An hour or so with an Apple TV 4

Whilst wandering round town this afternoon I found myself in the Apple store, where I picked up a new 4th gen Apple TV to play with.

Plugging it in in place of my older 3rd gen unit it initially decided I would prefer to set it up in Spanish, no amount of rebooting would persuade it to start again, so I had to muddle through and complete the configuration, then work out how to change it back to English so I could wipe it and start again. Eventually it was up and running in a language I can cope with.

It seems to work nicely, well mostly (more of that later), and the new screensavers are almost worth the purchase cost themselves. However it’s badly let down by a few stupid decisions or omissions.

No remote keyboards

The initial setup of the Apple TV can be done from an iPhone or iPad, but once that’s complete you’re stuck with using the remote for entering text. Unlike the previous Apple TVs this one does not support the remote app on iOS, or Bluetooth keyboards. If you’ve got lengthy usernames and complex passwords you’ll soon be looking for the nearest window to throw the device out of. A couple of apps like Flickr and YouTube have a nice slick sign-on process where it generates a code for you to enter on a website, but apps like Netflix will try your patience.

Siri can’t play music

This works well on iOS but on the Apple TV it just tells you that it can’t play music. If this worked it would make life so much easier for those of us with large collections of music. Apparently this may be coming next year.

The App Store is useless

There’s seemingly no way to browse available apps beyond those "Featured" by Apple. You can’t use Siri, as far as I can tell you have to use the search function to find the app you want (remember the lack of external keyboard support), which makes it virtually impossible to discover new apps.

If Apple can fix these fairly major (in my opinion) defects then they’ve got a superb device on their hands. However at the moment it’s a bit of a half-assed effort.

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