Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Last week I had so much to say about the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus and how cool I thought 3D Touch was going to be that I ran out of space without even mentioning Apple TV or iPad Pro, the two other big products Apple unveiled at its September 9th “Hey Siri” event in San Francisco.
Let’s start with Apple TV. You may recall that in June I declared that two killer features made the $99 Roku 3 streaming media player superior to the $69 Apple TV (previous model; still available for $69). The first killer feature was voice search, which scans the built-in channels and makes it much easier to find something to watch.
The second was a headphone jack on the remote control, so you can watch TV with the volume loud enough to know what’s going on while your spouse or significant other snoozes, blissfully unaware of the high-decibel gunfire and explosions going on a few feet away.
So, this new Apple TV, which should be available at the end of October for $149 (32GB) or $199 (64GB), looks to give Roku a run for its money. First and foremost, the new Apple TV doesn’t merely include voice search, it includes voice search powered by Siri. And Siri is so important to the new Apple TV that the remote control is named after her (him? it?): It’s called the Siri Remote.
And while I am pretty sure Siri Remote doesn’t have a headphone jack, it does have several unique features that could make it superior to the Roku 3 remote. For example, Siri Remote has a glass touchpad surface in addition to an accelerometer, and gyroscope, which mean that in addition to controlling Apple TV remotely, it’s also designed to be a decent motion-sensitive controller for video games (think Nintendo Wii). To be fair, the Roku remote is motion-sensitive and Roku offers a handful of video games (but nothing that interested me). Having witnessed the demos in San Francisco (and they were stunning), I suspect video gaming on the new Apple TV is going to be something completely different.
Siri Remote (top) and Roku Remote (bottom): Which would you prefer? (Photos courtesy Apple, Inc. and Roku.)
So… in addition to being a streaming media box, the new Apple TV also serves as a powerful gaming console. And since Apple also introduced a new operating system (tvOS) and software development kit (SDK) in San Francisco, I expect plenty of games and other apps along with the requisite movies and TV shows in the new Apple TV App Store, which will open when the product ships.
Bottom line: I plan to use the Roku 3 and new Apple TV side-by-side; I’ll let you know which I prefer once I’ve spent quality time with them.
Last but not least, I’d be remiss if I didn’t a least say a few words about the new iPad Pro (from $799), Apple Pencil ($99), and Smart Keyboard ($169), coming in November. With its 12.9-inch Retina display and 64-bit A9X processor, iPad Pro has more horsepower than many laptops; add the Apple Pencil precision input device and detachable Smart Keyboard and you’ve got something that could be more capable than a laptop or even a Microsoft Surface. We’ll see.
One last thing: Last week I raved about 3D Touch, which I still think is the slickest thing to happen to the iPhone in, like, forever. Tune in next week for my iPhone 6s review, wherein I’ll reveal whether 3D Touch is actually as awesome as it looked in demos.
And that’s all he wrote…