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.
2. Let us share or link to third-party apps
I'm just going to put this here.
Well played, @jamesthomson. Well. Played. pic.twitter.com/Sh9GiOHMOtWell played, @jamesthomson. Well. Played. pic.twitter.com/Sh9GiOHMOt— Susie Ochs (@sfsooz) October 30, 2015
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/chbxaxkSQDYes, 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, 2015October 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.]
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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.
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.
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.
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 Apple TV could provide incomplete search results. It would be better than no results at all, and users could improve their own search results by adding better metadata in iTunes. 5) Performance issues. This is no excuse because Apple TV could cache the Library search index locally (as Apple TV likely already caches the list of Library videos). If I am missing a technical reason blocking search on Library after so many years, I would love to hear it. I hope Apple fixes it in the next software update.
Movies and music. I like the new remote but I prefer the the old one for scrolling. Overall I really like it but it's far from perfect. Sent from the iMore App
App Store has a pathetic selection of apps. It's pretty much the same built in apps that were there in the older Apple TV, plus a few silly games. No way to browse by category of apps. Very annoying to find what you want.
Now web browser, or even third party browser like chrome. My thumb hurts already from the swiping on the remote.
This is the worst product Apple has ever released!
Oh well... Sent from the iMore App
2. Typography in the Music app looks terrible
3. Actually, the whole Music app seems blurry to me
4. The passwords
5. Keeps hawking Apple Music at me (Eddy Cue's Apple)
6. The App Store literally seems like they threw it together at the last minute
7. I had to log in with my Apple ID literally 6 different times
8. The "turn on my TV" feature already stopped working (fyi, can be fixed by cycling the setting)
9. Very easy to accidentally jump around while navigating
10. Jesus Christ the remote. It's perfectly symmetrical length wise. Aka, impossible to not hold upside down. In summary, this does not feel like an Apple product. The whole value proposition for me lies on the integrated search (across with Netflix and Hulu) which is admittedly awesome. And on the promise of developers making cool things. And I am worried about the later given how sparse the App Store is, the no-bluetooth keyboard thing, and the no webkit thing. (I have a theory that the no bluetooth keyboard and no webkit things are to keep the AppleTV from being a cheap, iOS desktop computer)
The Netflix app as an example reminds me of boxee's version. The older one was much easier to use.
I'm in shock over how lousy this thing is. Shame on Apple!
2. It wouldn't be hard to implement multiple vocabulary versions for interpretation. Whether "delta" or "dog", I'm sure Siri could figure out "it starts with the letter 'D' ". It could be keyed to listen for such special vocabulary only on the text entry screen.
- Audio passthrough of other audio codecs
- Better siri (I still find its voice recog behind googles)
- Universal search to search itunes libraries and third party apps
- Universal search not tied to the region of the console. I'm in Australia with a US netflix account and siri searches the Australian netflix database not the US one.
- once inside an app I wish I could use voice search for just that app.
-i wish the ui for home libraries was totally redesigned rather than the old one copied.
Went to the rental process paid my $5.99 fee, again having to enter my iTunes password. Set down and pressed play, and was greeted with a projected THREE HOURS for it to download enough to play. We went off and did some other stuff and allowed the download.
Later, when I gathered the family around the set again, unpause it and was greeted with another projected 30 minute wait!
So I promptly stopped it, unplugged it, reconnected my Chromecast, ordered the same movie for $3.99 and was watching the movie in 2 minutes!
To Apple from someone who owns or have owned every Apple product except the Mac Pro, it pains me to say your AppleTV sucks! If you spent a few of the Billions you owned and have a team look at function instead of how to shave 0.1mm off the thickness of my phone so I can put it in a case, you might actually achieve something better than what I have to spend 15 minutes boxing up and shipping back so some other poor soul will buy on your refurbished page.
BTW I LOVE IMORE!
Harder to figure out which you have watch and have not!
Bummed about that. Kinda also feel keyboard not ideal .... Still Was a bday present, happy didn't buy it personally Sent from the iMore App
The search index can be stored locally. That's how it already works when siri searches music on my iphone. It works even if you are not subscribed to itunes match or Apple Music and did not buy your music on the itunes store. There is no reason the same can't be done for local Home Shared itunes libraries. even ATV 3 has an ability (notwithstanding terrible UI) to search music on home shared libraries. just let the universal search hook into that.
My sentiment, exactly. I have a family of 4, and we are all gamers, to varying levels. The current UI for logging into iTunes Family accounts is great (but buried one level too deep in Settings > Accounts > iTunes... or GameCenter or iCloud). But I shouldn't have to have my 10 year old log into 3 different accounts just so she can login to the TV when it's her time to play Crossy Roads or watch a movie.
Additionally, Restrictions should be setup to be user-sensitive. If an adult is logged in, then ask for the restriction passcode ONCE per wake cycle. If a child is logged in, ask for it each time restricted materials are accessed, and perhaps even remove apps from view if not allowed by the parent. And these restrictions should filter into apps -- Netflix or HBO Now should respect the movie or TV show ratings as specified by the parental controls, and not just block the app until a passcode is entered; if I allow my child access to HBO Now by entering my passcode, I don't want them going from watching Despicable Me to Katy Morgan's Sex Toys without being blocked.
The current multi-user setup of the TV 4 is pathetic and surprisingly bad, considering it came from Apple.
Can it be improved? Yes. Is it already great? Yes. Those are not mutually exclusive.
And what's with not being able to access photos? All I get are shared folders. Overall, iam pleased but changes are called for.
Let's hope Siri gets better with searching all apps and voice dictation is added when using any search fields in all apps. Apple at the least should release an updated Remote App so we can use our phones to do typing like on previous AppleTV models. Siri more or less needs to have the same capabilities wether it be on your iPhone or New AppleTV. Much better Siri integration is definitely needed. I pretty much stopped exploring and downloading apps because it was such a pain with all the typing of passwords.
Good review. Thanks!
Typing with that damned remote is driving me nutso! It was quicker for me to open my phone, search YouTube, and airplay the video I wanted to watch than even start to perform the search on the Apple TV.
Using the onscreen keyboard should be reserved as punishment for heinous crimes.
This is going back to the retailer who sold me it, back on their shelves, not mine!
When Apple will get their blank together, maybe I'll re-purchase it, only for the dazzling icons.... Amazed!