Commentary

Reviewers Go Gaga Over Apple TV's Prospects

The reengineered Apple TV is hitting the market today to mostly effusive reviews but they are more like those accorded a promising young actor in a fading drama. It’s all about the potential.

“I’ve been testing this new model, and I like it. It’s much faster and easier to navigate. But it feels very much like a first effort at a new approach,” says Walt Mossberg for The Verge.

“Apple refers to Apple TV as the future of television, though for all its improvements, the future isn’t fully realized just yet,” writes Edward C. Baig for USA Today

“A new touch-friendly remote and a store full of apps bring the dream of cable-cutting closer,” reads the subhed on Glenn Fowler’s review in the Wall Street Journal. His lede: “For a glimpse of the future of television, grab a mat and join me for a Glute Boost with the new Apple TV.” 

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“The Apple TV You’ve Always Wanted Is Finally Here,” is the hed on John Paczkowski’s review for BuzzFeed. “The new Apple TV isn’t just an upgraded set-top box, it’s the first ‘true’ Apple TV, one that articulates Apple’s vision of what the TV viewing experience should be. It’s an appealing vision,” he concludes.

“… After testing hundreds of new devices for nearly a decade in this line of work, I’m usually blasé about products,” writes Brian Chen for the New York Times. “My editor was concerned that body snatchers had taken me when I said I was positive about Apple TV, but I reserve excitement for products that I think will make a difference, this being one of them.”

“Will” is the most telling word here, and it’s subject to Apple being able to pull off what it says it will do — with the help of lots of third-party apps. 

The device “reveals the company's vision for the future of television — Apple hopes TV watching won't be shaped by static channel guides of hundreds of shows that can be viewed only in certain time slots, but apps, largely developed by third-party companies, that offer your favorite shows on command, anytime you want,” writes Hayley Tsukayama for the Washington Post. “Anyone can submit an app, from big companies such as CBS or Netflix to smaller players such as Snapchat or Airbnb.” 

Indeed, the new version of Apple TV includes a full App Store, universal search, Siri voice control and a touch-based remote control. The 32GB model costs $149; the 64GB, $199. Serious gamers should probably fork over the extra $50, most reviewers say, but 32 gigs will probably suffice for everybody else.

The New York Post’s James Covert rounds up some of the disenchantments with the device. Yahoo’s David Pogue doesn’t like the fact that the remote still requires one-letter-at-a-time pecking for searches, for example. (The NYT’s Chen, however, points out that it’s beneficially thicker than the original version, which “had a tendency to vanish between couch cushions.”)

“Elsewhere, some reviewers were disappointed that the Siri commands only worked with a few key apps, and that its handy search capabilities aren’t available for YouTube or broadcast channels like NBC, CBS, ABC and PBS,” Covert points out.

USA Today’s Baig asks, “And where's 4K, with resolution that is four times better than high definition?” 

The NYT’s Chen is miffed by Siri’s inability to spell Nicolas Cage’s first name correctly (if only that were dear Siri’s only learning challenge).

Then there’s the testy relationship with Amazon, which announced earlier this month that it would no longer sell Apple TVs to “avoid confusion” with its own devices and will not be providing an Amazon Prime app to Apple anytime soon.

There are plenty more nits, to be sure. But they are of the order that come when expectations are very, very high. The question is not whether Apple TV — or a competitor — will have a seismic impact on the already quavering home entertainment landscape but rather how soon it will happen.

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