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Six ways to improve the Apple TV interface

Dan Moren,Jonathan Seff | Dec. 16, 2013
Here are half a dozen steps Apple could take to improve the way we browse and watch content from the comfort of our couches.

One possible solution is to build off a feature that the company has already introduced: the ability to configure certain settings of your Apple TV by tapping an iOS device on the set-top box. Currently it works only for Apple's own data—but it would be great if Apple could expand the feature's purview to more services.

Likewise, if Apple could centralize access to services that require you to verify your cable subscription, you wouldn't have to enter that information more than once.

3. A centralized watchlist
As long as we're advocating unification of search and sign-on, allow us to endorse the idea of establishing a single clearinghouse for everything you want to watch. Rather than keeping a list of favorites on Hulu, a queue on Netflix, and a Wish List on iTunes, you could turn to a centralized repository of your media to-do list on the Apple TV. Each entry could detail the services where the content in question is available, making it easier to find what you're looking for.

That said, if you share your Apple TV with other members of your household, you might want to maintain separate queues—perhaps keyed to your respective iOS devices. Speaking of which...

4. Smarter iOS integration
Apple's Remote app offers some advantages over the simple silver hardware remote that comes with your Apple TV. Notably, it provides a touch keyboard for entering login credentials more easily than is possible by using the directional pad to pick and choose login information character by character.

But given that most Apple TV users probably also have an iOS device these days, it would be great if Apple offered even more integration between the two devices. For example, the company might let you use Siri on your iPhone or iPad to prompt your Apple TV to play a specific TV show or movie.

In general, the Apple TV needs a better front end on iOS devices. Remote for the most part mimics the use of a traditional physical remote—which can be cumbersome because it doesn't provide the tactile feedback you get from pressing remote buttons. But the iOS touch interface is potentially much more powerful, and it's not hard to imagine an Apple TV companion app that provides an interface for browsing, searching, and watching content on your Apple TV. And again, it could allow multiple users in a household to maintain their own settings and watchlists.

AirPlay provides what amounts to an inverse version of this right now, but it reduces the Apple TV to nothing more than a screen. An app—or even features integrated into iOS itself—could bring more power to your interactions with your Apple TV, rather than just dumbing down the set-top box.


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