Should you care? In a nutshell, yes, you should.
Does it contain every home entertainment feature you could ever want? No. Nothing will do that. Like most Apple products, it goes after the mainstream consumer without providing bells and whistles that the majority of customers will never need. However, the fact that you can add third party apps makes it infinitely extensible. More on apps later…
The thing about Apple TV that makes it unique in the Apple ecosystem is the low cost of entry. With a very low price tag ($150) and no monthly fee, there is nothing like it. Even a tiny Apple watch costs double that. And the thing about Apple TV, it’s a shared household expense. Whereas you might balk at spending $300 on yourself for an Apple watch or an upgrade to the latest smart phone model, spending $150 “for the family” is much easier to swallow.
Today, the Apple TV is quite entertaining and easy to use. The remote control with its touch pad makes scrolling around very easy and fast. While Siri is often the subject of ridicule, if you simply learn what Siri is good at and stick to that, it’s quite accurate and saves loads of time. How many times have you wondered if a show was on Netflix or Hulu or iTunes? Now you can find out in a few seconds and see all your viewing options in one screen. How many times have you wanted to skip ahead or behind a minute or some arbitrary amount? It’s easy. I could go on and on about the main features but you can ready about that yourself — I want to focus on what makes it special.
By the way, if all the networks can agree to do what’s best for the consumer (ala carte channels and freedom from cable companies) and stop being so greedy, we can have live TV on the new Apple TV, and that would absolutely make it a must-have product. Hopefully that is coming very soon…
UPDATE 10/19/18: Today there are many third party options for “light bundles” of TV channels, including both on-demand and live TV, but so far nothing from Apple. Apple has opted to use their “TV” app to tie together the third party options.
So the first time I was testing my trivia app on my Apple TV, I realized how it was different. At that early stage of development, it was loaded with EMT questions because that was readily available. Like most kids, my daughter was walking by and her eyes went right to the big screen in the living room. She was instantly engaged and wanted to “play”. Even though she didn’t know a thing about emergency medicine, the fact that this “game” was on the TV made it interesting and a group activity. The unique essence of the Apple TV, as compared to a watch, tablet, computer, or your phone, is that it’s a shared device that resides in a comfortable, entertaining location in the house. Since it’s on TV, users expect beautiful graphics and don’t mind some noise (sound effects).
And there are apps for it! A skeptical friend of mine said “I can’t even think of any apps I would want on my TV”. That made me think back to the pre-smartphone days when people were happily texting each other on little number keypads. It was common to hear “I just want my phone to make phone calls”, and that was usually precipitated by crappy attempts by cell phone companies to add “smart features” in a way that made the phone difficult to use and harder to make phone calls. Then the iPhone was introduced in 2008 and the world changed. Yes, there are still some people out there who just want their phone to make phone calls and that’s it, but in my opinion they are missing out on some great things. (And if you feel that way, I’m sorry you read this far — you can stop now.)
So what kind of app would be a good fit for Apple TV? How about some workout apps? Yoga, boot camp, fitness routines. How about some nice ambience apps that show a nice relaxing mountain stream or a fireplace, complete with video and sound? How about some games that work well at parties or with couples and families? Trivia games, name that tune, etc. Karaoke is a good one. The list goes on and on, but for sure, there are games that work well on a large screen and there are some that do not. You can also connect a real game controller to the Apple TV and it begins to compete with consoles. You know, those things that cost more than an Apple TV and every good game costs over $50? You won’t quite get console-quality game play on your Apple TV, but it begins to approach that market and take a bite out of it.
UPDATE: The most popular apps are individual TV channel apps, like ESPN or FOX. These offer live TV streams as well as on-demand video content (30 seasons of The Simpsons at your fingertips!). There is usually a mix of totally free content and some shows that can only be accessed if you have a cable TV subscription (how ironic) or alternative streaming TV package like YouTube TV.
Peakview Software is working on some apps for the Apple TV right now. We have already released “Awesome Trivia” as a starter. It’s a multiplayer app that is great for couples, parties, families, or something you can just play by yourself. If you are in the emergency services, especially if you teach, imagine if you will having an Apple TV connected to your TV at work (or video projector), and a database of training material that you can pull up in an instant and present to your department. Yes, I bet you can see how useful that would be! Stay tuned…