Our new Apple TV arrived this week. I ordered the one with more storage, figuring it can’t hurt, and since our other Apple TVs were still in use after 5 years, the extra cost will probably work out in the long run.
The good thing about the new Apple TV is that the interface is basically a refined version of the existing interface. It’s cleaner and clearer, looks much nicer on the TV, but if you know how to get around the existing interface, you’ll be right at home. The bad thing about the interface is that it’s a refined version of the existing interface. It’s still just a bunch of icons. There’s fewer icons now, because you’re able to pick and choose which apps you want (so all those random channels you don’t care about don’t have to get installed), but it’s still just icons.
The big improvement in the interface is Siri. Voice search (which currently works across iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and Showtime, has been pretty solid in my experience. You need to learn the syntax, and sometimes its results can be a little wonky, but by and large, they’ve been pretty good. I asked Siri to “show me the episodes of Scrubs with Brendan Fraser”, and it pulled up the 3 episodes of Scrubs he’s in, with the ability to watch them on Netflix or iTunes.
It’s also been nice to quickly check the weather forecast or the score of a game while I’m watching something on Netflix.
The downside, of course, is that the search is limited to just those apps. If I wanted to check out Mr. Robot, it won’t find it on the USA app. Apple says they’re opening up the Siri API to other apps. If every app can participate, much like they can on iOS now, Siri will become even more powerful.
The new controller is, generally, a pretty great improvement. I’ve found the touchpad interface to be pretty intuitive and fast for getting around the interface. Of course, it wouldn’t be an Apple device if there weren’t some form over function decisions. The fact that it’s entirely symmetrical, with a touchpad at the top, makes it far too easy to pick up or grab and accidentally scroll through the show you’re trying to watch. This seems like something that is fixable. The remote has an accelerometer in it, which should make it possible for Apple to determine if the remote has been picked up (and if it’s remotely aimed in the right direction) before starting to scroll through the show.
There’s some low hanging fruit that Apple should be cleaning up with future releases. The Photos app doesn’t use iCloud Photo Library, which is insane to me. I would guess that’ll be fixed shortly. The Music app leverages the Apple Music service (if you’ve got it on), which is great, but you can’t search it with Siri, and the navigation is a little wonky.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with the new new Apple TV. The majority of the flaws (occasional Siri wonkiness, controller issues, low-hanging Music and Photos flaws) seem correctable with future software releases. The open app store should bring a lot of opportunity to bring all sorts of interesting apps (Amazon? Comcast? Fantasy sports?) to the Apple TV. If Apple opens up the Siri interface and makes it possible to fill in some of the overlays, I could imagine the ability to ask Siri how my fantasy team is doing, and have it know the actual players on my team and load that up in an overlay while I watch Netflix (or, maybe, football on the Xfinity X1 app …)
If you’re invested in the Apple ecosystem (movies and TV shows in iTunes, Apple Music), the new Apple TV is a no brainer. Even not using the Apple ecosystem, it’s a pretty nice device and probably the easiest to use of the streaming devices.