TV’S HEIR

When it comes to watch­ing tele­vi­sion, a quiet rev­o­lu­tion is gath­er­ing pace

Warwickshire Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE -

T’S now more than two years since Ap­ple CEO Tim Cook de­clared to the world that the fu­ture of TV was apps. It might seem like he was way off the mark, es­pe­cially to those who still get their TV via a wire at­tached to a Free­view aerial, a ca­ble box or a satel­lite dish.

But qui­etly, just out of sight of those peo­ple, a TV rev­o­lu­tion is tak­ing place, and apps are very much at the heart of it. Apps such as Net­flix and BBC iPlayer.

To­wards the end of last year Ap­ple qui­etly flicked the switch on a new app of its own – called the TV App. It is avail­able on the mil­lions of iOS de­vices in ser­vice across the UK. That means all iPhones and iPads.

It re­placed the Videos app on those de­vices, and a lot of peo­ple prob­a­bly didn’t no­tice.

More than that, it be­came the cen­tre-piece app on the Ap­ple TV 4K, the new su­per-pow­ered set-top box from Ap­ple that I’ve been test­ing for a cou­ple of months.

The bot­tom line? Cook was right, the fu­ture is apps... but frus­trat­ingly, we’re not quite there yet.

The Ap­ple TV 4K is a sen­sa­tional piece of kit, per­haps the finest plug-in set-top box you can buy. But then, it is also the most ex­pen­sive at £179 for the 32GB base ver­sion (the only other ver­sion avail­able has 64GB mem­ory and costs £199).

It streams beau­ti­ful 4K HDR video from those on­line ser­vices that pro­vide it, al­lows you to watch any video you’ve bought on iTunes and lets you show­case pho­tos and videos taken on your iPhone or iPad on the big screen via iCloud sync.

There are some fab­u­lous non-TV apps on there too, in­clud­ing some great games and work­out apps, many of which you do not have to buy again if you’ve al­ready bought them for iPhone or iPad. But it’s the new TV app that is the star.

It takes a sim­ple idea and ex­e­cutes it beau­ti­fully and, in do­ing so, solves one of the big prob­lems with stream­ing TV apps. It al­lows a sin­gle search to look across mul­ti­ple ser­vices and gather all your favourite shows from most of the top con­tent providers in one place.

At the heart of this is the Watch Now sec­tion – at the top of the screen in a hor­i­zon­tally scrolling list are all the TV pro­grammes and films from con­nected ser­vices you’ve ei­ther been watch­ing, or queued up for view­ing later.

It’ll even load up new episodes of your favourites here as they are re­leased.

It’s an al­most per­fect con­tent dis­cov­ery and view­ing en­vi­ron­ment, an all-in-one lo­ca­tion that means you don’t have to search in­di­vid­ual apps for the show or film you want, or switch to them when you ac­tu­ally want to watch.

Or it would be... There’s a small is­sue – not all con­tent providers are on board. The BBC’s iPlayer app is plugged in, as is Ama­zon Prime Video. My5 is there, as is ITV Hub.

But there are some glar­ing big-hit­ters miss­ing. Net­flix al­lows you to search its con­tent via the TV app, but doesn’t al­low it’s shows to be saved in Watch Now – if you want to watch some­thing it opens the Net­flix app.

Now TV’s app does not plug into the Ap­ple TV app at all.

In fact, at the time of writ­ing, the app hadn’t even been up­dated for more than two years – a source of ma­jor frus­tra­tion for long-time sub­scribers like me.

I have no idea why this would be the case – re­quests for in­for­ma­tion from Sky, which runs Now TV, have thus far been ig­nored.

Chan­nel 4 has only man­aged a ded­i­cated news app so far, so its All 4 ser­vice is sadly miss­ing.

It’s an enor­mous shame, given the care and at­ten­tion that Ap­ple has lav­ished upon this sys­tem.

With full sup­port from those three providers, the Ap­ple TV and its TV app would be the only set-top box you would ever need, which per­haps goes some way to ex­plain­ing why some are not so keen to sup­port it.

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