Lately I’ve found myself gravitating away from using the Apple TV to watch content, and it’s due entirely to the device’s user interface: Apps get higher billing than they deserve.
Don’t get me wrong, the ability to add apps to the Apple TV is one of the platform’s greatest strengths, not to mention that its app market – and development – fully leverages the relative maturity of iOS.
On the iPhone it makes sense that the user interface has all your applications front-and-center. There are so many different things you can do with an iPhone that it’s smart to start with the app that will get the job done.
On the Apple TV, though, that makes a lot less sense. The vast majority of user interaction with the Apple TV is focused on consuming content. A distant second to that would be playing games. Even further down the line would be using utilities like speed tests and such. Why, then, does my speed test app get equal billing to Netflix?
Hey, Siri! I don’t care what app has my favorite shows!
Certainly Apple TV needs some way of allowing users to launch a specific app, but that shouldn’t be its home screen. The home screen should highlight and list my favorite content, regardless of which app delivers it. When it’s time to watch House of Cards, I shouldn’t have to stop first and think about what application delivers that content to me. I just want to power up my Apple TV, click “House of Cards” and start watching.
Yes, Siri universal search is a step in this direction, but it’s not nearly enough. I have to remember what I want to watch and then convince Siri to bring it to me. What if my wife and I watch five shows and I can’t remember the name of that one about a hospital? If I watched it last week – and in 15 weeks of the last year – it should simply show up on a list, visible when I turn on my Apple TV.
Voice isn’t everything
I like that Apple is dedicating brainpower and elbow grease towards the concept of a screen-less user interface. Amazon’s Alexa has proven that voice control works. But when you’re about to watch your favorite show on a 60-inch display, it’s pretty safe to assume that you’re going to be OK interacting with the screen.
There’s no argument here: a screen is much more efficient at displaying lists to humans than a voice interface ever could be.
Steal, Apple. Steal away.
The good news is that TiVo has already solved this problem. TiVo’s “My Shows” interface gives me exactly this, and is the reason I gravitate towards using TiVo to watch content instead of using my Apple TV. I use my TiVo remote to select the show I want to watch and it presents me a list of all the services where I can get it. Once I choose that the first time, I can add a “OnePass” to add to My Shows. That’s it. After that it’s always there in My Shows, front-and-center.
TiVo’s promo video for OnePass showcases this perfectly.
Never once in this process do I have to launch Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, anything. I just live in the TiVo interface and it hands me off to the in-app page that lets me start playing the specific episode I have chosen. It’s sublime and, frankly, how it should work everywhere.
Roku’s “My Feed” does something similar, showing you personalized content inside the Roku interface without having to launch an app.
Where’s the Friction?
Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and countless other providers are just fine with TiVo and Roku doing this, so there’s no reason they wouldn’t be fine with Apple doing it, too. In fact, Apple could enhance the process by reminding you, “hey, don’t let your Netflix subscription lapse. You watch three shows via that service.” So much opportunity here, and I hope Apple follows in the footsteps of the more mature platforms that exist today.
Until then, I highly recommend getting a TiVo. As fun as it is to be a geek and think about apps and all that, when it’s time to be a couch potato I prefer to just think about what I want to watch.