Setting up the new Apple TV is simultaneously frustrating and exciting.
It’s frustrating because you have to enter your passwords for services like Netflix and HBO Now over and over with a terrible keyboard interface. Pecking through the alphabet with Apple’s remote is a hair-pulling experience.
But it’s exciting because the very process of downloading the apps you want, whether it be Hulu or CBS, is exactly how watching TV should work. It feels great to get the content you want without having to wade through endless channels you’ll never watch like you have to with cable.
Apple believes that “the future of TV is apps,” and after using the new Apple TV for a little over a week, I wholeheartedly believe that statement.
I’m in my early 20s, and I have never personally paid for a cable subscription. I never intend to either. The idea of “channel surfing” is foreign to me. I know what I want to watch, and I’ll pay for whatever service is best for accessing that content.
Apple seems to be totally behind my way of thinking. Eddy Cue, the company’s head of software and services, recently told CNN that “We want to get to the point where customers are able to buy whatever they want, however they want.”
Along with the rest of the industry, the Apple TV has a long way to go before you can truly get whatever you want to watch. Another frustrating part of setting up the Apple TV is opening an app like CNN and realising that you need to authenticate it with your cable subscription for full access.
It’s clear the new Apple TV has laid the groundwork for the rumoured TV service Apple has been trying to make happen for years — the truly cable-free, live TV experience that lets you, in the words of Cue, buy whatever you want how you want it.
The Apple TV’s app-based design exposes the friction that exists with watching shows and movies today. Unless the app is truly an internet-first streaming service like Netflix or Hulu, chances are you need to authenticate with your cable company through some horribly designed web login from your computer. Or sometimes even streaming services that by all indications should be on the Apple TV, like Amazon Video, aren’t.
When you have streaming services with simple pricing and easy logins, like Netflix, watching content couldn’t be easier. One of my favourite things to do is tell Siri I want to watch a show and have it show me all of the places I can stream it from, whether it be iTunes or elsewhere.
Watching anything you want should be as easy as downloading an app or using Siri, but it’s not right now. If people keep buying the Apple TV and other streaming boxes like the Roku, I’m convinced the tides will turn. You can already see cable companies beginning to give way with Dish’s Sling TV and Time Warner’s new Roku app for cord-cutters. But there are still plenty of others like Comcast that aren’t ready to embrace the Apple TV.
But for now, the Apple TV is half-baked. Like the iPhone, the Apple TV will only be as good as the apps you can get on its platform, and while the future looks promising, you can’t say that it’s arrived yet.
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