Apple TV Thoughts

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.

7 Replies to “Apple TV Thoughts”

  1. James I know this isn’t your ed blog but interestingly you dont’t mention the huge potential the Apple TV has in the classroom. The ability to mirror an iPad without cables makes the combination of an iPad, Apple TV and projector (or TV) a viable classroom AV set up. Lots of issues but one we are definitely exploring.

  2. I reach the same conclusion as you – as long as you buy into Apple’s ecosystem, the Apple TV makes a useful addition at a reasonable price for what it provides.
    I have gone to iTunes match and it does work well with the AppleTV. I can now use it to stream any of the 10,400 tracks I have through the Apple TV to an amp to listen to easily, and I can then control what’s playing from anywhere in the house using the remote app on the iphone which is nice. I could do this using the Airplay tech from the iPhone to the AppleTV even if it didn’t support iTunes Match natively, but it works much more smoothly doing it directly on the AppleTV.
    I do also use it to watch YouTube subscriptions on a nice big TV. I’m learning British Sign Language and there are a number of resources I subscribe to which really benefit from watching on a big screen. Similarly, I have used it to access YouTubeU content – but mostly in that respect I’ve used the iTunesU content.
    I also subscribe to a large number (30+) of podcasts (including your own), although I’m getting a bit behind on them, but it’s great for watching HD video podcasts such as TwiT.
    I also use it to access my iPhotos to show people on the big screen things I may have just taken on the iphone – but also to show people Flickr photos etc….yes, I’m aware it’s a bit like inflicting a modern equivellent of the old slide show on people 🙂
    I have watched a couple of rented iTunes movies and TV shows, but I agree it feels too expensive by at least 50% to use this often. It is similar in price to borrowing something from say Blockbuster I suppose, but to encourge those impulse/casual watching to make me want to use it regularly, it would need to be cheaper.
    I also don’t like how you can only rent content on the AppleTV. Sometimes I really like something and I’d like to buy it, and while (I think) I can watch purchased content, I don’t think you can actually make the purchase on the device, which seems odd.
    Another slight gripe – I did go through to create a fairly extensive wish list of films I’d like to watch at some point, but the first time I went back to it to watch something from the list I found Apple no longer offered it for rent. It still appeared in my wish list, but I couldn’t actually do anything with it. It seems they have a constant rolling programme of what content is available at any time which undermines the use of the wish list.
    I have also tried out Netflix on the device, and it works OK, but the content is quite limited and generally old or poor – although I did watch the whole of Twin Peaks series 1 and 2 on it. With the reasonable broadband connection I have, I now take for granted not having any appreciable buffering delays – just about 5 seconds at the start.
    The main thing I feel is missing from the AppleTV though is apps. If this platform were opened up to 3rd parties to provide additional content/services through, it would really take off for me. It probably needs a little more RAM/storage to make that work well without impacting the existing features though so I’m not expecting it until the next generation of device but I can wish.

  3. Great post, I bought Apple TV this weekend and I love it. I’m impressed that I can stream iPlayer from my “ancient” iPad 1. Netflix offers some interesting old stuff, looking forward to an increase in titles in the future. A built in iPlayer and the addition of LoveFilm would be perfect. It might be one of cheapest Apple products but it’s very useful and I’m impressed, can’t believe it’s taken me so long to buy one.

  4. I have both ipod touch and apple tv. I can receive the itvplayer on my ipod (via the itvplayer apple app), but when using airplay only receive the sound !
    Can anyone tell me what I’m doing wrong?

    1. You’re doing nothing wrong.

      The ITVPlayer App does not support external video via AirPlay and the iPod touch does not support mirroring by Airplay. If you have an iPad 2 (or the new iPad) or the iPhone 4S you can mirror the ITVPlayer on your TV via the Apple TV. With other iOS devices, as you have found, you won’t get the video.

  5. Thanks for the excellent info regarding Airplay and UK channels. I have heard that the only way to do this is by mirroring, which leave black bars at either side of the screen.

    But another person mentioned that 4OD and iPlayer can use airplay if you enable airplay outside of the App. (??) Have you tried this and seen it for yourself?

    As far as I know, it only works of iPlayer and 4OD and not ITV and Channel 5. Would be great to hear a confirmation before I purchase.

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