Something that has struck me about the new Apple TV is the fact that I have not seen any apps that truly innovate the way users interact with content. You know what I mean...there is no "killer app" for it yet that compels people to buy the device. So far everything is just a port of a game or video streaming app from iOS. I haven't seen any apps yet that do anything...
A. a previous streaming box could not already do
B. that takes unique advantage of the strengths of a TV (plus the remote input)
What are the strengths of a TV? A few things that come to mind are:
- It is large and central to the room it is placed in.
- It is communal. Everyone in the room can see it at the same time.
- It is always plugged in. Information on it can be left visible indefinitely, be seen from far away, and not threaten the battery life of the device.
- It is dedicated. TVs are intended to consume our field of view and attention. Apps have the potential to be very focused in this respect, occupying the entire screen and not allowing distractions like notifications and multitasking.
- Like a touch screen, apps can take any shape they want at any time. Sure, they can feed the user a video stream, but they can also be as interactive as a developer is willing to make them. Let's not forget that the remote to manipulate the device has an accelerometer, microphone, and touch screen. This does not even include the fact that third party game controllers, mobile phones, and Bluetooth keyboards can be used as additional inputs.
- Fill in the blanks here. I am probably missing a few...
The promised MLB.com At Bat app coming in 2016 supposedly challenges this ideas by allowing you to watch multiple games side by side, call up contextual stats about players, and view scores to other games without interrupting the video feed. Apparently the QVC app allows the user to interact with the video feed by buying items displayed on the screen from right within the app. I do not use either of these apps but this is the kind of forward thinking that I am talking about.
I thought of a very specific problem earlier today that only a TV app could uniquely solve.
The app market is saturated with "read it later" style services like Instapaper and Pocket. These apps allow you to quickly clip web content into an app where you can read it later distraction free. This makes digging through links on Twitter and Facebook feeds a lot quicker. What I have noticed though is that I clip a lot of videos into my Instapaper account that I never actually go back and watch. There is a reason for this. When I am on a mobile device, I am usually in public or at work. There is rarely a moment when I have time or privacy to watch loud videos. They also take up the entire screen and demand a level of attention that I am often unable to give while mobile.
At the end of each day, I do usually end up in front of a TV, even if it is to do something like watch an episode of The Wire before bed. I have a different attitude about watching video when I am in the living room. I crank it up loud, tune out all work, and am ready to be entertained. What better time and place to conveniently watch through a feed of all the video I clipped from the web that day, only on a huge screen, without annoying anyone in public, and when I am relaxed?
So, there you go. Feel free to steal that idea for a "watch it later" app! To be honest, Instapaper and Pocket have great video support on iOS. It is a surprise they have not already made video only versions of their apps for Apple TV.