Apple TV: Everything You Need to Know

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We have entered a golden age of television. TV is back in a big way with shows like Game of Thrones and Westworld on premium channels; Netflix and Amazon making credible and respectable series such as Luke Cage, and even the broadcast icons such as FOX giving us must watch dramas like 24 Legacy.


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The problem is, there are a lot of shows to choose from and just as many ways to watch them. Should you stream Iron Fist on Netflix or just turn on the TV and watch South Park? Do you have the latest episode of Blacklist saved on your DVR? Or will you have to navigate to NBC.com (R) to watch it on demand? So many choices! If only there was a single device to stream movies, music, and photos.

Luckily, Apple TV is here to help.

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Apple TV History

Apple TV has come a long way since its introduction in 2006. In the beginning, the user required a computer using iTunes to stream or sync content to it. They addressed that problem in 2008 with a free software upgrade. The upgrade also allowed Apple TV to download podcasts and stream photos. Additionally, Apple released the iTunes Remote App in the App Store allowing the iPhone and iPod Touch to function as remote control devices. Eventually, support for the iPad and synchronization support for iTunes between devices were introduced as new features.

2nd Generation

In 2010, Apple unveiled the 2nd generation Apple TV, the first to run on a variant of iOS. The small black case was launched at only a quarter the size of the original. One major innovation was no longer using an internal hard drive, instead, the new version used an 8 GB of internal flash storage for buffering. Moving forward, all content would no longer be synced and stored on disk, but streamed.

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3rd Generation

The 3rd generation Apple TV was announced in 2012. Externally identical to the 2nd generation, it upgraded the CPU to a single-core A5 processor, and supported 1080p content from iTunes and Netflix. System RAM was upgraded to 512MB allowing it to handle higher quality 1080p video with ease. Additionally, upgrades to the user interface made Apple TV one of the easiest and most intuitive of the streaming devices.

4th Generation

In 2015, Apple announced a major overhaul to the platform with the 4th generation Apple TV. It is slightly larger in size, with a dual-core A8 processor. It features a new touch remote allowing swipe-to-select functionality and integrated Siri support. Based on the iOS, Apple introduced tvOS, which is a philosophical shift focusing on app support. Apple also officially classified the 1st generation Apple TV as being obsolete, which meant that Apple no longer supports older versions of Apple TV. This update allowed developers more freedom in working with current technology.

There are two editions and price points of the Apple TV. The 32 GB version for $149 or the 64 GB for $199. Which one should you get? Well, that depends. Apparently, price per GB makes the 64 GB one a better value, but what do you get for that?

To answer that, it is important to keep in mind that there is no longer a hard drive on the Apple TV. Apple TV just buffers in memory what it needs at that moment. If you only watch the news and a couple of movies a week, then 32 GB is more than enough. However, if you are playing lots of games and watch tons of films and binge watching shows in HD, the 64 GB is probably a better edition to go with.

What features are included?

Apple’s typically unique, organic, and judiciously well-packed 4th Generation Apple TV box comes with the unit, the Siri Remote, a power cord, a Lightning-to-USB cable, and documentation. Apple goes great lengths to make the interface intuitive enough that the instructions seem extraneous. However, reading is warranted as there is so much functionality included and taking advantage of all the features is rewarding.

The first thing to examine is the unit itself. It is unassuming in size, at 35 mm (1.4 in) high and 98 mm (3.9 in) wide and with a depth of 98 mm (3.9 in.) Also, it weighs less than a pound at 425 g (15 oz.) Connections are located on the back and include HDMI 1.4, a USB-C port for service and support, a built-in power supply, as well as, a 10/100 Base-T Ethernet connection. Not shown on the back is the 802.11ac WI-FI with MIMO and Bluetooth 4.0. There is also an IR receiver on the front. Universal IR receivers can be trained to work with Apple TV.

The Siri Remote

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The Siri Remote features Siri, Apple’s virtual personal assistant, also found on iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. To active Siri on the Siri Remote, there is a dedicated Siri button which is held down while the user is speaking. This is slightly different than the experience of, say, the iPhone, and takes a little getting used to but quickly becomes second nature.

The Siri Remote is also packed with features, such as matching Bluetooth 4.0 and IR transmitter for communication with the device. It has lightning connect for fast charging and a rechargeable battery which can literally last for months with typical daily usage. The face of the remote is a work of art, with a glass touch surface at the top, menu and home buttons on a row, and below is the Siri button with the play/pause button side-by-side with volume control. There are two microphones for Siri to ensure the remote understands commands.

The Siri Remote doubles as a motion controller, much like the Nintendo Wii Remote. However, currently, only one Siri Remote can be connected to Apple TV at one point. Separate Siri Remotes, available from Apple, are only for replacement.

There is also an accelerometer and gyroscope built into the Siri Remote, much like the iPhone. Currently, motion control is not used for navigation but can be used for gaming. For instance, turn the Siri Remote sideways, and you can use it just like a game remote.

Siri Voice Control

We all know how useful Siri is on your iPhone, whether it’s helping you find a restaurant or looking up the name of an actress in the movie you are watching. You can say, “I want to watch South Park” and Siri queues the program. Where Siri is really impressive is helping you find something you aren’t sure of, for instance, asking Siri to help you find “John Carpenter movies.” Siri gives you your choices without having to navigate through several screens and menus.

Applications

Apps have become the preferred method of watching video on demand, allowing viewers to watch precisely what they want, on their schedule. This freedom to watch TV shows, sports events, and/or movies also allows you to watch things like video podcasts, such as TED Talks, YouTube videos, and so much more. Apple TV supports Single Sign-on (SSO), which allows a user to store account information one time and then Apple TV seamlessly performs logins and authentications for you across different applications.

All these multiple video sources funnel to the TV app. This gives the viewer a unified viewing experience, regardless of the source app from which the show comes from. This simplifies your viewing experience making it uniform. Another convenient feature is, if you watch part of your movie on your iPad and then turn it on at home, it is synced to where you left off.

Apple TV provides complete TV packages, totally removing the need for additional equipment such as set top boxes or satellite dishes. Simply download the requisite apps and gain access to Sling TV, Direct TV, premium channels, such as HBO, Showtime, and Starz, and much more.

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Supported Video and Audio

Apple TV makes your photos and videos look good on screen. Connect to your iCloud Photo Library and watch an event or enjoy a video you took of your nephew. Make him the star of his own movie with Apple TV. Video formats supported by Apple TV include 1080p at 60 frames per second, High or Main Profile level 4.2 or lower. Mpeg-4 videos up to 2.5 Mbps, 640×480 pixels at 30 frames per second are also supported with stereo audio in .m4v, mp4 and .mov file formats.

Don’t just watch a video with Apple TV. Listen to music throughout your whole house with Apple Music. Looking for something new? Apple has a vast library to choose from. You can check out some of the world’s best DJs, indie acts, or find hidden gems. Also, check out music-only stations that are ad-free. If the kids are home, use the Beats Solo3 Wireless or the new AirPods ($159.00) to listen to music without distractions. File formats supported by Apple TV include AAC (16 to 320 Kbps), Protected AAC, MP3 (16 to 320 Kbps), MP3 VBR, Apple Lossless, AIFF, and WAV. Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 support is included.

Apple TV Airplay

Instead of just watching, present your shows with AirPlay. AirPlay allows you to share photos, websites, presentations, and more. AirPlay wirelessly streams whatever is on the screen for the iPad, iPhone, or Mac, and enables guests to share web pages, photos, and more. Not all components are compatible, but many manufacturers are now including support for the feature. If you have speakers that do not have built-in support, simply connect them to an AirPort Express. Photo formats include JPEGs, GIFs, and TIFF.

Video Games

Apple TV has plenty of ways to play games, making your Apple TV your favorite toy.  This device supports a variety of gaming options such as racing games, first-person shooters, sports, and more. The SteelSeries Nimbus Wireless Gaming Controller is available for $49.95 and comes with Bluetooth 4.1 functionality. It also comes complete with features such as color-coded action buttons, a lithium ion rechargeable battery (with Lightning connector) that deliver 40 hours of gaming on a single charge, and the comfort and ergonomics you expect from Apple.

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Home Automation

Apple TV can serve as the hub for HomeKit enabled devices. You can control the lights, temperature, and more right from Apple TV or by using the Home app on your iPhone or iPad. Apple TV is built to be fully integrated and compatible with all your iOS devices. When a universal app is installed on, your iPhone it will also be installed on Apple TV, making your experience uniform and enjoyable.

Support for Individuals with Disabilities

Watching television can sometimes be difficult for those with disabilities such as blindness and deafness. Apple TV has built-in support for people with disabilities allowing everyone to maximize their viewing experience. There is built-in support for people who have difficulty with vision, hearing, and physical and motor skills. Special features include VoiceOver, Zoom, Increasing Contrast, Motion Reduction and Closed Caption support

The Software

Apple TV is built on tvOS, an innovative and powerful TV platform. This software featuring a built-in App Store enabling apps and games using the tvOS SDK. This SDK allows Apple TV to expand and improve its functionality.

If you are a developer, tune into the Apple TV Tech Talks series to learn how to leverage the tvOS and key frameworks. Developers can use items such as Metal, UIKit, and others to create their own functionality. Developers can also use templates created in XML and Javascript to streamline development to quickly create beautiful apps. This customization allows you to present professionally and beautifully on your own screen.

Local Channels

One main concern for the cord cutters is the availability of live sports and local channels. There are a couple of options available such as purchasing a digital antenna or use the Channels app available through the App Store.

Total cost is another concern. Apple TV comes with direct connections to CBS, the Disney channels, FOX NOW and FX NOW, HBO GO and HBO Now, Hulu, Nat Geo TV, Netflix, PBS, and more. This mix of premium channels and mainstream apps allows the user to access more relevant content at a less expensive price.

Conclusion

As you can see, Apple TV has become a one stop shop for all your home entertainment needs and is built to evolve with you as cord cutting continues to evolve. Apple TV gives the user access to most apps and streaming services. It also has many great features such as Siri, built in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, as well as, customization for developers. With Apple TV you will be saying “Siri, I want to watch Game of Thrones.”


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Curt spent 5 years in the US Navy where he learned to love all things technology. He stumbled into website design and digital marketing 15+ years ago where he has found his passion, to combine his love for new technology, television and online marketing. CutTheCord.com is the perfect outlet for Curt’s creative and technical expertise and he hopes to share his experience and knowledge to help other people find ways to save money and gain freedom by ditching cable and jump to streaming television services.