The Lamest Apple Software

The Apple TV (2G or 3G) is a joy to use. It’s easy to navigate to content with just a few clicks. However, one of the test functions is infuriating and is about the lamest thing Apple has ever done.

Recently, my wife and I were watching an episode of The Glades via Netflix on our Apple TV (2G). (Season #1 is free on Netflix, but all three seasons are on iTunes.)

There were frequent, annoying pauses, as if the content needed to be buffered -- a symptom of a slow Internet connection. But we’re on a Comcast plan at 20 Mbps, and the Apple TV is on an Ethernet wired connection back to by home router, so I knew that probably wasn’t the problem.

Then I remembered a network test on the Apple TV. It’s under the General Settings -> Network -> Network Test. The test gets off to a great start. It asks if you’re experiencing slow performance. If “yes,” then it gets ambitious and asks what your expected Internet speed is, in megabits per second (Mbps.) That question suggests that something is going to be tested or adjusted. So far, so good.Then the test runs. A progress bar shows the testing of the download speed. Again, that’s promising.

Next comes the perplexing part. When the test is done, there is no feedback at all. Nothing. What you get is “Done.” After all that waiting. And that left me asking, “What’s done? What just happened? What were the results?”

This Has Been a Test

The purpose of a test is to provide a result. It’s as if your car were running rough, and you took it to the dealer. The mechanic says, “I’ll run a test.” Later, when you come back, the mechanic says, "The test is done. I can't tell you the results. Your car is ready."

The situation is a little murky because Apple is interfacing with Netflix, and we know that Netflix dynamically checks for the speed of the Internet connection. Plus, the Apple TV may have it’s own parameters. So there may be some behind the scenes tuning. (In my case, the pauses disappeared for good and the picture quality improved.)  What we do know however, from the progress bar caption (above), is that the speed of the connection is being tested.

If the test module is going to ask about system performance, quiz you on your expected speed, then show a progress bar, indicating a speed test, results should be shown. A simple statement would be good. For example,

“Your network downstream speed was measured at 15.2 Mbps.”

This no great challenge to the customer’s tech savvy because the software previously presented the Mbps nomenclature.

In addition, if the performance of the network is less than what the customer thought he/she was paying for, then the software could say something like, “You indicated 10+ Mbps expected, but 2.4 Mbps was measured.”

Without getting into needless jargon, a simple presentation of the result and explanation is called for. For example, we know that streaming compressed 720p has a certain minimum speed, roughly 4 Mbps. So the Apple TV could display a bar graph and show the customer how the Apple TV performed in comparison. Then the customer could draw some reasonable conclusions. Perhaps there’s a connection issue. Perhaps a sibling is downloading 100 GB from another room.

Done. Seriously?

“Done” is not a test result. Rather, it's a mistreatment of the customer. By way of contrast,  I am reminded of a wonderful, complimentary tweet I saw recently by @rtraister. "[He] believes we're smarter than we think we are. This belief, oddly, makes us smarter."