When the Apple TV first came to us in 2007, it came with a 40 GB hard disk drive and the sole intent of streaming iTunes content. Now in 2015 the new Apple TV comes with dozens more streaming options, and even Siri and an App Store. The addition of a third-party SDK, voice control and an interface upgrade brings the Apple TV to the level of Cupertino’s other popular devices. But unlike your iPhone, iPad Apple Watch or Mac, the set-top box leaves out some core functionality that could tie together the iCloud experience.
Amazon is no stranger to the world of voice command. While the Fire TV allows couch potatoes to control their television using their words, the Amazon Echo digital assistant is much more compelling. Being able to ask Amazon’s Alexa — Amazon’s rival to Siri — for news, weather, traffic and more from across the room offers a true glimpse into the future. We’d hoped Siri had taken a few notes from Alexa more than just showing us the weather on our TV, or letting us select which shows and movies to watch.
Summoning Siri on the new Apple TV consists of pressing the microphone button on the remote. But with the set-top box always plugged in near your TV, a microphone on the unit that is always listening for your input becomes a viable option, one Apple hasn’t taken yet. Albeit, Apple probably eschewed this in part out of its stated commitments to user privacy, but giving users the option to have an always-listening Apple TV wouldn’t hurt.
And with an actual screen, Siri can convey information without needing to be as verbose as Alexa (though an optional setting could allow her to speak more and not rely on your television, if preferred.) To compete with the Echo, Apple would have to introduce some new features — some of which could be easily taken care of by future software updates.
The new Apple TV offers some smart integration with Apple device users’ iCloud accounts — giving them access to their photos and music on the Apple TV. But we hope to see Apple flesh things out even further. Imagine sending a text, placing a call, setting reminders and timers, all from your sofa. The new Apple TV remote already offers a touch surface at the top, but why not add a TouchID fingerprint sensor like on the recent generations of iPhones and iPads? That way, users could easily verify their identity before carrying these and other secure functions, straight from their Apple TVs.
The Apple TV announced yesterday is a worthy upgrade of the streaming device. With the inclusion of an app store alone, Cupertino’s TV attachment gains a boost of speed in the race to win your living room against popular entrants like Roku, Amazon’s Fire TV, and Google’s Chromecast and its Android TV offerings. Tying in the rest of iOS’s standout features would seal the deal. Apps and music streaming nail entertainment, but we’re still waiting for Apple to give us every reason to never leave the couch.