Five Apple TV bugs that make this gadget hard to recommend

I’m feeling pretty peevish about my Apple TV lately (4th gen, tvOS 11.2.5). Here are five common Apple TV glitches that seem far worse than the platform should be suffering from at this point in tech history…

  1. Random remote disconnections, displaying a notification over content when it happens... and then another one a few seconds later when it reconnects! Charming. Because I really need to know, three times per hour, that my remote has disconnected and almost immediately reconnected. Yes, it is fucking charged.
  2. The TV.app’s “Watch Now” section is populated with some strange choices: it’s missing content I was just watching, and suggesting that I “continue” with content I haven’t touched in literally years, or (in one case) a movie rental that expired a month ago.
  3. More Watch Now bloopers: specifically, it just cannot seem to reliably continue where I actually left off. It gets especially confused by the ends of TV seasons, because that is so terribly confusing. When a viewer gets to the end of season one, who knows what they might want to watch next? Something from the middle of season 3! Or maybe a nice re-watch of the penultimate episode of season one! It’s a mystery, and Apple TV embraces that mystery. For instance, I got to the end of the first season of “The Expanse" (which is some excellent science-fi BTW), and watched right to the end of the episode, #10, partly because the score was interesting and partly because I wanted to send a clear message to the Apple TV that I was done with season one. It didn’t work. I wasn’t given the option to continue immediately with S2 (a normal limitation, but an obvious inferiority to Netflix). But it was there in the “Up Next” view, so I selected “Continue” for the series…and it started playing the beginning of episode nine of the first season. Genius. Netflix gets binge-watching continuity completely right… and Apple TV is getting it right only about two thirds of the time.
  4. When the “What did he/she just say feature is invoked,” Apple TV rewinds and enables subtitles as it always has — genius! so clever! — but then doesn’t turn the subtitles off. Like an asshole. About 25% of the time! This happened the first time I demonstrated the feature to my parents, after giving them an Apple TV for Christmas. Quite embarrassing. “Look what it does, very nice little feature… oh, sorry, it also effs it up regularly. Enjoy your new gadget!”
  5. Similarly, after rewinding, pausing, or fast forwarding, the progress bar remains on screen, stuck there until I use the remote again. Seems like a really hard thing to get wrong.

There’s more, but that seems quite bad enough. Note that all of these bugs are occurring on two different units. I do not have a lemon (unless I have two).

Overall it’s still a decent gadget, far better than your typical old-school stupid pieces of shit that don’t fucking work, the kind of janky tech that has defined entertainment systems for a couple generations now. There’s no question that the Apple TV is way easier for my parents to cope with than their cable box, which is like some kind of torture device.

But “not as bad as the competition” is disappointing from the it-just-works brand, and this list seems like a fine demonstration of Apple’s increasingly serious problems with software quality (smart analysis there). Their problems are due to fascinatingly unprecedented and epic scaling challenges, and I do care about understanding those nuances, as a dork.

As a user, I’m just facepalming a lot.