Returning the Apple TV

A good first step, but still very much a hobby for power users

Well, after two weeks of hemming and hawing I opted to return the 4th generation AppleTV and get my money back. It was probably the hardest return I have done in a long time. The AppleTV 4 and tvOS is a mixture of beautiful software and hardware design, mixed with a generic app selection and weird limits on the OS right now. The hardware is simple and roughly twice the height of the older black hockey puck of an AppleTV (which gets promptly set under the TV and forgotten), but the Siri remote is what really makes it shine. The remote has a speed and fluidity to it that I have never experienced on any other streaming box. Getting around the AppleTV is amazingly fast, faster than my Xbox One even with apps and games opening in a blink of an eye. Admittedly the Xbox does a lot more with its TV integration and is using a slower hard drive, but still, it’s impressive for a small box that’s roughly on-par with the VCR-sized Xbox One.

I really want an Apple gaming controller

My new TV has Android-TV built into it and it’s remote not anywhere near as nice as Apple’s Siri Remote even though the Sony TV clearly has the horsepower to do the same thing. Being able to ask Siri for content is clearly the best way to use a smart TV interface. The Xbox One gets this right with voice commands, but requires the Kinect, which is a $99 sensor, the price of a very close to the baseline AppleTV and at the price for the very nice FireTV. That being said, I already own an Xbox One and my new TV has Android TV so personally at this point the AppleTV is very redundant for me right. I will definitely miss the Apple Music, iCloud Photos, and iTunes Movie ecosystem, but that is not enough for me to justify the box.

My Android TV came with the remote pictured at the top

Yes, you can play games on the AppleTV, but they really come off as a distraction because the game selection is extremely limited because they require all games to support the Siri Remote at the moment. I imagine this will have to change over time, but if you factor in the price of a remote, that puts the AppleTV into the $250 range for me. For $50 more I could buy a Wii-U with Splatoon and Super Smash Bros. or even a Playstation 4 and get access to Sony’s massive library of games. Gaming on the AppleTV is very frustrating because you really feel like Apple could do so much more with the box if they were to remove the silly Siri-remote restriction and introduce a gaming controller themselves. Until they do that and require game makers to support iCloud saves and properly support GameCenter I think the gaming on the AppleTV will remain nothing more than a hobby. Fine for casual distractions, but not enough to play games with the family or play anything remotely complex. Even a Super Mario Bros. game would be difficult with the Siri remote at this point.

Android TV is pretty excellent as well and does not require awkward TV remote game controllers

Overall, I will really miss the little box because I do see a lot of potential in it, but I think that I will just wait for maybe a price cut, Apple to decide what they are going to allow the platform to do, and a real selection of Apps and Games to be available on the box. Maybe then I will return to the AppleTV. Right now it’s probably the nicest set-top box out there if you want to gift it to a loved one over the holidays and the game selection is novel enough for casual gaming, but right now you either need to be really into Apple’s ecosystem or have basic needs to warrant such a purchase. If you already have a competent set top box like an Xbox One, Roku 4, or FireTV I would just hold off for the platform to mature a bit more. Again, wonderful box, just a little redundant for me right now.

iMore has a good list of things that Apple needs to work for somebody like me. Here is that list:

  • 4K video support
  • HDR video support
  • 24 fps cinematic mode
  • Multiple Siri remote support
  • MFi controller support for up to 4 controllers
  • Bluetooth keyboard support
  • Updated iOS Remote app
  • Updated Apple Watch Remote app
  • Password entry/Keychain authorization via iOS device
  • Better Home Sharing app

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