Apple TV

Another App Store…

Apple TV

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from the Apple TV.

Apple has made a habit recently of propping up new hardware with pretty familiar variations of iOS, and a heavy reliance on App Store’s to justify the existence of products.

The media often tells us to wait until a ‘killer app’ launches before jumping aboard with an iPad, an Apple Watch or even a HomePod (which currently lacks an App Store, but still has its own ‘SoundBoard’ software), rather than just saying that what Apple has produced is enough.

And that’s no different when it comes to the Apple TV. There’s no explicitly cohesive idea for the future of television, but rather an idea that apps are that future. Rather than changing the channel, like you would with a traditional TV package, you just open a different app.

Even this, though, is problematic right now. Apple has yet to launch its own Netflix-style service, with the closest original idea coming from the included ‘TV’ app.

‘TV’, which also now ships on iPhones and iPads, connects to various video streaming apps to provide a central ‘continue watching’ style feed of content. But even this ‘new’ idea isn’t comprehensively supported by service providers.

Netflix shows, for example, don’t show up in the TV app, and if you want to see what shows are available to you you’ll still need to flick through these abstaining apps as if they were separate channels.

Without exclusive content, apart from perhaps your iTunes movie or TV collection, this means the Apple TV’s competition might just be the free homescreen your new smart TV already shipped with.

There are some games on the App Store that showcase the slight power-bump the Apple TV might provide over, say, a Chromecast stick, but there isn’t a killer game of sorts. The Apple TV doesn’t even have an official gamepad, with expensive Apple-approved third-party controllers filling that void.

My closest idea of why the Apple TV should exist is Infuse, a VLC-like media-library app which can connect to a home media server and re-encode weird MKV or AVI files for playback on the Apple TV in realtime. It supports a huge range of formats, and it does utilise the Apple TV’s hardware to encode the video, but you could still likely recreate this by plugging a USB stick into your TV. It’s a beautiful app, but without persistent local storage, it feels a lot more out of place on the Apple TV when compared to its utility on the iPad and iPhone.

tvOS feels smooth, and the cool parallax effect for Movie posters and apps is cool, but that still doesn’t really explain why a person wouldn’t just rely on the apps that come with their TV. If you just bought a dumb-TV and need a way to AirPlay movies to it, the Apple TV is fine, but it’s a less impulsive buy than the previous $99 iteration.