Saturday, June 12, 2010

Inhuman Apples

I recently acquired an Apple TV. This was mostly a result of the simple fact that my iTunes library has grown large over the years and, assuming I can still get a good deal on them, I'd rather have TV shows take up hard drive space than shelf space. At this point, I have much more of the former to spare than the latter.

As much as I like iTunes and my iPod Touch, however, I am convinced that Apple is out of touch with, well, humans. There are some very basic issues with the Apple TV that I am convinced could not have been made by a rational human being, but rather by some creature that has only a rudimentary idea of what humans are like.

For one thing, the Apple TV didn't originally come with video playlists. The XBox 360 had (and probably still has) this problem as well, so let me set the record straight: humans want video playlists. Seriously, it's standard operating procedure now for DVDs to have "play all" functions, and the option to make video playlists exists in iTunes. Why wouldn't we want it on the TV, too?

Apple TV does now has the option to use video playlists, but again, the lack of humanity is highlighted. When I first started using the Apple TV, I thought there weren't video playlists. Why? Because they aren't accessible by default. You have to go into the options and set playlists from "music only" to "all". The playlists aren't in the way or anything once there, so why even have the option? I consider the video playlists important to the point that I was considering returning the device prior to finding the option. Let me highlight this: a lack of video playlists is a deal breaker for some people. Do not hide them.

What's also lacking is a shuffle option for video playlists. Humans get bored with monotony and often enjoy a bit of unpredictability. Yeah, watching certain shows in a random order might not work well, but that's no reason to not allow the shuffle option. It's optional, and the programming already exists for it. If I want to watch Lost on shuffle with episodes of Fringe randomly interspersed throughout, that should be my mistake to make. This isn't a deal breaker for me, but it's still stupid.

Another sign of inhumanity are the photos. Unless your photos are sized just right, they will be cropped and zoomed too far in. Not by a lot, but enough to be annoying, particularly if syncing comics with any text near the edges. It does this for certain videos, too. None of their official stuff, of course, but I subscribe to various video podcasts. I know people complain about having black bars around stuff, but it's preferable to being zoomed in too bloody much.

Speaking of zoom, there are plus and minus buttons right there on the remote. They do not zoom. When viewing photos, you cannot zoom out, in, rotate, etc. You view them at the size Apple has decided to be appropriate and it sucks to be you if don't like it.

And then there's inputting text. Let's say you're doing a YouTube search for "Arizona". Ask a human, and they'll tell you that pushing left while at the far left of the screen, A, pushing left on the remote should take you to the far right, Z. This makes it much faster and easier to input text through a remote. If a human pushes left at the A and stays there with only a beep noise as evidence of the button being pressed, the human will wonder "what the hell is this" and be annoyed by all the additional button presses they have to make.

Don't get me wrong. The Apple TV accomplishes what I got it for, which was a means to view my iTunes library on a TV and in HD. It's connected with an HDMI cable, and now my entire library can easily be moved from HD TV to HD TV. It is something I am glad to have. That said, it is basically accomplishing the bare minimum of what I expect from it, and this is supposed to be a high-end device. As much as I like my iTunes-related Apple products, it's easy to see why some people hate and refuse to use them.