Apple TV 5.2.1: Worth Upgrading?

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Hulu Plus updated for Apple TV 5.2.1

The 5.2.1 update for Apple TV has just been released. The new version includes some security fixes as well as a redesign of Hulu Plus. Those subscribing to Hulu Plus will be pleasantly surprised, however, the new functionality introduces a few minor glitches.

The security fixes address the same issues as the iOS 6.1.3 update, except for the passcode lock. This is to be expected as Apple TV is an iOS device. It has the same processor as an iPhone or iPad (A4 or A5, depending on model). It runs the core iOS operating system, with a different graphical user interface.

Hulu Plus has been completely redesigned. The most noticeable features are the new menus. The new menus resemble Apple’s own services — Movies and TV Shows. There is a menu bar at the top, which can be accessed from any of the top-level menus. This is convenient. You no longer have to hit the menu button to go back and wait as you see the “Accessing Hulu Plus” message on the screen. Simply press the up button on the remote from any top-level screen until you see the menu bar. The menu bar is only accessible from the top-level menu screens. Once you drill down into a show’s series menu, you will need to connect to Hulu’s backend whenever you go back and forth in the menu hierarchy. It would be nice if the menu bar could be accessed from any screen. Nonetheless, this is a step forward and makes Hulu Plus much easier to use.

When you start Hulu Plus, you are presented with the main screen. This shows a slick cover-flow style carousel of recommendations that scroll horizontally across the screen. Underneath the carousel, your favorite shows are displayed, with the most recently watched listed first. Popular shows are displayed below your favorites. As you scroll down, you see videos grouped by trends, recommendations, and other classifications.

The new Hulu Plus is optimized for easy access. For the most part, the first screen will take you where you want to go. If you navigate to a TV show on any of the top menu pages and press play, it will play the latest episode or the next episode, depending on your viewing behavior. If you press the select button, you will go to the series page for that show. (continue…)

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  1. Why can’t Apple allow us to plug in a high quality Bose headset into the IPhone and then pair with the Apple TV to listen to iTunes movies privately? It’s a no-brainer. Both have bluetooth, WIFI, and both are made by Apple. Simple elegant solution. Who is asleep at the wheel?

    1. The new Apple TV supports Bluetooth headphones, although some tech writers have noted that they don’t all work. I think it is too little, too late, given that Roku offers a superior solution.

      I agree, it’s a major oversight. I own the new Apple TV, and although I like it, it is not as polished as Apple products tend to be. I keep comparing everything to the Mac, which is the perfect example of Apple’s quality. Mac OS X was actually developed at NeXT, which was a small, focused start-up headed by Steve Jobs. That may be why it is so rock solid, but seems to be slowly deteriorating.

      Overall, the Apple TV team is not the best team at Apple. I have used Apple TV for over four years now, and even the new one is not a high quality system. AirPlay on the new Apple TV is buggy. There are several other minor problems. It’s not surprising that they have neglected private listening for so many years, only to unveil half-baked Bluetooth support. Apple fans hope it will get better. I have more realistic expectations. I know that the Apple TV team are the Bad News Bears of Apple. I expect them to fix things, break them, and fix them again. It’s par for the course. They have ramped up their marketing, but Apple TV’s quality is still questionable.

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