The act of replacing my Apple TV 3 with an Apple TV 4 did not come lightly. Quickly, yes. Lightly, no. $199 for functionality which is, more or less, the same as Apple TV 3 needs to be considered. So, I thought about it for awhile, and then considered my position as an early adopter, and that was sufficient to bite the bullet and use a watch to buy something instead of a whipping out a credit card (buying anything is so easy at an Apple Store; I wonder if that’s by design?).
Out of the box Apple TV 4 is different, yet similar. It’s a small box with a similar shape, but different. There’s a small remote, similar, but different. There’s also a trackpad in the remote, but typical Apple, the buttons are minimal; Menu, Home, Siri’s mic, Play and Pause, volume Up or Down.
Overall, functionality is much the same as Apple TV 3. But with TV 4 apps and Siri integration are the major draws. There are not many apps yet, but that will change. And Siri doesn’t do as much as we may like, but that will change, too.
That’s the early adopters lament.
Press and hold the Siri microphone button on the remote and give commands or ask questions. Find this more or that movie. Open an app. Siri is app aware so when you’re using the Netflix app, for example, you can tell Siri what episodes of which TV shows to look for, but Siri is good for recommendations, too.
Siri can navigate playing videos, too. Just command her to Jump Back x-number of minutes, or simply say “What did she just say” and Siri backs up the video accordingly. Siri even works much like she does on the iPhone so you can ask about weather, the stock market, or other queries of daily interest.
What you won’t get from Siri is anything about the music in your iTunes music collection. Subscribe to Apple Music and that opens up Siri’s entertainment vocabulary considerably.
The remote is easy to master and there are adjustments for the trackpad. I left it at the default setting and it was fine. Flip across or up and down to move the onscreen pointer. It takes some effort to get used to but it works well. The remote also has a Force Touch or 3D Touch button underneath so when you press to Select, you’ll get feedback.
For now, apps are limited to the standard fare; Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and a bunch of cable network TV channels which often require you to have a cable TV account already. And games. Not many, but it’s a no-brainer future that games will be a big part of Apple TV. Purchases are as easy as iPhone and iPad and there are third party MFi certified controllers available, but if you use the included Apple TV Remote, make sure to invest the dozen or so dollars for the Apple Loop which secures the flyaway device to your wrist. Apple is likely to make good profits on replacement Remotes.
Gone from Apple TV 4 are the dark screens with bright channel icons, replaced with a light background screen with somewhat flattened app icons. Everything is apps, which means you can add, delete, and move and organize app icons on the screen about the same way as you do on an iPhone or iPad, but use the Remote to do it.
Overall, my impressions are positive, but that’s coming from a long time Apple customer, an early adopter with a high threshold for new product pain. The actual, usable differences between Apple TV 3 and Apple TV 4 are nominal, but the difference will grow as more apps make there way to TV 4, and once Apple’s upcoming streaming TV service is available, the clarity will be obvious.
For now, Apple TV is an early adopter platform. If you don’t have an Apple TV at all, get this one first. If you have an Apple TV 3, the differences are nominal and waiting won’t kill you; you’re not missing that much.
The future of Apple TV falls into three distinct functions. Siri interaction, applications, and Apple’s upcoming streaming TV service. Over time we’ll also see HomeKit integration and that will prove to be a boon as well.