The Apple TV is good... but here are six ways it could be even better

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 (opens in new tab), 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.

I'm just going to put this here.

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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...

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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.]

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.

176 Comments
  • Wish I could figure out how to mark seasons/episodes as watched now?! That would make it better, LOL
  • If they could get support for Trakt accounts that would be awesome!
  • Yessss!!!!! I'm getting around it by using using Home Sharing. I have the Traktable app installed on my iMac. It'd be so nice if individual services hooked into Trakt though.
  • I agree 100000% & kinda aggravated Sent from the iMore App
  • The episodes comment Sent from the iMore App
  • Man I noticed that tonight, weird
  • To mark an episode as watched, just select it then press and hold the track pad, similar to how the earlier ATV worked. Not sure about marking a full season, never needed to do that.
  • On Apple TV 3, "Mark all as watched." I'm guessing this would still work on Apple TV 4.
  • They really need to fix the scrolling speed through long lists. It doesn't accelerate like it used to on the previous Apple TV.
  • It's adjustable in settings.
  • Yeah, but it still doesn't do inertial scrolling on long lists.
  • Mine does -- if you swipe with a quick motion, it scrolls faster -- repeated 'quick-swipes' pick up speed.
  • I want to be able to sign in a different Apple Music account than the one associated with my iTunes account.
  • You can have multiple Apple IDs stored on the Apple TV; that's probably the only way you'll get this functionality, unfortunately.
  • The multi-user login on the  TV 4 is seriously flawed. I mean, 3 different logins just to switch users? REALLY???? It's ridiculous -- there should be 1  TV login per user, and all the different accounts should be associated with that one login. And parental controls / restrictions should work based on those logins, too, and not be blanketed system wide for all users regardless of age.
    I was really dismayed that the Siri Remote didn't have Touch ID so that a user could login just by tapping on the remote.
  • ^^ THIS. I wish there was true milti-user login, like there is on the Mac. On the Mac, when you switch users, everything changes. Wallpaper, desktop/dock icons, preferences, etc. (plus that cool cube animation when switching accounts). I wish the Apple TV 4 had all that. It could be as easy to switch accounts, as it is to change Netflix profiles. With an option to password-protect certain accounts. I'd also like quad-picture-in-picture. Four screens at once, it would be useful, especially on larger TVs.
  • My solution was to reset the iCloud Music Library associated with the Apple ID I use for the iTunes Store. Now I can use Apple Music on Apple TV and my iPad without seeing anything from my Mac (where iCloud Music Library is turned off). I prefer to keep the two libraries separate!
    FYI: Deleting the contents of your library retains all your followed artists. I suspect that if you use Apple's reset option, those would be reset as well.
  • I use my Apply TV all the time for playing Podcasts. I picked up the new one and the Podcast app has vanished, nowhere to be seen. Big miss
  • 'Big miss' is a bit of an overstatement. If I had to guess, I don't think you'll have to wait long for Apple's Podcasts app to be native on the new AppleTV. In the meantime, if you have an iOS device -- the iOS Podcasts app has native AirPlay support that works quite well with the new ATV. My preferred app for podcasts is Downcast, which also has integrated AirPlay.
  • Also remember Home Sharing works well for podcasts as well if you have a computer running iTunes on your network. I suspect we'll be spoilt for choice in a years time.
  • The search is cool but until I can Home Sharing libraries or Apple Music, something will be missing for me to use it a lot. I'm sure it' doable since all my videos are in iTunes with all the perfect tags (title, description, or if needed, actors,...). Or what I would love is at least, just like you have an icon for Netflix or Hulu when you do search, to have an icon saying that movie or tv show is available on your home sharing. If this is live, the search will be great. I think for this, Apple would have to do some sorta of match etc. And for sure another missing features: Movie trailers is not available in Canada (weird) and i'm missing the Podcast app :(
  • Exactly, my internet connection is not fast enough to stream content all the time. If I already have a film in my iTunes library then why should I need to wait and download it again?
  • Yes. It is not acceptable for Apple to:
    a) encourage users to buy titles they already own, or
    b) scroll though thousands of titles and home videos in their Library. Basic search functionality should not require 3rd party apps. I really would like to understand what prevents Apple TV from searching the Library. The excuses I can think of are not valid: 1) Difficult to locate the videos. This is no excuse because Apple TV can already find & list the Library videos. 2) Search the list is complex. This is no excuse because and Siri APIs are already in place (searching only services for now). 3) Apple would be violating user's privacy (by searching metadata). This is no excuse because the user is using his metadata to search his own library. Anyway, if needed, Apple could make it an "opt in" feature. 4) Libraries have imperfect (difficult to match) metadata. This is no excuse because