My take on Apple’s newest box, the new Apple TV.
The New Look
There’s obviously a bit that’s changed with the new Apple TV. In terms of width and depth it’s only a fourth of the size of the original, and about a centimeter shorter in height. Beginning with the box it ships in, the new Apple TV contains all of the usual Apple styling and trimmings — or perhaps the lack of them — the box measures in at just over four inches square by about 2.5 inches tall. As per usual Apple gives you nothing but the bare essentials here: the Apple TV itself, the newly redesigned remote, and a power cable. There’s also a pair of pamphlets over warranty and operating the device, as well as a couple of those notorious Apple stickers. The Apple TV is officially 3.9 inches square, .9 inches tall, and weighing about half of a pound.
While the original Apple TV had an aluminum band all around the edges with a plastic-type casing atop the device, and a rubberized bottom, the new Apple TV is made almost exclusively of plastic. The bottom, however is a matte surface (resembling the new Mac Mini’s bottom surface) that is only slightly grippy, not nearly as much as the old Apple TV’s bottom, though. The new Apple TV’s edges are glossy, while the top surface of the case is matte. The Apple TV logo (Apple logo and letters “TV”) embossed glossy as well. The rear of the new box contains a handful less connections than the first one did. Obviously Apple left those that were completely necessary — the power, HDMI, Optical/TOSLINK, and ethernet ports are still present. Strangely enough Apple decided to leave a USB port on the device, albeit an alternate USB type (likely mini-USB). This thing is completely jailbreak-able. The guys over at iFixit.com did a complete teardown of the new box and it can be said that the Apple TV is an LCD screen and a battery short of an iPad. Most of everything’s the same; there’s even a signature Apple 30-pin dock connector inside this new box.
The original Apple TV ran a modified version of Mac OSX, something along the lines of 10.4 (Tiger). And speaking of jailbreaking, the new Apple TV (as expected) runs the newest version of iOS, 4.0. This makes jailbreaking the new Apple that much more imminent, since all of the current iOS devices have already been hacked profusely. Visually, previous Apple TV owners will notice a sense of familiarity with the “new” interface. Despite the fact that the new box’s OS is slightly different, this one feels almost identical to what Apple TV lovers already know and love.
It seems that Apple uses a different approach to content on this Apple TV compared to the previous one. It has everything to do with the fundamental difference in obtaining and consuming media on these two boxes. While the last Apple TV’s main menu interface focused on how to find content that’s on the Apple TV’s hard drive (and perhaps media in remote iTunes libraries). That meant a one screen that presented you with a ways to easily find Movies, TV Shows, Music, Podcasts, and Photos; as well as an Internet menu that provided ways to get to YouTube, Flickr, and MobileMe content. It’s important to note that previously, that Internet menu that would get you to YouTube for instance was all the way to the right of the home screen, somewhat off to the side, if you will. The new Apple TV’s main menu to focuses on remote content. The menu seems to serve as a place for a variety of jumping off points to make your way to Movies, TV Shows, and Internet portals. There’s then a menu for streaming content from remote iTunes libraries around the house, which this time around is a little off to the side. This Apple TV’s interface is based on getting to content that’s not on the device, but rather content that’s elsewhere.
The Internet menu, in my opinion is the most important this time around. Probably the most liberal addition to the new Apple TV is Netflix. As much as it seems baked into the interface (which is a good thing) it can likely be looked at simply as an app. Just like the YouTube, Flickr, and MobileMe menus, they’re all just apps.
More Apps to Come?
My thoughts on Apple’s decision not to open the floodgates for third-party apps from the start can be read in an older post. But I continue to believe that Apple is going to open the new Apple TV up to more content. presented in third-party apps. However, there is a reluctancy I feel towards fully believing that Apple will give in to more third-party apps (like Hulu Plus for instance) because these services completely undermine Apple’s new march to bring TV shows from as many networks as possible to Apple TV users for just 99 cents and episode.
Even if Apple could find a way to get NBC, CBS, and a bunch of others networks to offer TV show rentals at this new “magical” price of $0.99; a subscription service like Hulu Plus is a much better deal than anything Apple’s offering in the iTunes store. Here’s a prime example: If I wanted to watch the entire season of ABC’s hit comedy, Modern Family, I’d pay 99 cents per episode for roughly 24 episodes — just under $24. Yet for $10 a month, Hulu Plus will serve me a handful of ads; however, they’ll allow me to watch anything they’ve got available as much as I want, on any device Hulu Plus is supported. With that said, If Hulu Plus were available on the new Apple TV, I’d likely never buy a single episode at 99 cents from iTunes, but rather suffer the ads Hulu will throw at me and pony up the $10 to them for Hulu Plus.
Here’s my video unboxing of the new Apple TV: