I really dig the new Apple TV. Mostly.
The fourth-generation Apple TV has arrived, and all across the world people are busy making room on their console table and tossing their third-generation set-top boxes into disused corners of the room. And rightly so: The new Apple TV is pretty stellar.
I've had 48 hours to play with the latest version of tvOS and third-party apps, and I've pretty much moved my office into my living room in that time. I've downloaded crazy plane-finding apps and virtual art galleries, used my voice to search Hulu, explored the jungles of Rayman Adventures, and rocked out to some Apple Music. And I've written a lot of how-tos.
Unfortunately, I've also had some time to bump up against some of tvOS's rougher 1.0 edges. These aren't deal-breakers for me—there's a lot that the new Apple TV has going for it, and I've really enjoyed my time with it so far. But in the interest of making the couch-potato evenings of myself and many other new Apple TV owners just a bit better, here are some things I wouldn't mind seeing improved upon in subsequent updates.
1. Update the Remote app (or give us back Bluetooth keyboard support)
Apple has made setting up an Apple TV virtually seamless if you have an iOS device around, thanks to Bluetooth connectivity. But after that initial setup process, we're tossed back into the dark ages of remote-typing. The Siri Remote is quite a bit better at typing quickly than its predecessor, but let's face it: It's still a remote. And if you have any sort of complicated password, you're in trouble.
Previous Apple TVs had a solution in the form of the Remote app, which let you use your iPhone's virtual keyboard to enter any text you might need to type. Unfortunately, that app has yet to see an update that supports the fourth-generation Apple TV.
Nor can the new Apple TV connect to a Bluetooth keyboard—it just doesn't show up in the Bluetooth menu—so you are, as of now, completely confined to one-letter-at-a-time text entry.
I don't really need to say it, but I'm going to: Apple, this sucks. It's so easy to set up the Apple TV with an iPhone; why can't there be an option for all password prompts bounce over to a nearby unlocked iOS device? Or, barring that—give us an update to Remote app. Or a Bluetooth keyboard. This is painful.
Some apps, to their credit, have anticipated this nightmare: On launch, they ask you to go to a URL and enter in a specific code, where you can then log in securely and get a 5-digit code to enter into your Apple TV in lieu of a full username and password.
I don't hate this system—and it's a nice way of incorporating multiple-factor authentication—but c'mon, Apple. The Apple TV is so smooth and easy to use in other areas! You can do better.
2. Let us share or link to third-party apps
I'm just going to put this here.
Yeah, app developers can't link to their tvOS apps right now. Nor can you share a link from tvOS to your device. Or share much of anything, really.
This wouldn't be such a problem, except the brand-new tvOS App Store has yet to offer any sort of lists or categories beyond the Featured and Purchased tabs. So if you're looking for new apps, you either have to find it on the Featured tab or you have to manually search for it. (You can get a pseudo alphabetic listing of all the apps on the store currently by searching A-Z, which we did for fun... and exhaustion.)
I'm hoping this will change quickly, because it's just infeasible for app developers. How are you going to direct your current customers to your new app if it's not a Universal purchase with your iOS app? And if you're a new developer, trying to build any sort of awareness without a spot on the Featured screen is going to be next to impossible.
I suppose you could always do it this way...
Yes, PCalc is now available on your TV - finally. Here is the closest thing to a link I can give you. Hope you like! pic.twitter.com/chbxaxkSQD— James Thomson (@jamesthomson) October 30, 2015
But seriously. Let's pray this gets fixed, and fast. It's not good for app developers, it's not good for app discovery and exploration, it's not good for tvOS.
3. Give Siri access to Home Sharing and Apple Music
This is less of an immediate problem and more of a niggle, but it's a shame Siri on Apple TV can't currently search your Home Sharing libraries or Apple Music. Its search features are so useful in finding video content that I'd love a version that incorporates Apple Music and Home Sharing, too. I do understand the challenges inherent in indexing Home Sharing: Maintaining privacy is important, but Siri can't search your computer's library if it doesn't know the titles of your home movies or music.
Regardless, rumor has it that Apple Music support is coming early next year; fingers crossed that Home Sharing support arrives along with it.
4. Support multiple Game Center accounts in multiplayer
There are a bunch of great games on the tvOS App Store with in-home multiplayer experiences, but so far there appears to be no way to get Game Center to register multiple gaming accounts when you have friends playing—or even keep multiple accounts in the system if you want to switch from account to account.
Microsoft's Xbox system is a great example of multiplayer gaming done well: You can log in with your gamertag on multiple systems if you have an Xbox Live Gold account, and your friends can log in with their tags, too. It makes it easy to keep track of scores, achievements, and progress even if you're away from home or playing with friends.
On Apple TV, Apple's offered support for multiple Apple IDs purchasing items since the previous generation; it'd be great to see that support trickle down into the Game Center portion of things, too.
5. Let third-party apps use picture-in-picture
Your Apple TV ships with a variety of fantastic content-based apps, including Hulu, Netflix, Showtime, and HBO. But sometimes, you want to multitask—watch ESPN while playing a game, for instance. Currently, though, the Apple TV interface lives inside one app: Exit, and the app content goes with you.
Background picture-in-picture came to the iPad in iOS 9—the technology is there, and the Apple TV doesn't even have to worry about backgrounding power draw the way a mobile device might, since it's constantly connected to a power source.
I'm guessing it's on the roadmap for future tvOS updates, but there just wasn't enough time (or it wasn't a high enough priority) to ship it in 1.0. A bummer, but something I hope to see down the line.
6. Open up access to the Siri Remote's mic
Smule's Sing! is one of the best reinventions of an iOS app I've found for the Apple TV so far: Karaoke on my Apple TV? Sign me up. Unfortunately, you can't use the microphone built into the Siri Remote for anything other than Siri dictation—no apps can access it. As such, if you want to do any sort of mic input in your app, you need to fire up your iPhone and Smule's companion app, or hook up an external microphone to your TV. Bit of a drag.
I suspect the Siri Remote's microphone isn't anything amazing—you're not going to be using it to record video podcasts anytime soon—but it would be another tool in the tvOS toolbox for making cool apps.
What do you want to fix about the Apple TV?
Any annoyances you're frustrated about, or features you love? Let us know below.
[Edited at 9AM ET 11/1/15 to fix an error about background audio. I was under the impression it wasn't available in tvOS 1.0. I was happily wrong.]