I just unwrapped my brand-new, recently released iTV. It’s amazing! It looks like a 42-inch iPad that I mounted on my living room wall. I could’ve used the stand, but there’s something gorgeous about a giant wall mounted iPad.
I control my iTV by swiping the screen, just like I do on my iPad. But Apple created a remote control app that I can download to my iPad or iPhone. Apple gets the importance of remote controls. I think they took a page from the Sonos wireless speakers’ playbook, but this remote works even better.
When I played around with the iTV at the Apple store on West 14th Street in New York, I preferred controlling the device using the app. I didn’t want to leave fingerprints on the screen. Apple still hasn’t managed to figure out a way to make fingerprints disappear without Seventh Generation’s Free & Clear. I’d say smudges are my only issue with Apple’s swipe-enabled products.
When the iTV isn’t being used it turns into a giant picture frame. You should see how amazing the shot of Sparky (my dog) looks on a big screen with retina display.
What I especially loved about my iTV are all the apps. I have an app for True Blood and all my favorite shows which I can organize into folders—similar to the iOS 6 folder system on iPads and iPhones—or into one mega-app window so I can easily find them.
While it seems like Apple has negotiated with all the major producers, it also has created an app store aisle dedicated to new shows that aren’t available on TV. I downloaded a few of them. Some were really bad. But there were a few that were actually quite unexpected and funny. I know YouTube has been experimenting with original content beyond dogs on trampolines, but there’s something really slick and intuitive about the app environment that just reads premium in a way the YouTube doesn’t.
I love the CNN app. It’s just like watching the old CNN but there’s a great social hook that enables real-time sharing and commenting (with my social network and with the network’s producers). The ESPN app is pretty amazing, too. With swipe functionality, I can easily glide between sporting events and camera angles and control how I see the game. It also introduced a feature that allows viewers and players to interact during the games. I actually suggested a play to Giants head coach Tom Coughlin and he called it!
One of the issues that I’ve always had with cable is buying lots of channels that I never watch. I also hate not being able to get HBO without a cable subscription. Now all that nonsense has gone away. All the shows and networks have apps and I happily pay for the ones I want. Apps as TV—I can finally cut my cable cord.
Another great feature of the iTV is that it works like a regular iPad and all the content I have in tablet form syncs with it seamlessly. I’ve come to really enjoy reading The New York Times on a 42 inch screen while sitting on my couch. It’s turned reading into a viewing experience. I’ve also noticed that ad targeting has become more sophisticated. Because iTV is a connected device and activated by an email address, Apple knows who it belongs to and what other Apple devices they own. They have also found a way to connect my app menu with my Web surfing habits. At first Apple was targeting the wrong ads to my teenage daughter, but then I activated the “who’s watching” feature in the “settings” and the focus of the marketing immediately improved.
Over the last couple of years we’ve been talking about connected screens. We’ve been imagining a time when I can run an ad on TV and then follow up with messaging on a mobile device or desktop. With iTV, Apple has been able to link all the screens. I saw an ad for Aruba on my iTV and then later in the evening a video was served to my iPad. The next day I got a click to call on my phone. Amazing. It’s the way customer relationship management should work.
All this connectedness isn’t cheap. But while my iTunes bill has gone way up, it’s still less than the $170 I was paying Time Warner Cable every month for a far worse and less customized viewing experience. Leave it to Apple to figure out a way to use apps to fully disrupt television, just like they did with the music industry five years ago.
I have my 42-inch Panasonic on Craigslist. I hope I’ll be able to get like $50 for it.