Apple TV UI great if you're not using Apple TV


— 10:03 AM on March 29, 2012

A couple of weeks ago, I purchased a new Apple TV. Which is not an actual TV. But you probably knew that. It is, however, the third generation of Apple's self-proclaimed hobby—a tiny box that attaches to your magic picture box and streams (as of generations two and three) content to its LCD or plasma-based motion portal. As I wrote in my last MacHole, the newest ATV is fairly slick, with 1080p output (finally), iCloud semi-integration, and a lack of bacon-frying operating temperatures. Okay, that last one may or may not be a plus, depending on what bacon-frying appliances you may own.

I dug the new ATV so much that I promptly sold my jailbroken first-gen Apple TV—upgraded with a 250GB drive—on eBay for a bit more than what the new one cost me. If you don't count the 95% cut that eBay/PayPal take. Or shipping. Yay, me. Regardless, not too bad for a bit of kit I'd gotten three years prior as a gift.

Alas, all is not perfectly well with the new Apple TV. Previously, I said about the new, more iOS-like interface, "It's a bit busier graphically than the old interface, but it doesn't anger me." I stand corrected, bathed David "Bruce" Banner-like in gamma rays left over from my last CRT and saved in a special mason jar. Please, keep your scientific mumbo-jumbo to yourself, Bixby. My ignorance is bliss, and my rage Ed Norton-like. This new UI is clearly an attempt by Apple to get people ready for the newfangled TV sets they're set to unleash in 2013. As in, they want us to punch our screens in frustration so that we'll need to buy new sets. Why else would they put in so many icons for things many of us will never use? The NBA? Really? Icons that we cannot hide, delete, expunge or otherwise flush into whatever netherworld where Clippy now resides?

Not only must one dance around this new, non-customizable desert of 1998-style shiny buttons, but finding your stuff isn't as easy, either. In the old days of two weeks ago (for me, at least), if I wanted to watch a movie—either my own or from the iTunes store—I would go under the Movies menu. Now, the Movies button only shows movies from the store. My movies are found under Computers. Unless I've bought a movie. Then that movie probably shows up under the Movies and Computers buttons, depending on whether Apple is allowed to stream it from iCloud. Got that?

Also, while you can stream your music from iTunes on your computer, iTunes Match on iCloud, and your purchased movies in similar fashion, you cannot upload any of your own movies to iCloud for streaming, even if you have plenty of space in your iCloud account. Sure, I understand Apple not letting you upload your ripped Blu-ray files of "Gossip Girl" if they don't have such licensing agreements, but why can't I toss up my home videos? Or the ones of you and your neighbor, you creepy perv?

Also, I fell victim to a bug in the current ATV firmware release that causes network drops when the ATV is in the presence of an extended network. So much for using my Airport Express. Which I went ahead and sold, as it turns out I no longer needed it. (I originally bought it because my MacBook Pro wouldn't pick up a strong signal in one part of the house. My MacBook Air has no problem.) Still, a fairly annoying problem all the way around.

All in all, I still like the new Apple TV and do not regret buying it. But I hope they change the UI. It is not a step forward. Not everything needs to mirror iOS. Interface design should focus on the user experience, and the UX of an Apple TV is quite different than an iPhone or iPad. Of course, the new UI pretty much ensures I'll be using my iPhone to control the ATV. Hmm.

In other news, my dog told me the Apple TV TV will be 4K. He also told me to shoot Buckwheat.

Later,

Fox

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