AirWeb: The Apple TV Web Browser

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AirWeb video control screen

Does AirWeb Handle Videos?

I tried AirWeb with YouTube and was pleasantly surprised. I expected this inexpensive app to fail, but was instead presented with a Dual Screen user interface. Once I started a YouTube video, my iPad became a video controller and the video appeared on my TV in full screen. This is better than a regular browser. They anticipated what the user would want and delivered. I expected, at best, it would just work like the YouTube website, but it is even better!

AirWeb does not support Adobe Flash. This isn’t a huge problem, as many sites offer the same content as h.264 video. It is possible to access Flash content using a browser such as Photon. You can even display it on Apple TV with Mirroring, however, don’t expect great video quality.

Is AirWeb Secure?

AirWeb uses an instance of Safari to do the web browsing work. AirWeb is not Safari per se, but it uses Safari “guts”. I verified this by checking the browser version online. AirWeb is basically Safari 7 with some great enhancements to make it work well with Apple TV.

AirWeb browser info

Thus, AirWeb is as secure as Safari. Unfortunately, there is no convenient way to indicate when you are on a secure connection. The address bar shown on the device doesn’t have any protocol (http, https) information. There is no lock icon. You can move the cursor to the top of the screen, and AirWeb will show the full URL, with the protocol, at the bottom of the screen. If it shows “https”, you’re on a secure connection.

AirWeb Bugs

Overall, AirWeb is robust and stable, however it is not perfect. Automatic text fields, like Google Suggest, don’t work well with AirWeb. For example, if you enter search criteria into Google and try to move the cursor to click on a suggestion, Google Suggest collapses. You are left with your original search query, which is selected on your iPhone or iPad. If you happen to press another key, it’s all deleted. I found this a bit awkward and mildly frustrating. It is not a show-stopper, but it is inconvenient. Of course, you can just use the search field displayed on your iPad or iPhone. It will show suggestions, but they are different from Google Suggest. The developer should fix this such that the cursor can select Google Suggest (or any UI element) with the keyboard deployed or hidden.

AirWeb gmail bug

I did encounter a somewhat severe bug. Upon logging in to Gmail, AirWeb displays a page full of symbols. I tried it a few times and also used the browser in single display mode, with the same results. When I access Gmail in Safari, it works fine. Even though AirWeb is using Safari internally, the UI changes seem to make certain sites malfunction, particularly Gmail. I noticed a few other UI anomalies, such as a web graphic that scrolled down with the rest of the page. It should have stayed in place. That said, overall, just about every web page displayed without problems. These were the few exceptions. Unfortunately, they are big exceptions.

One other small issue is that zooming can be a bit quirky. Sometimes when you zoom in on a page, it can partially zoom in and out. This is a cosmetic issue. It doesn’t really affect browsing, but is more of a rare, intermittent quirk. It doesn’t really bother me, but some people may feel otherwise.

AirWeb is fast, smooth and responsive, even on an older device such as an iPad 2 beaming to an Apple TV 2. In my extensive usage, I haven’t experienced a single crash. (continue…)

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