Apple calls the Apple TV a hobby, the reason behind that is, that it will never have the sales figures that the iPad, the MacBook and the iPhone gets. The moniker “hobby” tells analysts that they shouldn’t expect the Apple TV to be a mainstream product that sells in the tens of millions! Apple do say that those who bought the Apple TV really like it.
I am one of those who did buy it, and yes I do like it. I use it a fair bit but there are a few things I would like it do better.
First what do I like about it?
I like the fact that I can stream content from my iMac (in the office) to the TV in the front room. As I have an Apple and iTunes infrastructure for content then this works really well. As well as showing photographs, I like that I can show movies and videos from iTunes on the TV. I like the ease by which I can stream rented videos too without needing to “move” them from one device to the other.
I like how I can use AirPlay to stream content from the iPad to the Apple TV and onto the TV. For example I can use ITVPlayer on the iPad and watch it on the TV without cables. This works much better than ITVPlayer does on the PS3, likewise with BBC iPlayer and 4OD from Channel 4.
I like how Netflix works on the Apple TV, films in my opinion work better on the big screen than on the computer or the iPad.
I like how I can watch movie trailers quickly and easily.
So what do I think needs improving?
It would be nice to add UK-centric services to the Apple TV. Why can’t I add BBC iPlayer, ITVPlayer, etc to the Apple TV? Netflix got added “automatically” why can’t the other services? I suspect it might be a licensing issue, so I have to do it by AirPlay. Now though I like AirPlay it isn’t perfect and I have had a couple of issues with it, notably no audio and sometimes buffering of the video.
Renting movies does seem “expensive” to me, and I would be happy to rent the cheaper SD movies. At the moment I rent the movies on the iMac and then stream to the Apple TV, but would be nice to be able to do that from the Apple TV direct.
I like the idea of renting TV shows, but I suspect that there are so few TV shows that I want to rent that I haven’t done this very much. I either use iPlayer for more recent shows like Hustle, Elgato’s EyeTV to record a series such as Pan Am that I am going to watch later, or Netflix to watch older series, currently enjoying The 4400 as it happens.
There is a selection of internet video services on the Apple TV, but I don’t really use them. I think this is more me than the fault of Apple TV, I am not one to go through multiple amusing YouTube videos… but I am aware of people who do, so I suspect that this is more there cup of tea.
It would be nice to add music services to the Apple TV, but as Apple’s focus is iTunes I don’t see that happening anytime soon. If I was switched into the iCloud then I guess that would enable me to access some of my music, but I would also need iTunes Match so that I could listen to the mp3s I have downloaded from Amazon and my CDs. Though it has to be said there are a fair few radio stations I could listen to!
Now I know that I can “jailbreak” the Apple TV and install Plex on it, but that’s not really a mainstream option. Firecore’s aTV Flash is another option, but costs $29.95.
I guess my final thought on the Apple TV is that for many of the features you need a decent broadband connection, and not everyone has that. I am lucky in that my exchange now has fibre (FTTC) but before it was upgraded my ADSL connection was very slow and I had a fair few problems with it. FTTC does make the Apple TV much more useful and of course downloading from iTunes is much better too with FTTC.
Overall the benefits of the Apple TV certainly outweigh for me the small number of issues I have with it. I think for £99 as a set top box it really is value for money, but I say that with the caveat that you really do need to have an iTunes ecology for content.