Avoid Apple Ecosystem Lock-In

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Regardless of Apple’s claims, colluding to fix prices is illegal. They were caught, lost the case and had to reimburse customers. When it comes to e-books, there’s no moral high ground with Apple. Buying an iBook costs more and enables Apple’s anti-competitive behaviors. If you move to another brand of smartphone or tablet, you’ll have to buy those books again, because iBooks only work on Apple devices.

Beware of Apple TV

Apple’s new TV device, Apple TV 4, features an App Store. Unlike the iOS App Store, it’s missing some important apps. The tvOS App Store doesn’t have Spotify, Google Play or Amazon Video. This deficiency could be due to the lack of Apple TV users, although developers can reuse a lot of iOS code when creating a tvOS app. Perhaps Amazon wants you to buy a Kindle Fire TV, as they have gone so far as to stop selling Apple TV. It’s also possible that Apple is not approving tvOS apps that thwart in-app purchasing. Spotify, Google Play and Amazon all bypass Apple’s in-app purchasing in the iOS App Store. We may never know the reason why Apple TV 4 doesn’t offer these services.

Apple TV 4 owners can access Google Play, Amazon Video and Spotify using AirPlay technology. This involves using the iOS app to beam content from their iPhone, iPad or iPod touch onto Apple TV. Macs can also beam these services to Apple TV using AirPlay. AirPlay works quite well, but the user experience leaves something to be desired. You can’t just pick up your Apple TV’s Siri Remote and quickly launch a Google Play video.

Those considering an Apple TV 4 may want to look elsewhere. Roku is probably the best option in terms of working with virtually every ecosystem, except Apple’s. If you buy or rent videos using Google Play or Amazon, Roku offers native apps for both vendors. Roku also offers devices supporting 4K UHD resolution. Unfortunately, Apple does not offer an iTunes app for Roku.

I purchased an Apple TV 4 to replace my Apple TV 2, which was hobbled by bad updates and neglect. Apple failed to provide a critical update for Apple TV 2, which forced YouTube to pull their channel from the device. Nonetheless, I purchased an Apple TV 4 because I am locked into the Apple ecosystem. I have a few hundred dollars worth of iTunes movies and TV shows, including the complete Star Wars collection. These can only be played on Apple TV, Apple devices or a Windows computer with iTunes. If I got a Roku, I wouldn’t be able to play my iTunes purchases on my television.

This is a cautionary tale about Apple’s ecosystem. Don’t make the same mistake I did. I could have purchased these same movies and TV shows on Google Play or Amazon, and they would have worked on Apple TV (via AirPlay) or Roku.

If you have a large library of iTunes movies and TV shows, your best bet is to go with Apple TV. It’s not the worst situation. I really like the Apple TV hardware, particularly the Siri Remote. After the tvOS 10 update, the device is much more stable. Still, it lags behind the competition with its lack of support for 4K UHD video. It also costs much more than competing devices that offer 4K UHD resolution and cater to a more open ecosystem. (continue…)

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