For those longing to browse the web on Apple TV, AirWeb is a must-have app. This elegant iOS app uses Dual Screen AirPlay technology, delivering a high quality web browser for Apple TV.
AirWeb: A Web Browser for Apple TV
Let’s face it, as great as Apple TV is, it is missing one thing — a web browser. The simple Apple Remote can’t really facilitate a decent web browsing experience. You can use AirPlay Screen Mirroring and Safari to surf the web, but it looks and works like Screen Mirroring. There is no pointer or cursor on the screen, so users have to shift their gaze between their iOS device and the TV. Furthermore, Safari displays in a 4:3 aspect ratio, which doesn’t do justice to a widescreen HDTV. It isn’t a great experience.
AirWeb delivers an excellent web browsing experience to Apple TV. The app uses Dual Screen AirPlay mode to display different screens on the iOS device and TV. People who play games on their Apple TV are familiar with this technology. AirWeb demonstrates that these capabilities can be used for more than just playing games.
AirWeb Vs. Safari
Before I used AirWeb, I was skeptical. After all, couldn’t I just use Safari and AirPlay Screen Mirroring? There’s a good reason why I rarely did this. It is, quite literally, a pain in the neck. Users have to look at their device to control the web page. After all, without a cursor or pointer, you have to look at your iPhone or iPad to see what you’re tapping. Then you have to look at the TV screen. Anyone with common sense quickly realizes it is better to just use Safari directly on your device. Furthermore, Safari displays in a 4:3 aspect ratio when mirrored on your flat screen TV. This underutilizes the screen, making text appear small and unreadable. Safari is just not worth putting up on the big screen.
AirWeb, with its widescreen display and 16:9 screen ratio, is actually readable. I don’t have a huge flat screen TV, however I can read Google News on my TV with AirWeb. After all, if you can’t read the text, what’s the point?
The cursor is critical to surfing the web on Apple TV. Without it, you will have to shift your gaze between the device and your TV. AirWeb turns your TV screen into something resembling a computer’s web browser, instead of a mirrored phone or tablet. Your iPhone or iPad becomes a track pad, complete with a cheat sheet, which can be hidden. AirWeb’s cursor disappears after a few seconds, reappearing when you move it. This is a useful enhancement. You won’t need to get the cursor out of the way when you are viewing a page.
AirWeb has some handy controls located on the top toolbar. Users can toggle between displaying in Dual Screen mode (web pages on TV, device is controller) and single screen mode (web page displayed on iOS device only). There is a sharing button which launches the standard share sheet.
One of my favorite features is the tabs button. I really liked the way Safari used to display tabs as a series of thumbnails. It looks like AirWeb’s developer does too. AirWeb uses the classic grid of thumbnails that I miss so much. Thumbnails are preferable to tabs. Unfortunately, Apple went with tabs to “keep up” with the competition. It’s also better usability, as users are more familiar with tabs. Furthermore, it brings the user interface in line with Safari for the Mac. Still, I prefer the thumbnails and miss them quite a bit. You can use AirWeb as regular browser, without Apple TV, which is a great way to enjoy thumbnail tabs. (continue…)