Apple TV brings iPhone-like apps to the big screen

31 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Apple TV review: If the future of television is apps, sign me up..

So here’s a wild one: Apple is experimenting with giving people $50 discounts on Apple Watches if they buy one at the same time as a new iPhone 6s or 6s Plus.Apple this week started selling its new streaming video box, another piece of hardware that connects to your TV set with the sometimes-undelivered promise of making cable unnecessary.Apple’s new set-top box, the Apple TV, arrived in stores Friday, with big expectations for what it can do to simplify the complicated world of streaming video. Friends looked sympathetic, employers impatient, their IT staff grimly predicting your forced switch to the Windows nemesis, an inevitability as sure as a wet Glasgow summer.

They’re only running the promo in a handful of stores in California (Burlingame, Chestnut Street, Corte Madera, Hillsdale, SF, Stonestown) and Massachusetts (Boylston Street, Burlington, Cambridge Side, Chestnut Hill) — not online. So, ahead of the consumer launch, I spent one long night with the fourth-generation Apple TV provided by the company for review — simulating the many nights I’ve spent staying up late and bingeing on videos until my eyelids slam shut on their own accord.

Executives at the Cupertino tech giant have said that tvOS, the new operating system for Apple TV, is “95 percent” of the same core framework as iOS, so that apps being built for the different platforms will stay in sync across different devices as they’re updated. Speaking during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings conference call Tuesday Cook said that 30 percent of iPhone purchasers during the period switched from an Android device. It’s an interesting direction for Apple, which for years insisted calling the apps on its TV box “channels.” All of the standard video streaming apps are there on the new Apple TV, such as iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, Showtime, and HBO. Apple is hawking the device with the tagline “the future of television is apps.” Whether Apple can revolutionize “television” — meaning the entertainment industry — is still up for debate.

That kind of claim is fuel for debate – to put it mildly – but so far analysts don’t seem to be disputing it. “With a record-breaking 13 million iPhone 6s and 6s Plus units shipped during launch week, the two new models continue to capture upgraders and Android converts alike in many key markets such as China and the United States,” wrote market researcher IDC in a release this week. “It’s not too surprising, given the popularity of the phablet-sized 6S Plus,” IDC Analyst Ramon Llamas told FoxNews.com via email. “And now we are at the point where the [iPhone 6] has reached its second generation version and appeals to those who decided to wait out the first gen version 6 Plus. But the more interesting Apple TV apps might just be the ones you don’t expect — the casual games, the commerce apps, even interactive weather apps. And, in fact, it wouldn’t be terribly difficult to push back on Cook’s argument if you glance at the most recent preliminary third-quarter figures released by IDC this week. Well, the upgrade to the quality of window-shopping alone, by way of apps such as Gilt or even Zillow, explains why Apple and its partners thinks this is a good idea. Booking an Airbnb almost always involves sending links to other people so they can check out the options you’re considering (unless you’re traveling solo).

It is still essentially unknown in the U.S. market, though that is likely to change soon. “The recent launch of the new premium Nexus 6P device could signal that Huawei is finally ready to seriously compete in the U.S.” IDC said in its report this week. Yet the clever, lightly animated app from digital comics company Madefire has me excited about the possibilities for television-size graphic novels or children’s books down the line. The app offers an easy login, using an activation code on the web rather than entering in your credentials using the remote, and shows big, gorgeous photos of vacation rentals.

And, this is one of those apps where Siri isn’t especially useful: I searched for “Vancouver” using Siri while in the Airbnb app and was told that was beyond her capabilities right now. The idea of watching live, first-person POV videos on Apple TV will sound either incredibly mundane or very exciting, depending on how you feel about Periscope (or about vertical video on a large screen). That sounds like a boring perk, but it’s so much simpler for users to know that the way the remote works for iTunes is the way it works across every other app. An information overlay pops up from the bottom of the screen showing the exact location and details on the listing, as well as its listed price and estimated mortgage.

If you’re looking for signs of a bubble, you can even scroll down with your Apple TV remote and take a look at the 10-year “Zestimate” of real estate prices in Silicon Valley. Also, while Apple’s touch-enabled remote is leaps and bounds ahead of its old design, it’s still a pain to have to use its touchpad to type letters. Unfortunately, you can’t buy stuff through the Zillow app, but were you really going to buy that $9.6 million dollar home with a $36,000 per month mortgage payment, anyway? (And would Apple still take its 30 percent revenue cut?) If Zillow is about real estate porn, Houzz serves the same purpose for interior design and renovations. For example, you can look up videos from certain apps by cast member, so asking for “that ‘Friends’ episode with Brad Pitt” immediately pulls up the right one.

But you’re not just driving one car; the game layers each of your drives on top of one another, so that the second car you’re driving is fighting for the road against the first car you drove, and so on. Storehouse launched as a notably beautiful iOS app for creating visual narratives, complete with social network features that made it feel like a mobile-only version of Medium. Even at its starting price tag of $150, it may be a bit too much for those who aren’t that plugged in to the Apple ecosystem, especially when rival devices such as Google’s Chromecast ($35) and Amazon.com’s Fire TV box ($100) and stick ($40) are easier on the wallet. From there you’ll see the current temperature, chances of precipitation, UV index, humidity, and visibility, along with a short-term weather reading, an hourly forecast and a daily glance, all by swiping on the touchpad remote.

The Yummly app shows various cuisines, courses, and dishes on the left-hand side of the app screen, with perfectly staged food photographs in a grid on the right. Oddly, though, the app’s right-side menu was cut off on my TV screen, and so far I haven’t found a way to view a full recipe — just the list of ingredients.

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