Apple plant themselves in your living room as they bet on Apps being the future of television, but is the new Apple TV being let down by lack of features for Irish customers?Andy O’Donoghue’s review of the 4th Generation Apple TV appeared in the Irish Mail on Sunday on November 15th, 2015. This is a web version of that piece.
When Apple announced the newest and fourth version of Apple TV they did so with more fanfare than the digital media had been used to, calling it ‘the future of TV’. Once described as a ‘hobby’ product by Apple boss Tim Cook, they have moved it from hobby to mainstream and seem to be betting on many of us putting it at the center of entertainment in our homes.
The Apple TV is a digital media player that connects to both your home network and television set and plays content bought or rented online from Apple’s iTunes store, or other content that you access using the built-in apps like YouTube or Netflix. You can also access music or movies that might be stored on one of your home computers and even play some content straight from an iPhone or iPad on to your TV.
That’s no different to the last version of Apple TV but the world’s leading tech company has tried to up its game with this new player in a bid to set themselves apart from a growing pack of competitors. They’ve introduced an App store for the Apple TV, similar to the one that owners of iPhones or iPads will be familiar with. You can download apps to the player that allow you to access additional TV or movie content.
As well as entertainment apps, Apple has made the Apple TV a full gaming platform enabling you to download games directly to the player and play them on your TV, using the new sleek little remote as a gaming controller. Games like Crossy Road work well on Apple TV and Apple has added multi-player capabilities, so someone with an iPhone can join in a game of Crossy Road using their phone and play along with whoever is using the Apple TV Remote.
The sleek new re-chargeable remote is at the heart of how the new player deals with gaming and navigating around the on-screen menus using the glass track-pad but there is a key feature that isn’t available in Ireland yet. Siri, Apple’s digital assistant, will now control the new TV box from voice commands via the new remote. Customers in eight countries, including Britain, can speak commands that direct the Apple TV to, for example, ‘Show me James Bond movies’. The list could be filtered down a little further, ‘just the Sean Connery ones’, and the display will instantly update, showing the Connery Bond films available to rent. Launching this new Apple TV in Ireland and other countries without such a significant feature being available seems premature.
Setting up the box is easy and it’s small enough to fit neatly under a TV stand. It’s available with either 32GB or 64GB of storage. For most people 32GB will be adequate as most of us stream and rent movies rather than downloading them. The player itself is elegantly designed, as Apple products usually are, and the new on-screen interface is intuitive for viewers of all ages. Having access to content like the huge Apple Music library, and your photos from Apple’s iCloud, all make for a more complete entertainment experience via your television. However it is TV content that lets this device down for Irish users. British users don’t fare much better for content as many of the TV catch-up or movie services that Apple TV can provide only work in the USA. I’d hope that versions of Channel 4’s Player or the BBC iPlayer will come to Apple TV, but we really need the Irish cable operators and Sky to bring their players into the new App store before Apple TV becomes a complete entertainment center for Irish viewers.
With the addition of gaming and apps we can see how committed Apple is to home entertainment. However for this to be the future of TV we need more of our everyday programs to be available for catch-up or weekend binge viewing and we need to get the new Siri feature in Ireland, soon. When, and if those two things happen, I’ll make sure that sleek new Apple remote is on my side of the couch. The last version of this device, the 3rd generation, is still available for €79 and I think represents a better value option for now, as this new Apple TV is an expensive, if stylish way to watch Netflix.
More information at: apple.com/ie/tv
Price: €179 : 32GB | €229 : 64GB