I’ve been using the new Apple TV for a few days now, and like many of the early reviewers I’ve seen, I wholeheartedly agree that the device is teeming with potential. Though long considered a hobby within the company, the fourth-gen Apple TV finally appears ready to make the leap into a full-fledged product and meaningful contributor to Apple’s bottom line.
At the same time, the Apple TV does have a number of kinks that Apple will hopefully address sooner rather than later. While these gripes don’t necessarily rise to the level of being deal-breakers, they do unfortunately dampen the overall user experience.
1. No Bluetooth keyboard or Remote app support
Without question, this seems to be the number one complaint most people have about the new Apple TV. Want to enter in your Netflix credentials? Well good luck slowly entering in your username and password with a poorly designed virtual keyboard that’s painfully slow to use. Equally frustrating is that Apple hasn’t yet updated its iOS Remote app to work with the new Apple TV. Even with the Apple TV 3, users could use the Remote app to enter text via the virtual keyboard on their iPhone. It’s bizarre that Apple, as a company that prides itself on the user experience, hasn’t yet updated its Remote app to work with the new Apple TV.
2. Siri is great, but limited
My experience with Siri thus far has been mostly positive. While the software does a great job of understanding queries along with the names of TV shows and movies, Siri functionality remains somewhat stunted. As it stands now, it’s not possible to use Siri to look up musicians or applications, forcing users to clumsily type in searches via the Apple TV remote.
3. App discovery is non-existent
Though there are already over 1,000 apps on the tvOS App Store, finding a specific app has proven to be an exercise in frustration. While Apple does offer a list of the top paid and free apps, there is no breakdown of apps across different categories. And again, there’s no way to use Siri to search for apps. Frustratingly, the only way to search for an app that isn’t featured on the Apple TV splash screen is to slowly type in its name via the onscreen keyboard, one painstaking letter at a time.
4. The remote could be better
The Apple TV 4 remote is the best we’ve seen yet from Apple, but that’s not to say it couldn’t be improved. If all you’re planning to do is watch media content with your Apple TV, it’ll do just fine. But if you’re looking to do any gaming, even casual gaming, the remote is marginally useful at best. I’ve played a few games on the new Apple TV with the Siri remote and the user experience is far from optimal. The remote is simply too light and awkward to use as a controller for an extended period of time. Using it for more than 8-10 minutes is borderline uncomfortable. It may be ergonomically friendly as a standard media remote, but as a gaming remote, it falls flat.
What’s more, in designing the Apple TV 4 remote, Apple may have opted for style over substance. As Nilay Patel of The Verge writes: “I will say that the touchpad can be more flashy than useful — there isn’t a single part of the main interface that actually requires it, and you can get around just fine using a universal remote with a D-Pad.”
All told, the Apple TV remains an exciting new product from Apple. Still, we’re surprised that some of the problems we’ve seen thus far are arguably indicative of a beta release.