Last week, as the new Apple TV was hitting stores ahead of its official launch this past Monday, Indiewire scoured through early reviews and previewed some of the device’s new features that could potentially change the way users watch movies at home.
“While the previous incarnation of Apple TV offered access to apps from Netflix, HBO, Hulu and broadcast and cable networks, the new Apple TV offers its own apps, created by third-party developers, with endless possibilities,” wrote Filmmaker Toolkit Editor Paula Bernstein.
Now that the device has launched and Indiewire has been able to experiment with it, it’s safe to confirm the new Apple TV truly is revolutionizing the way home streaming can be utilized. Thanks to what is being called the “Siri remote,” the new Apple TV works very much like an iPhone and can be entirely operated through voice command. Although some outlets have accurately pinpointed the device’s shortcomings, the new additions it has implemented unquestionably make the streaming process — from deciding what to choose to actually viewing said choice — a less time-consuming process. It may not be a giant leap for streaming-friendly mankind, but it certainly provides a step in a way more efficient direction.
Apple is offering a choice of a 32GB model at $149 or a 64GB one for $199, the former of which has been hailed by The New York Times as “the best TV streaming device you can get for your money.” Below are the 5 major reasons why:
“Universal search” means finding out what to stream and where to stream it is no longer a time-consuming issue.
Easily the standout attraction of the new Apple TV is what the company refers to as “universal search,” which is the remedy to all of the hours you’ve wasted lost in streaming libraries looking for available titles. The device’s remote control has been integrated with Siri and voice recognition so that all users have to do is hold down the microphone button and say, “Find me [enter name or title here],” in order to search for a movie or TV show. Apple TV will then search all of the downloaded apps for your respective search item, eliminating the process of going into each app.
When asking Siri to find something, the user can reference a director, actor, specific film title or a genre; anything from “Find me David Lynch movies” to “Find me war movies” will work. You can even get more specific by asking Siri to search for a director or actor’s recent movies or their best movies, in which Apple TV will use Rotten Tomatoes and critical evaluations to provide the director or actor’s best reviewed films.
The universal search is incredibly helpful in searching for indie titles and cult television shows that are otherwise buried at the bottom of certain streaming platforms. Because the device searches every app at once, you no longer need to spend time thoroughly searching the libraries of streaming platforms on an app to app basis. The device will aggregate every relevant title to your search among the apps you have downloaded, as well as offer you all the ways in which you can stream the title you are looking for. If you look up “Batman Begins,” for instance, options for buying on iTunes and streaming on Netlix appear, giving the user the final call on what app they feel most comfortable streaming on.
Individual film and television show pages are informative and, most importantly, endless.
Every film and television show you search for now has an individual page to itself, complete with a high-res photo, plot synopsis and other important details (see photo at the top of the article). Television show pages include which seasons are available to stream. The cast roster and similar movie recommendations are presented as a row of hyperlink choices, so that you can easily navigate from the page you’re on to another. Should you be on the “Gravity” film page, you can click “Interstellar” in the similar movies column to go straight to its film page, or you click on any of the cast members to go to a page that lists all of the movies and shows featuring them that are available to stream.
A row of reviews from Rotten Tomatoes is also provided so that you can read up on critical evaluations of the selected content. If you have the Rotten Tomatoes app installed, you can jump from the blurbs provided on the film’s page to the actual full review in the app. Essentially, what the new Apple TV has created with each film and television page is something comparable to a Wikipedia article, in that each page is full of hyperlinks that you can endlessly explore to find more movies and shows in a similar genre, with the same cast, from the same director, etc.
Hopping between pages in this fashion means you will most likely be traveling between apps, but all you have to do to return to a previous app is double-tap the home button. This will bring up a bar of the apps you’ve used most recently used, so you can seamlessly switch between content without having to go all the way back to the home screen and start over.
Siri can help you understand dialogue and identify actor’s names.
Faulty sound mixing is no longer a problem thanks to the Apple TV’s new subtitle enhancement (here’s looking at you, “Interstellar”). If for some reason you can’t make out what a particular character is saying, just ask Siri, “What did he/she say?” and the device will automatically rewind 15 seconds and turn on closed captioning for the portion of dialogue you may have missed. Once the video gets back to the time at which you asked the question, the subtitles will turn off and the video will continue playing without them.
Even more useful is Siri’s ability to answer casting questions. Should a supporting actor your unfamiliar with catch your eye during a certain movie or show, you can ask Siri to name the cast member and a bottom menu will appear with his name and picture. The movie will continue playing, though should you want to click on the actor’s picture to go to his credit’s page (which will link you to all of the movies and shows he is in that are available to stream on Apple TV), the movie will automatically pause so that you may return to it at your convenience. This identification tool is particularly useful while watching animated videos; Siri can tell you the voice actors you might not be able to figure out on your own.
New enhanced sound options let you rewind and listen in ways both convenient and respectful.
The Apple TV can now be synced up to wireless headphones through bluetooth technology. If there’s every a time when family or roommates don’t want the television on, syncing the TV to your headphones will allow you to watch and listen without disrupting people in your surroundings. If you don’t have access to wireless headphones, you can ask Siri to turn on “enhanced speech,” which will boost the dialogue and soften the music and sound effects of the program you’re watching so that you don’t bother people with loud explosions or swelling musical cues.
Because the Siri remote responds directly to your voice, fast-forwarding, rewinding and pausing are also more user-friendly than ever. Simply tell Siri how far back or forward you want to jump and the Apple TV will bring you to the exact spot in the film or television show. You can be as specific as you want by citing the exact seconds or minutes you’d like to rewind or fast-forward, or the chapter you’d like to move to, eliminating the process of manually doing it and risking going too far or too early. Users who prefer manual fast-forwarding or rewinding can use the right (fast-forward) and left (rewind) sides of the remote’s upper track pad to scroll through time.
Moving streaming apps like Netflix to the top row brings new additions to the app right to your home page.
Apple TV allows you to move your most-used apps to the top row of the home page so that they are also your most easily accessible. If you’re a big Netflix user, you may want to put the app at the very start of the home page. If you put the app on the top row and scroll your cursor over it, a menu of the latest additions on Netlflix will appear directly above at the very top of the home page. This means you won’t even have to ask Siri for recommendations or go into Netflix to see what’s new — the latest additions in the app will appear on the home page. Ultimately, the home page can lead you directly to new movies on Netflix without even opening the app. Just turn your Apple TV on and the latest choices will be at the ready.
Do you plan to buy a new Apple TV? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments below.