Devices Opinion

Critical Kit: the new Apple TV

Apple TV 2015

No doubt there will be some people that disagree that soon-to-be-released Apple TV is a critical piece of kit. After all, it’s not necessarily the “best” set-top streaming box that money can buy right now. Consider similar devices from Roku, Google, and many others. But Apple has finally got serious about television, with a much-needed update to the diminutive streamer that comes with a revamped user interface, Siri voice control (though not in every region), 32 GB or 64 GB of storage, a more powerful A8 CPU, and hopefully in the near future a much better selection of subscription-based content.

Couple all that with the ability to run third party apps with universal search (in other words, ask Siri to find you an episode of Game of Thrones and you’ll get results for iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, and anywhere else where you’ve subscribed or have an account). The new Apple TV doesn’t look that dissimilar than the old model, and many have expressed disappointment that it doesn’t offer 4k hi-resolution video (as well as doing away with the optical output), but seriously – what percentage of the population has a 4k TV yet? No doubt that will be enabled via a future upgrade, or an updated model in a year or two…

Apple TV HBO Now

I’m already an avid Apple TV user – I don’t have a satellite or terrestrial TV decoder – all my television comes via the Apple TV and yes, while you do generally have to pay for movies and TV series, I’m the kind of viewer that purchases a series and watches it through from start to finish, with a monthly outlay of perhaps £20 on movie rentals. Personally, I’d love to pay a monthly fixed cost and be able to watch any content – in a similar model to Amazon Prime (hopefully Amazon Prime will be available on the Apple TV as an app in future). Unfortunately, where I live (outside the UK), Amazon Prime is blocked and only works behind a VPN. My UK-based iTunes account does however allow me to watch any of the UK movies and TV shows, so for my purposes it’s fine for now. With a monthly subscription model of say £30-£40 per month, I’d be able to pick a choose either a selection of channels that I actually want to watch (like HBO and a couple of movie channels).

Apple TV 2015

It seems that the new Apple TV hardware is good enough to run HD games at iPhone 6 quality (it’s got last year’s A8 chip inside) – more than sufficient for casual gamers, and will of course play normal HD content as long as you’ve got a decent enough Internet connection. Apple said apps are the future of TV, at last month’s iPhone/Apple TV/iPad Pro event, and I have to agree – they’ve already ran out of the first batch of Apple TV developer units with more on the way, so it looks like leaving the Apple ecosystem will be even more difficult in future. Not that I’m complaining – the iPhone 6s is already ordered…

By Roland Banks

Roland Banks has been passionate about mobile technology for the past 20 years. He started his career at British Telecom's research division working on collaborative virtual reality environments, before becoming a video streaming specialist at 3 UK where he helped launch some of the world's first mobile video services. More recently he enjoys writing about his obsession, and developing software that helps mobile operators analyse their subscriber data.

Roland has lived in Asia for the past 5 years, and tries to indulge his other passion for riding motorcycles whenever possible.

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