Brief Thoughts on the New Apple TV

It's been a week since the new Apple TV (fourth generation) came out. I've had one for that amount of time, and being a bona fide cord-cutter I have some thoughts.

I've never paid for a cable subscription, and beside a rarely used antennae for local HD channels, I've used Apple TV as my exclusive source of entertainment. Typically I only use three services on the Apple TV as well: Netflix, Hulu, and iTunes Movies. Between those three we can usually agree on something to watch.

Each Apple TV generation has been an improvement, the second generation brought streaming instead of having to download a movie before it plays, and the third generation brought 1080p with a slightly new interface. The new, fourth generation is probably the biggest leap since the downloading to streaming paradigm, and it's pretty good.

Modern Interface and App Store

Gone are the lozenge shaped "channels" and in come apps for the TV. The new interface is light and the animations are fairly delightful. Previous Apple TV users might wonder where all the channels are at first (as I did), and that's because everything is now a downloadable app.

Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, HBO are all found in the new App Store. Along with other channels like Airbnb, Zillow, and shopping networks. Developers have just begun writing apps for the new platform and it will take some time to see truly useful endeavors beside fireplace loops, but surely they will come.

Apps have the option of customizing their interface, so browsing the HBO app is much different than Hulu, but they're all intuitive enough. The UI is an improvement, and while a small thing, the new aerial screen savers are beautiful.

The Remote

For the first time since the Apple TV launched, the remote has changed significantly. What used to be IR (where the remote needed line-of-sight to control the Apple TV), it's now Bluetooth. It has a touchpad for navigation, Siri, and is rechargeable via Lightning cables.

Unfortunately, the iPhone remote app doesn't work with the Apple TV and you can't pair a Bluetooth keyboard. Needless to say, entering email addresses and passwords for logins is tedious. Once you're signed in to every app, you won't miss it, but the setup process can be laborious.

The only ongoing complaint is how sensitive the touchpad is on the new remote. Even picking it up to change the volume, you may inadvertently start scrubbing. A minor annoyance, but you'll learn not to place it next to you when it's not being used.

Siri

Siri is new to the TV, and has some pretty neat tricks. You can ask it for "James Bond movies" and it will show you on what services those movies are available to stream. You can even further refine them and ask, "the ones with Pierce Brosnan." Unfortunately search is not universal across all apps.

While watching something, you can ask Siri to "rewind 10 minutes," or even "what did they say?" and Apple TV will rewind 7 seconds plus turn on captions for that time. Again, neat tricks, but I've only used it a handful of times. Over time it will surely improve and gain additional commands.

Should you upgrade?

Bottom line, I'm still watching shows through Hulu on my TV, just through the new Apple TV as oppose to the last generation. It seems faster overall, both bandwidth wise and CPU, and the new games / apps will probably gain traction very soon.

If you purchased an Apple TV in the last year, don't feel incredible pressure to upgrade (you have the third generation if the YouTube channel is still active). After all, Apple is continuing to sell the previous model for just $69, and you can still rent movies, watch Netflix, HBO, etc.

If you have the second generation model (no YouTube and older-style lozenges), it might be time to upgrade. You'll gain 1080p, Siri, a better remote, and it will be ready when really good apps are released.

Stephen Robles

Story Group, Lakeland, FL

Director of Creative Arts & Technology @WeAreCrossing | Snapchat + Instagram: stephenrobles