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Apple TV

My thoughts on the new Apple Watch, Apple TV, and iPhones…

In their September 2017 keynote, Apple launched the Apple Watch Series 3, the Apple TV 4K HDR, and three new iPhones—the 8 and the 8 Plus, and the X.

Here are my quick thoughts on each, and my buying plans…

Apple Watch Series 3

This is a nice evolution of the watch. The LTE doesn’t really interest me, as I’m sure it’ll require another $5 or $10 a month to my wireless carrier, and I almost always want my phone with me. (If I swam regularly, I might feel differently about that.) The much-faster CPU would be a nice upgrade over my original-generation watch, but the Series 3 is nearly a full millimeter thicker than the original…and honestly, I think the first version was already borderline too thick.

Will I buy? At this time, the outlook is doubtful; my watch is working fine, and a faster CPU isn’t worth the added thickness and $359 of my money.

Apple TV 4K HDR

Support for 4K is welcome, and long overdue. I’m not so sure about HDR; sometimes I find HDR images tend to look artificial, and I don’t know if I’d find the same issue in moving images. A real added bonus was Apple’s decision to provide the 4K version of movies you’ve purchased for free—this from a company that charged us to upgrade the quality of our music files a few years back.

I wish Apple wasn’t so damn set on streaming everything, though—I would much prefer to store movies directly on the device, to make it more portable and not subject to the vagaries of wifi, device positioning, and network load. Those times are gone, though, so now the only choice is whether or not to spend $20 more for the 64GB version.

Will I buy? Yes, and I’ll spend the extra $20 for the extra 32GB. I’ve been moving an Xbox One back and forth from the game TV to our 4K TV to watch 4K content, so this will be a simpler solution.

iPhone 8 and 8 Plus and iPhone X

Let me get this out of the way: I do not like the iPhone X. Well, that’s not true. I think almost all of it is absolutely stunning, and I really want one. Unfortunately, that’s “almost all,” and there are two things that aren’t perfect that will keep me from buying this phone…

The Notch. I absolutely, positively hate the cutout at the top of the phone for the sensors. In case you (somehow) missed it, this is the notch…

I would have much preferred if Apple just blacked out that entire region, giving up that marginally-usable pixel space for a cleaner appearance. I understand that videos can play cropped, so as to not be “notched,” but it’s the presence of the notch in other normal views that really gets to me. It’s everywhere.

Many people won’t notice, or won’t care about the notch. I wish I could be one of those people, but I can’t. During the keynote, all I could focus on whenever the phone appeared was the stupid notch. It simply grabs my eye, and I cannot unsee it when it’s there. (Maybe a future software update will stop drawing the desktop up there, which would make it look much nicer to my eye.)

Face ID. Apple has told us facial recognition is more secure, and I have no reason to doubt them. They also told us it’s fast, and it seemed to be in the demo. But secure and fast can’t override the absolute convenience of Touch ID. I can use Touch ID as I remove my phone from my pocket (press plus press-click), and it’s ready to go as soon as it’s out of my pocket. I don’t have to look at my phone unless I want to; if I have to look at my phone every time I want to unlock it, that’s going to get annoying. Very quickly.

Apple Pay is even worse. Today’s system is as near-magic as any tech I’ve ever used: Hold the phone near the register, rest finger on the home button, and you’re done. With Face ID, it appears (based on the demo in the keynote), I’ll have to both double-tap the side button and look at the phone to use Apple Pay. Ugh.

There are also some security considerations with Face ID, as pointed out by Ian Schray. The police cannot compel you to put your finger on your phone without a warrant…but can they compel you to simply look at your phone?

Other than these two no-go items, I really like everything else about the iPhone X. It’s only marginally larger (.20 inches taller, .15 inches wider) than an iPhone 7, yet has a screen that’s 30% larger and has more pixels than the gigantic Plus model phones. It also has the double cameras, which I would love to have on my next phone.

While you may not consider the notch and Face ID as deal breakers, they really are for me. I’ll go look at one in person, of course, but I simply cannot unsee the notch, and I hate the idea of having to look at my phone to unlock it, and taking more steps (and time) for Apple Pay.

So that leaves me with the 8/8 Plus versus my current 7. I think the new CPU, faster Apple-developed GPU, better cameras and sensors, 240fps slow-mo 1080p video, wireless charging, and the glass design make the iPhone 8 a compelling upgrade. As noted, I’d love to have the dual cameras to work with, but I think the Plus-size phone is just too big for daily use, so I think that’s out of the question. (I will visit the Apple Store again to see the 7 Plus before I decide for sure.)

Will I buy? As of now, yes, I plan on buying an iPhone 8, and hoping that…somehow…Touch ID survives for a long time to come, lest that iPhone 8 be my last new iPhone.

A tale of two remotes

Update: Thanks to John for pointing out the obvious: The old remote works with the new Apple TV. So I guess I can go ahead and replace the one in the bedroom.

We recently changed how we use some of our rooms (eliminated a kids’ play room), and as a result, decommissioned a television set. With that TV was a new Apple TV; at first I thought “Great, I can replace the old Apple TV in our bedroom.”

Then I remembered the remote. For a device that I often use either while running on the treadmill (yea, it’s in our bedroom) or in the dark while going to sleep, the new Apple TV remote is unusable: The touch pad is a nightmare to try to use while running, and it’s tricky to use in the dark. It’s also nearly impossible to tell which side’s up in the dark.

So no, new Apple TV, you’re not going to replace the old one in our bedroom. I’m not sure what I’ll do with the new one; we have another TV it could go on, but there’s no open HDMI port (it’s an old TV with just two HDMI ports, and it’s got an Xbox and a Blu-ray player). Time for an HDMI switch box?

I’d love a non-touchpad remote for the new Apple TV, but I don’t see Apple going that direction at all.

A look at password entry on the new Apple TV

When I discovered that I could use the grid-style password entry on the new Apple TV, I thought I’d hold a little password entry shootout of sorts. I wanted to compare the three ways I’ve discovered of entering passwords on the fourth-generation Apple TV. Just for fun, I threw my iMac into the mix, too.

First, some background: I use passwords of the correct horse battery staple variety. For sake of this post, let’s assume my password was:

jinxed 187 Golf Bogies

There are 22 characters in total, with two capital letters and three numbers. My actual password consists of the same distribution, though that’s all it shares with the demo password above. I then timed how long it took to enter on my iMac, and using the various input methods on the Apple TV. The results aren’t all that surprising:

Device Remote Method Time Tries
Retina iMac Typed 0:02 1
Apple TV 4th Gen Silver Line 0:49 1
Apple TV 4th Gen Silver Grid 0:41 1
Apple TV 4th Gen Black Line 2:59 3
Apple TV 4th Gen Black Line 1:41 1

Obviously, typing your password on a physical keyboard is incredibly fast and (assuming you’re a decent typist) basically error free. On the Apple TV, what I found is that regardless of method used (i.e. grid or line), the silver remote is both faster and more accurate than the Siri (black) remote. After discarding the Siri remote, I was notably faster using the silver remote with the grid layout than with the line layout.

The other thing to notice is that I only had accuracy issues with the Siri remote. The first time I tried to enter my password for this test, it took me three tries to get my password correct. The 2:59 time shown for the “grid” line is the total of all three times (0:47, 0:57, and 1:15). I then tried again, going very slowly to make sure I didn’t make a mistake, which is the 1:41 time shown on the last row. I had no accuracy issues with the silver remote, regardless of line or grid data entry style.

My fastest entry (0:47) with the Siri remote wasn’t that far behind the silver remote, but the accuracy was obviously not good. I had to work at half the pace of the silver remote to insure I didn’t make any errors with the Siri remote.

Clearly password entry on the Apple TV is a hassle: Even with the silver remote, taking 41 seconds to enter a 22 character password is quite a waste of time. Apple really needs to address this, either by letting us pair a keyboard, or by updating the iOS Remote app to support the new Apple TV. For now, though, I’m sticking to the silver remote for password entry—even on the new line layout—because it’s both faster and more accurate than the Siri remote.

Use grid-style password entry on new Apple TV

This morning, after waking my fourth-generation Apple TV, I was prompted for a password, and was very surprised when I saw the password entry screen, because it was not the two-row layout I’ve grown to hate. Instead, I saw this:

Yes, that’s the third-gen Apple TV’s password entry screen, on my fourth-gen Apple TV. Just how did I get it to appear? Very easily, though it took me a bit to figure out exactly how I did it. Here’s how:

To use the old-style password entry screen on the new Apple TV, wake the Apple TV using the old silver remote, and don’t touch the new Siri remote.

And that’s it. If you wake the Apple TV with the silver remote, and don’t touch the Siri remote until after you get to a password entry screen, you’ll get the grid. If the Apple TV pairs with the Siri remote, though, you’ll get the new-style line entry screen.

I haven’t extensively tested this, but I did try on two different fourth-gen Apple TVs, and got the same results on both. So if you want to use the old password entry grid on your new Apple TV, get yourself a silver remote (if you don’t have one already).

Presenting the Apple TV (4th Generation) Password Tester

Earlier, I sent out this hopefully-humorous tweet about the difficulty involved in clicking one’s passwords into the new Apple TV password input screen:

Presenting LIMNOPHILE, a 10-character yet easy-to-type Apple TV password.

The chart is just an Excel file, with absolutely no logic—I just colored the squares and counted to fill in the data. But then I got this reply…

So I thought “Why not?,” and created an actual spreadsheet that will “click check” any all-letter password you feed it. Here’s what it looks like in action:

Just replace RIDICULOUSLYLONGWORD with whatever you like, and see how it’ll “click out” on your Apple TV. Obviously, this tool is totally tongue-in-cheek!. Any password built with this tool will be weak as heck. It’s just for fun, so don’t take it seriously.

Feel free to share and modify, but I’d appreciate a credit back if you do so.

Download Apple TV Password Tester (44KB)

Please note that this is an Excel 2011 file, and it relies on conditional formatting, so it may not work in Numbers.

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