by James A. Martin

Apple’s new TV app has some sad shortcomings

Dec 16, 2016
Consumer ElectronicsiOSMobile Apps

Apple replaced the Videos app in iOS with TV, new software that aims to enable single sign-on access to multiple video sources. The app helps unify the streaming video experience, but it also fails to deliver in some key areas.

For those of us who pine for a future in which we can watch whatever we want, whenever we want, on any device we want, Apple’s new TV app is a step in the right direction, albeit a small one. Unfortunately, the TV app mostly shows just how far away from that idyllic future we still are.

TV is part of Apple’s iOS 10.2 software update, which was released earlier this week, as well as tvOS 10.1 for Apple TV devices. On iOS, TV replaces the old Videos app, but on Apple TV, it’s a new brand app.

TV is designed to be a one-stop shop for accessing video in your iTunes library, as well as discovering videos to rent, buy or stream from other sources, whether you use an iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, or an Apple TV connected to a TV set.

Apple TV app interface is intuitive

The software’s interface is straightforward. It has four tabs: Library, for videos you own; Watch Now, which is where you connect to other video apps to view their content; Store, for renting or buying videos from Apple; and Search, for finding videos in your library and from other sources.

apple tv app 2 Apple

Netflix and Amazon are nowhere to be seen

Using TV and the app’s single sign-on feature, you can bop between Hulu, HBO Now, Starz, Showtime and other streaming video apps. However, the app doesn’t support some of today’s most popular options. For example, you can’t yet connect to Netflix, HBO Go, PBS, or Watch ESPN, even though Apple TV apps exists for each of these services. (HBO Now is a standalone streaming service for those without HBO TV subscriptions, and HBO Go is for people who already pay for HBO TV service.)

Given the competition between Amazon and Apple, the TV app also doesn’t support Amazon’s video library. And no Amazon Apple TV app exists, either.

Comcast subscribers are out of luck

Even if apps are available for you to connect to TV, you may not be able to take full advantage of the app’s features. I’m a Comcast Xfinity subscriber, for instance. As I tried to link the Travel Channel app to the TV app on my Apple TV, I discovered that Comcast doesn’t support single sign-on. So I’d need to “individually sign in” to the Travel Channel and every other app I want to use, rather than take advantage of TV’s single sign-on access. 

TV app’s unfortunate user experience

If you’re feeling confused, join the club.

Apple’s TV app makes life a little easier for those of us who bounce between apps, cable or other video subscriptions, and our own video libraries, but it fails to adequately corral all the content into one place, so you can watch it regardless of your device. It also makes me wonder if anyone, Apple included, will ever crack that particular nut.