Apple TV Hands On: This Changes Everything

I went to Cupertino to meet with the Apple TV team yesterday, and to pick up a unit to try out for myself. What struck me about the new model was Apple’s attention to detail—this is the most “Apple” Apple TV the company has ever released.

Most of us use Apple because the products are just so simple to use—the new Apple TV follows that mold and in some cases takes it to a whole new level. From setup to functionality, what Apple did with Apple TV screams ease of use.

Let’s take a few simple things to highlight the level of detail in the Apple TV.


When you first setup the device, it asks you if you want to set it up with your iPhone instead of typing WiFi and Apple ID passwords in manually. A long arduous task that we’ve all done many times. Just make sure Bluetooth is on and you are greeted with prompts on your iPhone to type in your passwords. And that’s it, you’re up and running.

One thing that was a bit frustrating with the old Apple TV was the fact you had to have a TV remote for volume and then the Apple TV remote to navigate the device. No more.

When you first plug in the Apple TV, it grabs all of the information from your TV and transfers it to the unit over the HDMI cable. From there, the TV information is sent to your remote via Bluetooth.

Before you even know what’s happening, you are signed into WiFi, your Apple ID, and your Apple TV remote is active to control the volume on your television.

That’s quite a first impression.

Apple Remote

Speaking of the remote. When you get you’re Apple TV, you’ll notice the remote has a mic on the front and another on the back. Of course, the one on the front is so you can speak to Siri and bring up movie and TV show suggestions on your TV. But what about that second mic?

That mic measures the ambient noise in the room and automatically lowers that volume so Siri can better hear what you are saying in the front mic. This just happens automatically.

I held the remote about an arms length away, pressed the Siri button, and spoke normally. It picked up even command I gave it. Oh, If you’re watching something on TV, Apple TV will automatically lower, or duck, the volume so Siri can hear you better.

Swiping on the remote can be very precise, allowing you to move to a specific target, or you can swipe across the face of the remote and it will be quite fluid, racing across the screen.

While the remote has a port for charging, you’ll get about three months of use from a single charge, so you won’t be running to charge it up all the time.

These are the types of detail that nobody else really thinks of, but Apple did.

Video screensavers

Using helicopters and drones, Apple filmed some iconic cities around the world that you can use as your Apple TV screensaver. Big deal, right? Well, the screensaver knows what time it is where you are, so the movie you see of London will be at night or in the day, depending on what time it is locally.

Detail. Attention to detail.

There is a setting to automatically download new screensaver as they become available.


Siri is smart. On Apple TV you can use Siri to find movies, TV shows, display the weather, sports scores and stocks.

When you ask Siri about the weather, Apple TV displays the current conditions on the bottom third of the screen. It’s enough to see the forecast, but still watch the movie.

If you want to see more detail, you can make weather go full screen. Here’s the detail bit—Apple TV will pause the movie in the background, so you don’t miss anything while you’re looking at the detailed forecast.

Siri will also not talk over your show. When you press the button, the familiar waveform will show on screen, allowing you to ask your question.

I didn’t raise my voice one bit when asking Siri a question, like, “What did he say?” when watching a movie. Siri skipped back, turned on closed captioning, and then turned it off after the section I was asking about had finished playing. Brilliant.

For now Siri is able to find TV shows and movies. You can’t use it to find sports from ESPN or news, or other content on the device. This actually makes a lot of sense, if you know Apple.

Apple has a history of releasing features slowly to make sure they work right. Then they’ll broaden the scope of the features to include more content. This is a smart way to introduce features, especially groundbreaking features like these.

Apple TV: The Platform

This is not an upgrade to Apple TV. This is a brand new platform, designed to allow you to get the most of out your TV. That’s the big takeaway with this Apple TV—it’s going to change things.

Apple is giving developers and video providers free reign to display content the way they want, not the way Apple feels it should be displayed. Scrolling through some of the channels, you see how different networks are using the available screen space to do something different.

With the Apple TV app store, it’s not just about video and music. There’s a fitness app called ZOVA that connects with your Apple Watch and displays your heartbeat onscreen.

There are games for kids and adults alike, all using the Apple TV remote as the game controller.

There is a lot to Apple TV. I’ve loved every minute of it so far.

Bottom Line

This Apple TV is nothing like you’ve ever seen from Apple in the past. This is the start of something new for Apple, and for us as consumers.

I really believe that this could be a pivotal moment, one we look back on and say, I remember when that happened.

Let me be clear—we aren’t there yet. Content is still a big issue. However, Apple has laid the groundwork to fix the content problem—the problem of having content subscriptions, or simply having content when and where we want it, not when Comcast thinks we should have it.

iPhone brought a massive change to the way we interact with phones. This Apple TV has the potential to bring that same kind of change to the television.