Fix Frozen Apple TV 4

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A frozen Apple TV 4 can be caused by a failed Siri request. Mine froze when I issued a Siri command and Apple’s servers were too busy to handle it. tvOS doesn’t handle that exception gracefully, and it completely froze my Apple TV 4. I have also had it freeze a few times while using content apps such as Hulu or HBO NOW.

The lack of quality could be due to poor quality assurance testing (QAT). Tech companies have QAT departments. Their job is to hammer away at hardware, software and combined systems, documenting defects. There has been an increased reliance on automated testing, which can be done well, in theory. I have yet to see automated testing produce better quality products. At best, it allows technology companies to hire fewer QA engineers.

It’s also possible that Apple is well aware of these defects. If you look at the release notes of just about any tech product, you will often see a list of known issues. Apple doesn’t seem to publicize known defects, however, I’m certain their defect tracking system is full of them. It all comes down to resources. They only have so many developers working on tvOS and they need to hit the release date. They may be aware that Apple TV freezes, but have decided to release the update and fix it later.

Hiring talent is a huge problem in the Silicon Valley. Graduates from top schools don’t want to work at Apple. The new generation of engineers are far more entrepreneurial. They are also bristled by the formality and stifling engineering process of large corporations. Working at a company like Apple can take all the fun out of writing code. All too often, engineers are in pointless meetings and are being jerked around by constantly changing requirements. Apple does attract some talented people, but they put them to work on their flagship product — the iPhone.

Apple TV, while no longer a hobby, is taken about as seriously as the iPod. I don’t expect to see a dramatic improvement in quality. As a long time Apple customer, I can honestly say, something happened in 2014 and it has changed the course of the company. I have been patiently waiting for their quality to improve, but after the past few months, it seems to be getting even worse. I will still buy Apple products, because in my research, most competing products aren’t much better. But the premium price no longer guarantees quality. This has me purchasing fewer Apple products. I will not replace my aging iPad 2 with a new model. I will buy a new Mac when the time comes. I will probably hold on to my iPhone 6 for two more years. Apple has convinced me that newer isn’t always better. I don’t have confidence in the quality of Apple products. I doubt that their decline in quality will improve anytime soon.

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5 comments

    1. Thank you for the comment. I meant to update this article with a section on what to do if restarting doesn’t work. It turns out that Apple made this more straightforward, but you need a computer to fix the problem. If you don’t have a Windows PC or Mac, you can take or send your Apple TV to the Apple Store. They shouldn’t charge you for this repair, and if they do, you should escalate the issue with a supervisor.

      As usual, Apple provides inferior self-help information, as they want customers to come into the Apple Store, which may lead to another purchase. I think this is poor treatment of customers and is counterproductive to their business. But, much like Tesla, most Apple customers seem to adore the company no matter how bad the products are or how poor the customer service experience remains. Some of my worst customer support experiences have occurred at the Apple Store, so let’s try to save you a trip!

      Essentially, tvOS, Apple TV’s operating system, is corrupted. Restarting won’t fix it. You’ll need to restore the operating system on your Apple TV. If you have a new Mac, this is easy. If you have an older Mac or PC, you’ll need to use iTunes. For brevity, I’m assuming that if you have an older Mac or PC, you have iTunes installed.

      If you have a new Mac running macOS Catalina or later, Apple says to remove the power cable and HDMI cable from Apple TV. Next, connect your Apple TV to a Mac with a USB-C cable. They say nothing about connecting to power. It may be a documentation error, or perhaps the Mac can power Apple TV over USB, at least in recovery mode. If nothing happens, plug in your Apple TV to a power outlet. Once connected, launch Finder, click on Apple TV in the sidebar, and then select Restore.

      If you have an older Mac or Windows PC, repeat the steps above, but launch iTunes instead of Finder. Select Apple TV from the Source list and then click on Restore.

      I’ll update the article with this information in step-by-step form with screenshots when I have a chance. Apple could do this, but they want people to come into the Apple Store. I don’t think this is a good use of anyone’s time.

    1. Is that with the YouTube app? If so, hit the menu button on your Siri remote. If not, hold menu and home (TV icon) for about 6 seconds (until the light on your Apple TV flashes rapidly). This will restart your Apple TV.

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