning built-in, but they still require input shifting or management of complex interfaces.
Or perhaps we look at the TV problem in the wrong way — because the reality is that someone has reinvented TV already. There is a device that has as many, or more, sources of high-quality, on-demand, well-designed video and games as TV, and which can deliver you that content anywhere in the world. What is it? The smartphone. Or, let’s face it, the iPhone, and iOS. Apple’s mobile devices have a richer and more usable range of TV services than anything you would plug into your TV, and the smartphone, not the TV, is now most ‘input one’ for most people. That’s why we stare at it while watching TV.
How did Apple get the iPhone to that position in less than a decade? It wasn’t by cutting exclusive deals with every network on Earth, making their own hit shows, or offering endless three month free trials. It did it with just two foundation stones: good, intuitive software design, and the App Store. Demand, apps and the industry followed.
So what if Apple could put both of those things on the TV? Surely the revolution would — finally — arrive?
Which brings us, finally, to the new Apple TV.
EASE OF SETUP
The Apple TV has always been easy to install and this time is no different: with one power cable and HDMI port there really aren’t too many places to go wrong. If you’ve got a previous generation Apple TV you can just unplug the old puck and put the new one in its place, without even opening your new (sold separately) HDMI cable, and your power cord.
Helpfully, the TV software is even easier to setup than before. The new Siri remote is automatically synced to the new box over Bluetooth, not infrared, and if you have an iPhone you won’t even have to enter your password until you buy something; the Apple TV will connect to your phone and authenticate your Apple ID there, meaning you won’t have to enter a code letter-by-letter until you actually decide to purchase an app.
The Apple TV will also automatically setup the Siri remote to control your TV volume, and if needed can be configured easily from the settings menu to instead control the volume on an external device. At least, it should in theory — WIRED wasn’t able to force the remote to connect to our obscure soundbar. That’s probably down to the arcane nature of our AV setup, but it’s a sign that like most claims of universal or simplifying remote control systems, the pitch is a bit more optimistic than reality.
Once your Apple TV is ready, though, your TV shows, music and movies will already be ready to view from the main interface. It’s very simple.
DESIGN & INTERFACE
The Apple TV itself is an intentionally anonymous physical device — roughly twice as tall but with the same footprint as the old one, it’s a black stack of coasters that you’ll only ever look at when taking it out of the box. The only reason to display it is if you have nowhere else to put it, or you really want people to know you have one.
The Siri remote is the interesting design story here. With a trademark aluminium back, curved edges and a dark, simple front with just a few, carefully curated buttons (menu, home, volume, Siri and play/pause), it’s immediately identifiable as an Apple device. It’s weighty and nice to hold, small enough to lose, but beautiful enough to keep on show. Importantly it’s also full of interesting technology, including two microphones, a sharp and precise gyroscope and accelerometer, a glass touch surface comprising the entire top third of the remote (which is just as good as those on Apple’s laptops), and a battery that charges via Lightning but will last, Apple says, up to three months without a recharge. It’s a lovely remote, and if WIRED could throw away our other TV controllers (which for this reviewer comprise an Xbox One controller, Wii U gamepad, TV remote, Sky remote, HDMI switcher, soundbar volume remote and a couple of others) we would.
Of course the real Apple TV interface is not what rests in the hand, but what appears on screen. Here Apple has changed less from the previous generation Apple TV than you might expect. The home screen is still a grid of rectangular app icons below a shelf of content on top which changes based on the selected or first app — popular or recent movies for instance — and a customisable dock of five apps that by default include TV, Movies, Apple Music, Photos and the App Store.
Hover over any app or content without clicking and you can subtly rotate the flat icon with your finger on the Siri remote, sometimes revealing beautiful 3D layers on certain images and instilling a hard-to-describe sense of calm in the user. Click one and you’ll be sent directly to the app, press home and you’ll pop back again. Everything is extremely smooth and fast — the box runs on Apple’s 64 bit A8 processor — and has the same sense of careful polish as you’d expect from the company behind iOS.
The new element this time is Siri; hold the Siri button and you’ll see the familiar waveform overlay waiting to translate your words into actions. In practice it works flawlessly, for what it can actually do: searches are contextual — so you can search for ‘The Sopranos’ for instance, and then ask it to just show episodes with Jon Favreau, and it will know what to do — and the voice transcription is excellent, able to pick up quiet voices accurately, thanks to the microphone being right there in your hand: there’s no shouting ‘XBOX ON!’ six times to get the box to turn on here.
Siri has a few other tricks too. When searching for content, you can ask general queries such as ‘show me movies from the 80s’, and you can refine that by asking for ‘just the good ones’ or ‘just the ones with Bill Murray, which by rights should present the same results. Siri will also bring up weather, STOCKS and sports information, skip, pause and fast forward video, launch apps on demand and turn on closed captions (‘what did she say?’). But what it’s not is truly universal. Siri won’t currently search Apple Music, let alone the majority of third party apps, and the result is that in practice it/she is severely limited. That’s a disappointment — actually, in the case of Apple Music it’s merely weird — and we hope Apple can address it in future.
Better is the fact that in some limited cases, Siri will search across multiple services for content. If a movie is viewable on Netflix and iTunes, the Siri results page will show you both and let you choose where you watch it — and usually that will be the video service for which you are paying a monthly subscription, IE not Apple (yet?). This is sensible, honest and clever. Sadly, it’s not standard. Right now in the UK the feature is limited to Netflix, but in the US other apps are included (such as HBO) and once developers and Apple reach agreement and work together, it’s possible others could follow on these shores. If that happened, it could be a game-changer, but it isn’t quite there.
That aside, the new Apple TV interface is clean, clear, colourful and bold and the video screensavers, featuring time-sensitive views of locations including London, New York and Hawaii, are gorgeous. As a whole it is totally intuitive to use — the closest thing to a touchscreen TV there is, or you would want — and is a rich foundation on which Apple can build its TV empire.
CONTENT & APPS
Almost all of the first party apps and services you’d expect from an Apple TV are present and correct, including Movies, TV, Photos and Music. Trailers is missing though, alas. All (save for the Siri/Music conundrum) work as you would anticipate, though WIRED found Photos to be unusually slow when scrolling — possibly because of our internet connection.
The relative value and quality of Apple’s current music, TV and movie services is a subtly separate issue to the TV itself, but needless to say third party services are going to be very, very important for at least two out of three of those media — for cost, if nothing else. It’s here that the introduction of the App Store becomes critical. The Apple TV has always had some third-party services, including Netflix, some elements of Sky and American sports networks (go Mets), and Apple says all of these will be available on the new device. But these apps were limited in number, and also in the style and adaptability of their interface.
The App Store changes all of that, in theory. Finally developers have the ability to code apps that are as well-designed, rich and modern as their equivalents on iOS, and the early signs are positive that some of the content providers, at least, will pick up that challenge. Those services already available — which include Netflix, YouTube, TED, NFL, Bloomberg TV and Vimeo — are good enough and complex enough to deserve reviews of their own, but all are high-end apps. Netflix lacks some of the newer chrome you can see in its Xbox One app, and the Microsoft-NFL deal means that sport is also better on the Xbox. But some apps, such as the official MLB app for baseball fans, look to be as good or better than anything available on a big screen: genuinely transformative.
Unfortunately, the selection of apps in our pre-launch test was limited, and it looks clear that at launch Apple TV will be missing several key services users might anticipate would be available given their existing iOS apps. Apple says there are hundreds of apps available at launch (including games and others) and that’s true, and developers will be adding more over time, but that obviously can’t come soon enough for fans of Sky (you can dream, at least), AMAZON Prime TV, Spotify, Audible or any other entertainment services not currently present. At least you’ll be notified via the ‘Purchased’ tab when an app you already have gets updated for TV. Of course you can still send video and audio to Apple TV via Airplay, but that’s clearly not the experience Apple wants users to rely on for long.
It’s also going to be important that when missing services come on board, they do so with apps that are not just cut-down versions of their apps for iPad, Xbox One or other TV boxes, but something new. The Apple TV needs, and to be fair makes it possible for, ambitious developers with big ideas to rethink how this all should work. Apple TV gives them the tools. But the incentive is clearly not there for many of the bigger services to think that way, and that will surely be a problem for this platform.
The story around apps is bigger than TV and movies, of course, and Apple is keen to point to its range of new TV based games — some of which, like Beat Sports, introduce interesting new (or Wii-like) motion-based mechanics, and others like Rayman and Galaxy On Fire: Manticore are impressively high-end, beautiful-looking games. With supported (but not first party) gamepads like the SteelSeries Nimbus wireless controller, you can control games with a precision Apple says will match consoles — though we haven’t been able to try that pre-launch.
Again, each of these apps could deserve its own review, and there are many, many more to come, including a few big names like Guitar Hero. Does the TV App Store instantly make Apple a big player in TV and console gaming? No, and there are plenty of reasons for that, including the lack of an excellent first-party controller, a lack of graphical and storage power compared to the big consoles and the fact that it is still very early in the system’s life. But the signs, again, are positive that change could happen fast if developers and customers embrace the new TV en masse. The Siri remote, at least, is high quality enough to make games possible and fun, and entertaining for families in a manner that everyone but Nintendo seems to have lost interest in.
The App Store will also be bigger than games: some of the more unusual apps already in the store include AirBnB, Star Walk for Kids, shopping apps and the innovative animated comics app Madefire, which in particular introduces a genuinely new form of TV entertainment to a wider audience in the form of animated comics — like a storybook come to life via Ken Burns. Ideas like the latter represent an interesting new direction for TV that the app store could make possible, and are fundamental to the DNA of the new device (if not the functionality most people would say they want from their TV on Day One).
CONCEPT & USE
What does it all add up to?
At its most basic, this is a much better Apple TV. Anecdotally, the feature most people love most about the original TV was Airplay, and this new box adds to that a much better design and remote, Siri, games, interesting (though limited) apps and the potential for much greater things.
And it is worth re-emphasising that the fundamentals are strong. The core navigation and design concepts are well-tuned and attractive, light years ahead of the software pre-installed on your so-called Smart TV. It’s light, clean, sharp and welcoming; if WIRED’s entertainment life was as simple as a Netflix subscription and iTunes box sets, it would be the cornerstone of a simpler world.
Trouble is, that isn’t the reality. That world would be expensive, annoying and it wouldn’t have daily episodes of The Simpsons at 7PM. And Apple’s pitch with the new TV fails to admit that; it’s up to customers to work out how much this new box would add to their lives, and how much would be left behind, stranded on other boxes, sticks and consoles that might have poor design and controllers, but also have the content that people might really love — like Premiership football, Vikings or obscure Japanese anime they can watch already elsewhere. For the minority INVESTED in 4K already, it’s also a let down in that respect, too.
So in that sense, you could be very critical of the Apple TV if you wanted; it’s objectively, at launch, a content-poor, relatively expensive box that does less than several cheaper alternatives.
Beyond all of that, however, WIRED remains positive about the potential for this device. The tvOS App Store is an exciting new place for developers to experiment and create software for TV screens, and it seems inevitable that it will improve and enrich itself quickly. The box has the power, remote and fundamentals to cope with that innovation and is strong enough at launch to not make annual upgrades necessary (we hope).
On day one, this is more or less just a better Apple TV, but there is the materiel here with which to launch an assault on television itself. Someone, probably Apple, is going to do it eventually. This is a good start.
No, Apple isn’t finished with this iteration of the Apple TV and the services its boasts (and lacks) at launch, but the direction is clear. In 10 years, what will be the richer, more usable, more creative and delightful piece of technology: the Apple TV or the Sky Box? You already know the answer. So does Apple, and so does Rupert Murdoch. What happens next is going to be fascinating. And it will probably make for great television… Eventually.http://www.gofrnzy.com/index.php/2015/11/04/apple-tv-2015-discussion-reviews/http://www.gofrnzy.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/7acbe9b97a2bdd9d63fa329c2b471918-e1410999537387-1940x1090-1024x575.jpghttp://www.gofrnzy.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/7acbe9b97a2bdd9d63fa329c2b471918-e1410999537387-1940x1090-150x150.jpgTech Reviewsapple tv,Apple TV (2015) discussion &Reviews,discussion for apple tv,reviews about apple i-phone7