So, I’ve had an AppleTV of one sort or another for a bit over eleven years now. The very first model, basically a stripped-down Mac Mini in a squashed box, was purely a way to rent movies from iTunes and get content in your iTunes library to show up on your TV. It was quickly replaced with a much smaller and slightly-more-capable model that added streaming services, and there have been revisions and iterations that have brought it up to a quite capable 4k streamer with some light gaming chops.
Oh, and it still lets you show the content in your iTunes library on your TV. I have a tremendous amount of personally-ripped media and have spent way too much time organizing and tagging it.
Last year, of course, Apple introduced their own streaming service. Personally, I haven’t had much (any) use for it, but it’s meant that they have started allowing some non-Apple devices access to iTunes Store content. Up until now, that’s basically been a few smart TVs… but, with the launch of the new consoles, Apple has finally broken down and released their Apple TV app for boxes that people actually own.
I downloaded the PS4 and Xbone apps and took them for a quick spin. Screenshots below are mostly from the PS4 version, but the two look identical. Also, these were taken with a camera because the app disables the in-OS screenshot options so they’re not particularly high-quality pictures.
Watch Now is intended to be the home screen for the Apple TV app, basically showing you your most-recently-purchased-or-played videos.
So, the app LOOKS like the same app when run off a hardware Apple TV, but there are some differences. On an Apple TV, if you launch a movie with iTunes Extras, it takes you to a menu where you can select the extras or start the movie. If you’re mid-movie, you get the choice to resume from the last playback position or start from the beginning. On the consoles, you can’t access the iTunes Extras and the movie just starts playing from whatever point you left off. If that happens to be in the middle of a movie, you need to press B or Circle to choose to start the movie from the beginning.
The playback interface is barebones as all get out, and essentially uses the D-pad on the controller to emulate the touchpad on the Apple TV remote. So, to turn subtitles on or change audio, you press down on the D-pad. Perfectly intuitive!
Also, A / X to pause. The Start/Options buttons do nothing.
You can also use the D-pad to scrub forwards or backwards 10 seconds at a time.
If you’re controlling your PS4 with a HDMI-CEC compatible remote, you can use that instead of the controller. That’s one definite point in its favor over the Xbone version.
Does the Xbox Series S|X support HDMI-CEC? I should probably research that.
Library view shows you your purchased content. I have bought over five hundred movies from the iTunes Store over the years, and a fair amount of TV. That’s probably more than most people, and almost certainly more than they tested the console app with, because trying to browse through the library on the PS4 has invariably resulted in, well…
Is it still a “Blue Screen of Death” if it’s not on Windows?
For the record, you can scroll through your library without issues on the Xbone app. It’s just the PS4 app that has problems for me.
Oddly enough, “purchasing” the app on the Xbone has a weird bit of language that I’m assuming is just a typo, since as far as I can tell there IS no Windows 10 version of the Apple TV app.
Maybe it’s planned for the future?
Finally, there’s no way to access local iTunes libraries. That’s unfortunate, but kind of expected.
So… short version, it’s a way to get Apple streaming on TVs using the game console you probably already own, but the experience is not really great yet.