New Apple TV Video Apps Have More Freedom To Screw Up


The new Apple TV Netflix app is visually more impressive and perhaps makes discovering new content easier, but navigating to core places in the app is noticeably more difficult. The newer version is a definite step backward in usability from my experience. The main view is split in two parts: a detailed preview on the top half and content navigation on the bottom half. Moreover, the focus is only ever on one row of results at a time. A large Netflix logo hides much of the second row.

Finding the My List section is actually quite hard with the new app. It’s right at the bottom of the list, the 37th row from the top. In fact, My List is located below obscure film collections and series recommendations that Netflix somehow considers more important. Once you discover that it takes several swipes down every time you want to access your saved shows, the new layout on the 4th-gen app feels a lot more limited than its predecessor.

With the old Apple TV, every app was basic but had a baseline user experience and inter-app consistency due to the generic templating system that Apple provided to channel makers. The new Apple TV is like the iPhone; developers have freedom to do whatever they want, present UI however they want. This means the apps can be more capable and more rich than ever before, but it also means media companies have the freedom to screw up and do stuff badly/lazily. The Netflix logo placement in this screenshot is just ridiculous.

Hopefully, media companies will invest into tvOS app development and this situation will improve. Right now, the best video experience comes from the iTunes Store (expensive) or apps like Plex and Squire, which stream (pirated) TV shows and movies from a network computer or NAS. Just imagine a world where Apple’s interface expertise can be combined with top-rated premium content.