Tag Archive for ‘TV App’

TV App Regression

TV App’s Watch Now Tab

Joe Cieplinski, on the state of Apple’s TV app:

At first, when I saw the way Apple was mixing and matching all the content from available channels, iTunes rentals, purchases, and streaming services like Prime, I was annoyed. How am I supposed to find shows specific to certain sources in here? And more importantly, how can I tell the difference between what I already have access to with my existing subscriptions, and what is going to require a new subscription or a one-time payment?

And that’s the rub. You can’t easily get a screen with all the content you already have access to. Sure the library tab will show you movies and tv shows you’ve purchased on iTunes. But my HBO subscription? Prime? These are just mixed in with all the rest of the content. You can dig and find HBO specific pages, sure. But they are buried behind multiple layers of UI.

Joe goes on to make the point that all Apple needs to do is get you in the door with the one-year free trial. After that it’s a sea of impulse buys. $4 for a movie rental, $5 for a new channel subscription, and so on. It’s so easy to spend money in the Apple TV app because there’s no differentiation between what you do and don’t already have access to.

And that’s why I’m so irritated by tvOS 13. I was a massive advocate for the TV app. Up until now, it was an excellent way to take all of the streaming services I had access to and aggregate my watch list into a single location. It didn’t matter if the show was on Hulu, Crackle, or Prime Video, I could let the TV app keep track of that for me.

This was such a fantastic experience. The TV app even let me skip launching the app itself by displaying my Up Next queue right in the top shelf. That’s entirely gone now, though, and it’s all been replaced with a bombardment of advertisements enticing me to spend just a few more dollars to gain access to the next hit show.

I don’t want that, though. I don’t need more monthly subscriptions or one-off movie rentals. So I’ve decided to move the Apple TV app into a folder and shift focus toward alternatives.

I’ve been acquiring physical discs more lately. I just bought the entire series of Avatar: the Last Airbender on blu-ray and have been slowly converting each disc into MKV files that I can store on our Plex server. It almost seems like everyone forgot how cheap discs are and how incredibly good the quality is. And if you’re willing to spend a little bit of time ripping, converting, and maintaining a Plex server, in the long run you’ll end up spending far less than you would on streaming services.

There’s a part of me that considers the ultimate goal to be acquiring enough media through physical discs and purchased media that I won’t need to pay a monthly fee for video services anymore. But until I’ve acquired a large enough catalog of shows and movies in Plex, we’re still stuck using streaming services to supplement.

WatchAid’s Top Shelf Extension

I’m not using the Apple TV app to aggregate that content anymore, though. I’ve transitioned our watch list to WatchAid instead. It’s not a perfect app, but it offers most of the features I miss from the old TV app and doesn’t include as much of the up-sells — there are still links to purchase content in iTunes, but those are pretty unobtrusive.

I do wish you could explicitly tell WatchAid what services you had access to, so it would only surface those as streaming options. And I would love to see a tab for browsing only content available in your chosen services, but I guess this is as close as I’m going to get at this point.

It would be better if Apple went back to the drawing board and updated the TV app to a bit more friendly to users again. For now, though, WatchAid is leaps and bounds better than the current state of the TV app.

Netflix No Longer Offering in-App Subscriptions on iOS Devices ➝

I know that Netflix is big enough to pull this off, but between this and not supporting Apple’s TV app, I just can’t see myself signing up for Netflix again.

The Apple TV’s Value Proposition

John Gruber, on Apple’s cultural insularity and how it affects the Apple TV:

Earlier this week I wrote about my vague concern about Apple’s insular culture. Apple TV is the product line where I think that might really be a problem. Apple charges a significant premium over the average product in PCs, tablets, and phones. It works for them in those markets. That’s what Apple does and has always done: they make superior, premium products for people willing to pay for them.

But with Apple TV, I’m hearing from a lot of people who are in the Apple ecosystem — people who own MacBooks, iPads, and iPhones — who just don’t want to spend $200 for an Apple TV when they can get a Roku or Fire TV for a lot less.

John mentions iTunes as the primary selling point for the Apple TV, but I don’t see it that way and I don’t think Apple does either. When the default behavior of the remote’s home button was changed late last year, that was a clear signal about the device’s primary function — it’s all about the TV App.

With the introduction of the fourth-generation Apple TV, Tim Cook proudly proclaimed that “the future of TV is apps.” But that all changed when they released the TV App alongside tvOS 10.1. Apps were still an important part of their strategy, but it was secondary to streaming media.

The TV App offers the best experience because it bundles all (or most) of your streaming services into a single, unified interface. That’s what the Apple TV is all about. It’s a huge disappointment that Netflix isn’t supported, but even if only two of your streaming services work well with the TV App, you’re still better off using it than not.

Is the TV App alone worth the additional cost of purchasing an Apple TV over the competition? Probably not. Especially since the Apple TV is so much more expensive than the competition. AirPlay, iTunes, and Apple Music helps, but not enough.

In the lead up to Apple’s September event, when it was widely rumored that Apple would be introducing a 4K-capable Apple TV, I whole-heartedly expected Apple to drop the price of the fourth-generation Apple TV to $99. This would have fit with the pattern that Apple has exhibited over the past several years — replace the existing product at the same price point and lower the price of “last year’s model”.

If Apple announced Apple TV 4K, starting at $149, and lowered the price of the fourth-generation Apple TV down to $99, I think it would be an easier sell for most people. And I don’t think there would be as many Apple TV users looking to switch to Roku or Fire TV. Most consumers still don’t have 4K-capable televisions and “last year’s model” at $99 would be just fine for them. But of course, that isn’t what Apple chose to do.

In most of Apple’s markets, the difference between their experience — iPhone, MacBook, iPad — and the competition is vast. But on a device that spends most of its time streaming content from another company, it’s harder to see the value in spending so much more on an Apple product. The TV App, iTunes, AirPlay, and Apple Music aren’t enough to justify the additional cost for a lot of users. If Apple wants to remain a major player in this race, they have to do something soon.

From my perspective, Apple has a handful of options:

  • Start selling the Apple TV with a bundled game controller.
  • Hire (or acquire) a game development company to build titles that are exclusive to tvOS.
  • Push hard for third-party developers to build top-tier games for the platform.
  • Lower the fourth-generation Apple TV’s price to something that’s more competitive in the current market. $99 is my suggestion, but the lower they go, the better.

The best case scenario is for Apple to do all of these things at the same time, but I’m not convinced they’ll do any of them. Apple should be well aware of the problems with their offering and the announcement of the Apple TV 4K was their opportunity to address them. They didn’t. I just hope they have something incredible coming to platform soon that will position the Apple TV as more than just the expensive option.

I’ve had an Apple TV connected to the first HDMI input on my television for a decade and I’ve owned every model ever released. I don’t want to see one of my favorite products die a slow death because Apple wasn’t willing to put in the time to make it the most compelling option. The Apple TV can be the best streaming box available, even at its current price, but Apple needs to do more to make that happen.

Apple’s TV App Has Changed How I Watch Television ➝

Lory Gil, writing for iMore:

With Up Next, I just open the TV app and browse my recently watched content across all of the apps I watch stuff in (except Netflix). Sometimes, I’ll have forgotten that I was watching a show and can pick it up without missing a beat thanks to Up Next.

It’s so much less frustrating and time consuming than having to search around a variety of apps looking for something to watch. I used to spend 15 minutes (or more) looking for something to watch. With Up Next, I spend less time looking for something and more time just watching.

This has been my experience as well. But I would encourage anyone who uses the TV app on Apple TV to try adding it to their top row and reverting to the old home button behavior. The TV app is great, but interacting with the Up Next queue from the home screen’s Top Shelf is far superior than within the app itself. At this point, I only launch the TV app if I want to find something new to watch.