Apple TV hands-on reviewers praise 'revolutionary' remote
But the streaming box does not have enough new features to make it a must for gamers or TV enthusiasts, reviewers say
Alongside two new iPhones, a bigger iPad and a couple of new watch accessories, Apple used last night's event to relaunch its television streaming box, Apple TV. Apple claims that it is a "revolution in television", but some early reviewers were underwhelmed, suggesting that the device might struggle against competition from Google and Amazon.The new unit looks much like its predecessor, only slightly taller. The main change is to the remote and interface. The remote itself "has a lot going on" says The Verge in its hands-on review."A touch-sensitive glass surface serves as the primary means of input, but the remote also supports Siri as Apple pushes its voice assistant deeper across its product portfolio. It can also be turned sideways and used for gaming," the site notes. "Other buttons include Menu, Play / Pause, TV, and a volume rocker."Reviewers say that the remote takes some getting used to, but is very powerful once you know how to use it. Apple hopes that the sophistication of the remote could make Apple TV a credible alternative to gaming consoles such as the Xbox and PS4. Players will be able to use it like a Wii controller, waving it around to hit tennis balls, drive a car or play rhythm games such as Guitar Hero.
So will it resonate with gamers? From last night's presentation it is far from clear, says Metro.co.uk. "How much impact this really will make on the traditional games market is hard to say, but until now Apple TV has never been a massive hit. But likewise Apple has never seemed as invested in games as they are now."
What is also unclear is whether there are enough new features to convince people who already own different streaming devices, such as Google's Chromecast or Amazon's Fire TV, to switch to Apple."Overall, it's a welcome – and meaningful – upgrade to the Apple TV," says Nilay Patel for The Verge, "but there's nothing in this first look that makes it seem like it's going to usher in a massive TV revolution.
"It's now competitive with the latest from Roku, Amazon, and others, and the potential of real processing and graphics power coupled with the App Store is enormous, but it's hard to say more until that stuff goes live."
Apple TV: is it finally ready to take over your home?
Rumours that Apple TV is "just about to get a major upgrade" have been swirling around the ailing device for years. The current generation of the small black set-top box was released in March 2012 and has seen several price drops as it struggled to maintain market share against challenges from Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast and Roku.
So if there is an update, how will it differ from its predecessors?
According to a report by the New York Times, gaming will be at the heart of the updated Apple TV. Apple already created a multi-billion dollar industry for mobile games when it "stumbled into the games business almost by accident", the paper says. It is possible therefore that it could mount an equal assault on the console gaming market by turning Apple TV into a games device.
"I think Apple's going to create a big new category in gaming, one that others have tried and failed to create before," tech analyst Jan Dawson told the New York Times. "What the Apple TV has the potential to do is to bring casual gaming to the living room and make it a much more social activity."
Apple is reported to have made an audacious but unsuccessful bid for Jeremy Clarkson's new car show, which ultimately ended up going to Amazon Prime. But some industry analysts said that even the fact that the company pitched for the programme was a signal of intent.
At the Apple Watch launch event in March, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company was already in talks with entertainment giants Walt Disney and 21st Century Fox to launch an online streaming TV service.
"Apple TV will reinvent the way that you watch television," Cook promised. "This is just the beginning."
Producing original content would be a "major step" for Apple, says technology news site Alphr: "For Apple, original programming makes a lot of sense… it fits in with the approach the company had with Apple Music. Although it hasn't launched its own record company, it did hire Zane Lowe to set up Beats 1 to give Apple Music something more than just the same catalogue everyone else has. Hiring 'talent' is something Apple has been doing a lot of lately, and it clearly sees it as a way of bootstrapping its entertainment services."
Many tech sites believe that Apple may create its own fully fledged App Store to support Apple TV. 9to5Mac reports that the company may be planning to allow content providers to make their own channels and apps for the device. The site also suggests that the App Store will house games built specifically for Apple TV.
9to5Mac also suggests that the fourth-generation Apple TV may come with built-in AirPort Express, eliminating the need for a separate wireless router.
Could Apple TV become a "smart hub" that will allow users to control heating and lights around the home? According to Pocket Lint an addition called HomeKit could make that possible: "It appears you'll use Siri through Apple TV to control your HomeKit-compatible devices when away from home," the site says, adding that "Apple TV will be able to act as an intermediary, letting you issue Siri voice commands to your home from a remote location."