What kind of apps would you want on an iOS AppleTV/iTV?

Apple TV should run iPhone OS concept

If Apple announces that much rumored, all new, all iOS AppleTV/iTV this Wednesday at their annual special music event, what kind of apps would you want on it?

When Apple introduced iPad, they let it run pretty much every iOS app made for iPhone and iPod touch (absent camera and phone apps, of course) by boxing them or pixel doubling them. Depending on the exact nature of the app, however, the experience at 1024x768 and 9.7-inches varied from fine to dismal. Luckily there were 5000 or so iPad specific apps available at launch and that number has continued to grow.

Now iPhone 4 -- and likely soon iPod touch 4 -- have 960x640 displays but still only 3.5-inches. If iPad was a step up, iTV will be a leap. There's an outside chance of 1920x1080 or the current 1280x720, both of which are probably workable just like they were for iPad... except TV screens won't be multitouch and they won't be in our hands or on our laps.

What made the 2007 iPhone a breakaway hit, what let it change the industry was its multitouch user interface. It disintermediated physical keyboards and styluses and let us touch and directly manipulate the UI.

Sitting 10 feet away, far removed from 30 to 70-inch screens, acting through some type of remote, wand, scroller, trackpad, or iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad, what kind of apps make the most sense?

I can see a few categories.

  • TV/Movie apps. Whether or not Apple offers subscription or rental TV, the existing big name TV and Movie apps need to be there. Netflix, Hulu plus, ABC. HBO. All of them.
  • Game apps. Straight ports might not work, and games that depend on an iOS device as controller or secondary screen (like Scrabble for iPhone and iPad) might raise the cost of adaption, but big screen iOS gaming will almost certainly be front and center. And Game Center.
  • Interactive book apps. Not iBooks but apps like the Dr. Seuss or Toy Story books for kids, especially if taken to the next level, would be wonderful educational resources.
  • Reporting apps. The ability to display aggregated data about everything from the weather to all your and your friend's location check-ins to looking through Facebook albums to route planning for your iPhone navigation app would really take advantage of the big screen and family view.
  • Web apps. I want Safari on my TV. If you can tether a BT keyboard, or use an iPhone or iPad as a keyboard, even email, twitter, etc. wouldn't have to be read-only.

While iPad is often labeled a consumption device, iTV would be even more consumption oriented. You probably wouldn't want to even try to knock out large docs or use complex productivity apps. It would be a grosser, more distant experience. But absorbing media and entertainment, information and analytics could be fantastic. Those are the types of apps I want to see.

How about you?

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

What kind of apps would you want on an iOS AppleTV/iTV?


I have to agree with @Greg iPhone user that I want a proximity sensor fix and a bluetooth headset fix. The iPhone is more critial device since I would put it in a High Production usage device. If my iTV has some buts I wont care as much but my iPhone should be working to a certain level. So happy I returned my crappy apple TV the thing was always so slow and I never like it. I really hope this ties these things together.

Real Racing for Apple TV! And maybe use my iPhone to control :D
Maybe the new Apple TV will be Apples answer to PS3 & X360?

Release it with a facetime camera accessory that would be installed on top or bottom of the tv, like the wii motion bar.

I don't see Apple putting out something that cuts into their revenue from iTunes... If you put out iTV with all the apps like ABC's player and a bunch of other video players you are going to kill the market for TV content on iTunes... Things like the Hulu apps, etc would all eat into iTunes BIG TIME.
Now I know those apps are coming to TV's one way or another (XBOX, PS3, etc) but will Apple do that?
Let's be honest too... Why would you want an Apple TV to play games on when you can get an XBOX360 or PS3 for less than $200??? A $99 box isn't going to be a good gaming machine.

Lol for $200 an Xbox 360 already does all that and more. For $300 the PS3 plays blu-rays and does yet even more.

With a break even iTunes store and a $99 iTV where is the profit margin for this product? Maybe iAd would be necessary to drive the profit for this product.

Mail, Safari, Calendar, facetime phone app. It would be nice to answer email and look at my calendar before I go to work in the morning while looking at weather and traffic. Along with the rest mentioned.

I think the adaptation of some games such as Scrabble, Uno etc that are traditionally multiplayer could be fantastic. Each person having an iPhone or iPad as their own remote/rack/cards would be fantastic. I realize the problem being you would have to have multiple iPhones to do this but for me personally I have two iPhones plus my iPad so as long as one other has an iDevice there is a four player game waiting to happen,, and most of my friends are using them so it wouldn't be an issue and is something I hope is conjured up soon enough.
I was looking at buying AppleTV a couple of months ago to use as a media centre in my new apartment but this new iTV refresh with iOS could be so much better and interactive. Very excited to hear what comes out on Sept 2nd local time for me.

Internet on TV doesn't work for me. I have a laptop in the living room and an iPhone, and if I really want to look at something on my TV I can do it straight from the laptop via HDMI. I have a TiVo which, besides being a DVR, also streams Netflix/Amazon/Blockbuster and many other places. For games, I have a Wii and an XBOX 360.
Yeah, that's multiple devices, but no matter what they come out with for this new Apple TV thing, it's not going to be as good as what you can get on those dedicated devices. Plus, no matter what, this thing is going to be MARRIED to iTunes. I can deal with iTunes to get my phone apps, but to be locked down to their content on my TV that I don't really need apps for anyway? No way.

What if Itv is a wireless video bridge between ios devices and you tv.
It could create an adhoc wireless N connection.
You wont need any new apps the ones you have could just be given permission to display content on the TV.

AppleTV is a success. What people don't understand is that the point of apple tv is for you to buy more iTunes content. It's simply an accessory for iTunes.

If this iTV really comes in at a $99 price tag and has the flexibility to connect to a TV/Monitor via HDMI then what would stop this from becoming the cheapest Mac yet?
The way I see it is, for 90% of my computing, my iPhone 4 and previously 3G handles most of my needs. I can check email, browse the web, use social networks, stream movies and videos, do some casual gaming, etc...
If iTV has access to all the available apps on the AppStore, coupled with productivity software like iWork for iOS (Pages, Numbers, etc), the ability to connect to a monitor/TV, bluetooth connectivity for keyboard access - then I see this as a ultra budget desktop. Get my drift?

@fastlane and Greg:
You guys are right, but I'm just saying that for 90% of the average persons computing an iOS device can fill that void. With our iPhones and iPads we have grown accustomed to being productive with limited screen size and lack of USB/physical keyboards.
As someone who no longer owns a Mac desktop, I'd be happy with a device that allows me to download apps, play games, stream music/video and be somewhat productive all while connected to my 24" monitor on my desk via bluetooth keyboard and magic trackpad. College students can't always afford to pay the Apple tax.
I honestly can't think of why this iTV can't be a pseudo PC. Any reasons you guys can think of?