It’s stupefying how inaccurate MacOS’s software update is in actual use. I’m 2 hours into a ’15 minutes remaining’ and still have 5 more minutes on the clock. But at least you can actually install the operating system, unlike older and still supported Apple Watches that require a full system reset in order to install WatchOS updates!
All I want for Apple to release today is a new Apple TV or, failing that, an absolutely massive cut in price to their very, very, very, very, very old Apple TV 4K. But really I want them to announce a new one so that I can take advantage of the full raft of Apple One services on the biggest screen I have in my house!
One of the best pandemic purchases I’ve made has been a HomePod Mini. One of the many reasons that I’ve liked it is I can use a Home automation to set a playlist or album to wake up to. This corrects an annoyance with the iPhone’s Alarms app, where you need to download a song to your device to reliably use it as an alarm.
However, I recently got a new iPhone which broke my alarm automation. I couldn’t figure out what was going on: I deleted and re-created the automation a few times and totally restarted the HomePod Mini. Neither of these actions helped. Not only did the automation not work at the designated times but the automation wouldn’t even work while using the test feature.
The settings for the automation were:
- Enable This Automation (Only when I am home): On
- When: Weekdays at a given time (Only when I am home)
- Scenes: Weekday morning
- Accessories: HomePod Mini
- Media: Play Audio (Designated playlist, Shuffle, Set Custom Volume)
No matter what I did, the automation never fired. However, I figured out that as soon as I disabled the location-specific triggers the automation worked. This helped me to start narrowing down the problem and how to correct it.
You see, when I moved all of my data to my new iPhone it failed to transfer a setting that told the Home app to use my iPhone as the location to from which to trigger events. As a result, setting an automation to only fire when I was home couldn’t work because the device which had been triggering the Home automation (i.e., my old iPhone) wasn’t never geolocated to my network. You can fix this, however, by opening: Settings >> Privacy >> Location Services (On) >> Share My Location >> My Location (Set to “This Device).
Now that the Home app knows to use my iPhone’s location as the way of determining whether I’m at home, the trigger fires reliably.
Jason Snell over at Six Colors recently asked the question, “Why does the Apple TV still exist?” In the course of answering the question, he noted that Apple TV lets consumers:
- Play some games;
- Use Homepods for a nice, if somewhat problematic, Atmos sound system;
- Use HomeKit on their TV;
- Use the…remote?1
He goes on to discuss some of the things that could make the Apple TV a bit better, including turning it into a kind of gaming system, make it better at doing HomeKit things, or maybe even something to do with WiFi. Key is that as Apple’s content has migrated to other platforms and AirPlay 2 has rolled out to manufacturers’ TVs there is less and less need to have an Apple TV to actually engage with Apple’s own content.
I think that Snell’s analysis misses out on a lot of the value add for Apple TV. It’s possible that some of the following items are a bit niche, but nevertheless I think are important to subsets of Apple customers.
- Privacy: Smart TVs have an incredibly bad rap. They can monitor what you’re doing nor are they guaranteed updates for a long-time. Sure, some are ok, but do I trust a TV company to protect my privacy or do I trust a company that has massively invested its brand credibility in privacy? For me, I choose Apple over TCL, Sony, LG, or the rest.
- Photo Screensavers: I use my Apple TV to display my photos, turning that big black box in my living room into a streaming photo frame. Whenever people are over they’re captivated to see my photos, and frankly I like watching photos go by and remind me of places I’ve been, people I’ve shared time with, and memories of past times. There’s nothing like it on any Smart TV on the market.
- Reliable Updates: As Apple develops new features they can integrate them with TV environments vis-a-vis the Apple TV, meaning they’re not reliant on TV manufacturers to develop and push out updates that enable features that Apple thinks are important. Moreover, it means that when a security vulnerability is identified, Apple can control pushing out updates and, thus, reduce the likelihood that their customers are exploited by nefarious parties. TV manufacturers just don’t have the same class of security teams as Apple does.
- Family Friendly: Look, it’s great that lots of TVs can stream Apple content and that you can throw your screen/content onto Smart TVs using AirPlay 2. But what about when not everyone has an iPhone on them, or you don’t want to let people onto the same wireless network that your TV is on? In those cases, an Apple TV means that people can find/show content, but avoid the aforementioned frustrations.
- HomeKit: I know that Snell mentioned this, but I really think that it cannot be emphasized enough. Apple TV—and especially an updated one that may support Thread—will further let people control their Internet of Things in their home. Assuming that Thread is included in the new Apple TV, that’ll also make the Apple TV yet another part of the local mesh network that is controlling all the other things in the home and that’s pretty great.
- Decent Profits: Apple TV has long been a premium product. While Apple won’t earn as much on the sale of an Apple TV as on an iPhone, they’ll earn a lot more than what is being made when someone buys a Sony, TCL, or LG TV.
- Brand Lock-in: Let’s face it, if you have a lot of Apple products you’re increasingly likely to keep buying Apple products. And providing an alternative to Google or TV manufacturers’ operating systems is just another way that Apple can keep its customers from wandering too far outside of their product line and being tempted by the products developed and sold by their competitors.
On the whole, I think that there continues to be a modest market for Apple TV. I’d bet that the biggest challenge for Apple is convincing those who have abandoned their Apple TVs to come back, and for those who are using their Smart TVs to pick up an Apple TV that offers a lot of similar uses as their existing TV operating systems. That’ll be a bit easier if there are cool new things associated with a new Apple TV—such as positioning it as a gaming platform with AAA gaming titles—but regardless there is value in the Apple TV. The challenge will be communicating that value to Apple’s current and potential customers but, given their track record, I’m confident that’s a challenge that Apple’s teams can rise to!
Update: Snell catalogues many of the above reasons to get an Apple TV–as well as some others–in a new post based on what his readers told him.
- I actually really like the remote, but recognize I’m in the minority. ↩︎
Reading early first impressions of the AirPods Max, such as the ones by Matthew Panzarino and John Grueber, has made clear that Apple’s designers have biased the new headphones for audio quality at the expense of everything else that tends to be found in consumer-grade headphones. Reading the impressions, they definitely make it sound like the AirPods Max are designed for someone who’s just going to sit in a stationary position and enjoy the sounds they produce. That is…not how I use my headphones.
What design properties am I looking for? I want a H1 chip for easy shifting between my Apple devices, active noise cancelation, decent-enough battery and sound, and the ability to wear them around the house, at the gym (whenever that’s possible again), and walking around the city without getting ear fatigue. While I’d love to have 3D sound, that just isn’t a requirement in my life with how I tend to use headphones to listen to music and podcasts.
Given local sales on Beats Solo Pro at the time, I think that my decision is made, though I admit some small degree of worry about ear fatigue that can apparently crop up when wearing the Solos Pro for prolonged periods of time.
With Apple preparing to potentially update some products for next Tuesday, I’m really hoping that they end up announcing a refreshed AppleTV!
Perhaps I should know better than to adopt any Apple product—or service offering— until the company has worked through the bugs and inconsistencies in whatever it’s selling. Nonetheless, I signed up for Apple One because it actually was a bit cheaper than the services I was already paying for, plus came with some additional storage.
However, the pricing/subscription rollover is incredibly weird. I signed up for Apple One, which was supposed to shift my individual subscriptions to the bundle offering, but that seemingly hasn’t happened. So now I have the pleasure of once again—twice in two months!—trying to resolve billing weirdness in Apple’s part. As lovely as Apple’s customer support representatives are, this is not the delightful experience I signed up for.
I get that Apple is historically bad at services. But this is a level of incompetence that I’d expect of a telecom company and not one of the largest and most customer-focused companies in the world. And, perhaps more problematically for Apple, it definitely means that I’m not about to recommend Apple One to anyone in the near future given that Apple can’t even get their payment processes reliably worked out.
Timothy B. Lee has a good deep dive into how Apple has managed to get LIDAR into the newest version of the company’s phones and high-end iPads, and more broadly what the advances in the technology mean for integrating LIDAR into cars.
Lee notes that while it may take another 2-4 years, we can expect to see such sensors more prominently featured in motor vehicles so as to improve on existing driving assistance systems. Left unstated, however, is how more advanced LIDAR sensors will enable next-generation content experiences of the type that Apple (and other technology companies) have been promising are in the wings for the past few years.
Elizabeth Lopatto, in January 2018 for The Verge, writes:
The Move goal is adjustable — I can lower it at any time — but there’s no way to program the Watch to consistently honor my rest days. I just have to manually lower the goal for that day, and then raise it for the next one. Unfortunately, this requires too much of my attention. I have actual things to do that are more important than manually telling my fitness app to let me rest, so mostly I forget to do it until it’s too late. Even when I remember, I wind up with a different problem: I forget to reset the Watch to a higher Move goal the next day. I spent one week being psyched that I hit my goal only to discover that I had only hit the lowered goal.
It’s two years later, and several versions of WatchOS have come and gone, with another is forthcoming. And yet Apple hasn’t fixed this very common and very basic problem with their wearable line of products.
Apple has repeatedly stated that it recognizes that the Apple Watch is a super popular device for fitness tracking, and I can attest that it’s about the best wearable that’s currently on the market. But when the world’s richest company can’t even get the basics of their product right it raises questions about what it’s really focusing on, and why; pushing people to exercise each day, and forego rest days, is harmful to health and fitness alike. Sadly, it doesn’t look like the current Watch betas fix this problem, though maybe Apple will surprise people with some extra promise when they reveal their new devices in the coming days.