I was sooo excited for the new Apple TV. I couldn’t wait to see Apple open up tvOS to developers and watch my favorite streaming box turn into my favorite game console. At least they opened up tvOS. But the hardware and the OS itself are major let-downs.
Upon unboxing, I was surprised to find Apple doesn’t ship an HDMI cable with it, as it did with it’s previous Apple TV model. Apple nickel-and-diming us is nothing new. Ok…
The remote, as I removed it from the box, I immediately dropped. Turns out that was foreshadowing, because I’ve dropped it many times since. It’s almost as if it was designed to be slippery, and its shape (small and flat as it is) is hard for an adult’s hand to grasp. Jonny Ive seems to be putting form before function more and more these days. The design of the buttons, symmetrically placed in the center of the remote, means that you can’t tell which way is up when you grab it blindly.
The trackpad of the remote seems like a great idea, until it’s put into practice. Think about a computer’s trackpad — you coordinate your movements with the cursor on your screen. With your phone, you can see your finger directly on the screen. However with Apple TV, there is no cursor. You rely on the down-state of things. Using it I actually missed the old Apple TV remote with its predictable 1:1 click-to-cursor movement ratio. The bigger problem however is that simply brushing your finger across the trackpad scrubs the progress bar of whatever you’re watching, and it’s really easy to accidentally scrub and lose your position. Trying to find where you were is an infuriating game of micro-movements on the trackpad to try and make the thumbnail match what you last remember seeing. The buttons, I’m still learning…
Typing is still a miserable experience of hunting for characters one at a time and trying to drop the cursor on them. I can’t believe that Siri can’t enter text for you. At one point, I actually spoke my email, and Siri’s interpretation showed up directly under a text-box I was trying to fill, but not in it. If the “Remote” app for iPhone still worked with Apple TV, this might not be such a headache.
Siri’s hooks are also very limited, and specifically worded. I requested “go back 30 seconds” which produced the message: “I couldn’t find anything with that name.” Disappointing.
Finally, while the UI effects of the tilting tiles are really cool, the entire UI is black-on-white and is overly bright. When you have all that white-space on a 55" TV in a dark room, it absolutely kills your eyes. This is one of many obvious things that I just can’t believe Apple didn’t get right.
We’ve all seen it happen to our favorite bands. The first, second, even third albums are amazing. But as time goes on, they start to rest on their laurels, and their late albums suck. It seems Apple is now fully resting on it’s laurels. It uses the most obvious solutions, and yet misses the most obvious problems. Decisions like these reek of design-by-committee and corporate culture. What happened to the Apple we knew that cut through the bullshit and got it right the first time? It seems to have been replaced by a corporate juggernaut on autopilot.