As expected, a NEW Apple TV has been unveiled … clocking in at a comparatively hefty $149-199. Yet, with brand recognition and that shiny, shimmery interface, they’ll surely move many when they go on sale next month.
Apple TV highlights include the redesigned remote, featuring a glass covered gesture area and Siri voice control, along with what appears to be a full-fledged App Store.
Neither of these features are unique to aTV, but Apple has more reach than most and the Siri interactions go well beyond Roku and Fire TV’s universal voice search in terms of opening apps, pulling up the weather, and natural language interaction (more akin to Xfinity, believe it or not). As to the newly introduced finger tip control, having directed my Fire TV, Xbox One, and even existing Apple TV via their respective gesture-based smart phone apps … I don’t particularly care for it, finding increased utility via discrete actions and tactile feedback. But Siri does look strong. Real strong.
On the app front, there’s still much to learn. I’ve seen reports that indicate existing iOS experiences can be easily ported to tvOS, but I’ve also come across one that seemingly conflicts. Related, I’m not sure if anyone’s gone through Apple’s terms and conditions yet. There’s bound to be at least one gotcha, right? And I fully expect universal search providers will be invite-only, as we currently see on competing streamers. Apple’s big push here appears to be gaming. Indeed, the new aTV remote also features motion control like the (Hillcrest-powered) Roku 3 remote and third-party controllers can be paired over Bluetooth à la Fire TV. Notably missing from the lineup is Apple’s rumored television service.
Hardware-wise, the new Apple TV shares the same footprint as the retained $69 model while growing about a centimeter in height. Although this unit jumps from 5.1 to 7.1 audio capabilities, Apple has retired the optical port… which will negatively impact a subset of potential customers. Also, on the downside for some, this is not Apple TV 4k. Granted, it’s early. But the competing Roku and Fire TV look to be going UHD in 2015. TiVo, too. But we do have some nice hardware consolations as the Apple TV will supposedly control our televisions via a combination of HDMI-CEC (on/off) and IR (volume) – reducing the need for a Sideclick. Of course, this would be even more significant should Apple really, truly launch a compelling television subscription service down the road.
So, are you in? As it stands, I think I’m content to sit on the sidelines given the various streaming devices I already possess. But I reserve the right to change my mind next month.