New Apple TV (2015) review: So much potential, at present wasted
Apps and the App Store
Of course, there are apps or, as Tim Cook put it when the product was first announced, “the future of television”. Except there’s not many of them: Apple says 1,000, but it’s hard to tell from the App Store. In part, that’s because the App Store is quite basic. There’s a Featured section, which shows you the apps Apple wants to highlight, the aforementioned Purchased tab, and a search feature where you tap-tap-tap letters ploddingly using the remote and hope to find what you want. A “Categories” section was added – but only after the product had already reached customers. It’s certainly great that it’s now there, but it feels like a very un-Apple thing to release a product and then have to update it to add a core feature within days of launch.
Moreover, the range of apps is still tiny compared to iPhone. To some extent, that’s to be expected – the iPhone sells in the hundreds of millions every year, has an installed base that’s huge, and is attractive to developers. But it’s disappointing that, over a year after launch, there are no compelling applications for Apple TV. In the US, there’s the “TV” app, which aggregates video content from third parties to give you, effectively, a single place to find things to watch. But it’s only available in the US.
Should you buy Apple TV?
As it stands, it’s hard to recommend the Apple TV to anyone that’s not a die-hard Apple user. That’s mainly down to the fact that there still aren’t enough apps in the App Store to justify the “apps are the future of TV” claim. Worse, as always happens with the release of a new platform, some of the apps that are available have been rushed to market to capitalise on glaring gaps.
It remains a lovely piece of hardware – the interface is great, and the potential is enormous. It’s easy to see how in the future Apple TV might be the centre of your digital life (to borrow an old phrase from Steve Jobs). However, there’s still not quite enough there (despite the improvements) to make it a must-have at this price.
The good news is that every single major criticism we have of the Apple TV is fixable in software. More apps will come; universal search will get even broader; Siri might even gain some personality. And the long-mooted, but entirely missing-in-action, live TV package will probably arrive at some point, at least in the US.
Should you buy one? If you have a previous Apple TV and you’re happy with it, this isn’t yet a must-have upgrade. Maybe few months time that will be different, but for now, the old, square hockey puck version will do fine.
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