Would Apple reveal a new Apple TV at its “Spring Loaded” event next week? Nobody knows for sure, and even my trusty Magic 8 Ball gave me a hazy “Reply hazy, try later” answer.
Although the arrival of a new TV is still uncertain, there’s little doubt about the state of Apple’s set-top box right now: It’s a complete mess. It’s so terrible that it’s on our own Jared Newman’s list of streaming video players he won’t purchase. Even at the height (hopefully) of the pandemic, when the world’s sheltering-in-place population had nothing to do but watch videos, Apple TV struggled to have “a moment,” according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman.
Now, there’s an easy, not-at-all-secret recipe for getting Apple TV back on track, even if some of the measures (lower prices, anyone?) seem to be forbidden in Cupertino. But, who knows, maybe if they hear them loud enough, the executives at Apple Park will pay attention.
Lower the price
Let’s get right to the point, shall we? The time is ripe—beyond ripe—for Apple to lower the price of its Apple TV set-top box.
It had been a long time since I checked the price of an Apple TV 4K. (my shell-shocked brain must have blocked out the sticker price when I bought my own a couple of years back). When I finally did, I was shocked to see the price: $179 for the 32GB size. (A 64GB version would set you back $199.) And Apple’s “cheap” streaming set-top box, the Apple TV HD, costs a whopping $150.
That’s completely insane, and everybody knows it.
As compared to the competition, Google’s flagship 4K streamer, the Chromecast with Google TV, and Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K are both $50. (The Fire TV Cube, which costs $120 and provides hands-free control of your TV, cable box, and other A/V accessories, is also available on Amazon.) Roku’s top-of-the-line Ultra is $99.00 for those who want to splurge.
If it were up to me, I’d slash TV rates instantly. The Apple TV 4K 64GB would cost $99 (and the Apple TV HD would cost $49), while the Apple TV HD would cost $49. (which is arguably still too expensive). And, in the future, no Apple TV model would cost more than $99, period.
Lose the games
Apple’s ability to convert its set-top box into a gaming console is undoubtedly part of the explanation for the Apple TV’s exorbitant price tag, with the A10X Fusion chip (which, granted, also powers the Apple TV’s HomeKit features) undoubtedly helping to drive the Apple TV’s price into the stratosphere. (It’s been rumoured that an upcoming Apple TV update will include a more powerful Fusion processor.)
Take a look at this: I’m an avid gamer. I have a PlayStation 4 (and would get a PS5 if one were available), a Nintendo Switch, and a GeForce Now subscription. I enjoy playing games!
However, I recommend that you get rid of your Apple TV. I’ve never played a game on my Apple TV and have no plans to do so—I have game consoles and a computer for that. The entire gaming aspect is a drain on Apple TV’s computing resources and an unnecessary diversion for its design team, which should be focusing on fixing the slow, obsolete interface (more on that later) rather than attempting to bring Rayman Adventures to Apple TV.
Fix the remote of the Apple TV
The Siri remote, oh, the Siri remote. The Siri-enabled remote is a favorite punching bag for Apple TV owners who have long wished for a modern, easier-to-use joystick. Small enough to fit between the seat cushions of the world’s tiniest couch, and cunningly built so you’ll never keep it the right way on the first try, the Siri-enabled remote is a favorite punching bag for Apple TV owners who have long wished for a new, easier-to-use wand
This is something I despise.
Since late last year, rumors have circulated that Apple was working on a workaround for the Siri remote, which is built to act as a game controller when kept sideways, hence the mystery about which way is up on the remote.
9to5Mac was able to obtain leaked photographs of what appeared to be a promising new edition, codenamed “B519.” Unfortunately, B519 turned out to be an established model that Apple developed in collaboration with cable providers for cable subscribers, rather than a Siri remote replacement.
Even if the B519 remote (distributed by Universal Electronics) turned out to be a red herring in terms of Apple’s official remote plans, it’s still a practical, pretty intuitive-looking unit, complete with a circular navigation pad, a “mute” button, and a control layout that makes it clear which way it should be kept.
Although the B519 remote might be too standard for Apple and useless for games, as many 9to5Mac commentators wryly noted, a normal remote is exactly what Apple TV requires, and the B519 remote, in my opinion, would suffice.
Fix the interface
While updating the Apple TV’s old interface isn’t as important as lowering its price, removing the games, and repairing the Siri remote, it would be a positive move forward.
Apple’s tvOS looks a lot like iOS, with its grid of iPhone-like icons, but a TV set-top box isn’t a tablet. Oh, and moving those icons around on the tvOS home screen? This is much more enrage-inducing than the iOS version.
In any case, it’s time for a tvOS makeover, and getting rid of the dancing icon grid will be a great start. Instead, let’s use an interface that’s more suited to a remote than our fingers.