The good, the bad, and the ugly
If you have one of the new Apple TVs, chances are that any non-game apps you’ve downloaded are media streaming apps, like Netflix or TED. It’s the Apple TV, after all.
But that hasn’t stopped developers from creating apps for this new platform that have nothing to do with watching films or TV shows—or, indeed, much to do with reality or common sense, it would sometimes appear. We’ve scoured the entire tvOS App Store to find those apps that can charitably be described as “pushing the boundaries” of what you might want to do on a 55-inch screen in your living room.
Many of them, although at first nonsensical or just plain weird, actually do turn out to make some kind of sense when you think about them the right way. Some, though, are irredeemably baffling however you try to fit them into your head. Here are our favorite apps for the new Apple TV from the… more innovative corners of the App Store. Let’s see where the line between genius and madness falls!
(Incidentally, you can take screengrabs of the new Apple TV by connecting it to your Mac with a USB-C cable and firing up Xcode, but for me it was even easier to hook it up to the slick and always-reliable Elgato Game Capture HD60.)
On an iPhone, Plane Finder uses augmented reality so that you can point your phone at planes passing overhead to find out what they are, where they came from, and where they’re headed. It’s a little impractical to do this with a full-blown TV, so without that nice gimmick, what’s the point?
Well I guess the point is I wrote that sentence a quarter of an hour ago and have spent the intervening fifteen minutes engrossed in exploring the busy skies around me, and dreaming of far-off places. Genuinely fascinating.
Look, I love gin. And I love the Apple TV. But this (very pretty) app just tells you about different gins, which seems like a weird thing to have on your TV.
It’s Post-its, for your TV! Which sounds like it might conceivably be a good idea—the digital equivalent to a Post-it stuck to the fridge door to let your partner know you’ve popped out to get groceries, say—except that because you have to type using the Apple TV’s god-awful horizontal keyboard, by the time you’d written the note, regardless of where your partner was that meant a note was necessary in the first place, they’d definitely have come back. And I mean up to an including overseas tours of duty for service personnel.
You might never have thought of checking the weather on your TV, but this feisty, irascible weather robot somehow maybe makes even more sense here than on other platforms. Great use of the big canvas, and it sounds great on your home cinema setup.
Big 'Ol Timer
I set timers on my Apple Watch all the time, and having them set on something so personal is usually exactly what I need. So putting it on a big screen? Crazy. Except, of course, I can immediately think of places—schools, clubs, hack days, that kind of thing—where having a timer or stopwatch on a big screen would be perfect.
It’s a clock. The numbers animate in a pleasingly techy way. Face up to the relentless and implacable march of time in glorious high-def.
This is a lovely, super-simple idea. It’s just a way of keeping score—of anything, really: A game, the number of times you’ve taken the trash out, whatever. You add players—helpfully, some common names are offered which could save you a bit of typing—and then every time you want to increment one person’s score, just click their card.
An RSS reader on a TV? Ridiculous! Except, no, actually, it’s quite a nice way—not every day, maybe, but some days—to scan your news headlines. It’s probably not going to be an efficient way of scanning dozens of feeds at once as you might on the Mac, but as a way of scanning feeds passively, maybe while you’re doing something else, it’s fab. Kudos too for the sign-in process.
Instagram on your TV. Somehow simultaneously an unexpected and completely sensible thing to have. And actually, this free, third-party app is really nicely done.
Halloween may be over, but there’s never a bad time to scare kids with creepy disembodied heads. With this app, you tap the remote trackpad to make the head’s jaw open and close as you talk, and you can tilt its head and look around the room using its motion sensitivity. This skull is free, but other 3D puppets are available with in-app purchases.
Airfeed for Twitter
Your Twitter feed on your Apple TV! Like NewNewsWire, this is a little bit silly, at least if you try to use it like you’d use a Twitter client on your Mac or iPhone. But as a channel to have on in the background, or conceivably as a way of monitoring social media chatter in a company, it’s not bad at all.
This would be great for events and parties. Set a hashtag for the event, enter it into the app, and it will display photos posted to Twitter, Instagram, and Flickr that match that hashtag, putting them into pretty, rich themes.
This site showcases creatives’ work and provides inspiration for those working in a range of design disciplines, and having all that available on a TV is actually wonderful. Turn your living room or office into an always-shifting source of inspiration. And possibly professional jealousy.
Tab, a simplified musical notation system, helps enthusiastic amateurs play instruments—commonly the guitar. I laughed at the idea of presenting tabs on a TV at first, but it actually makes a lot of sense. This app is clear and easy to see, and the screen isn’t going to go to sleep no matter how long it takes you to tortuously pick your way through a single bar (like it would with a laptop or iOS device). Go on: dig out that novelty uke you got a few Christmases ago and pluck out a tune!
It’s kittens. On your TV. I mean, cute, right? But the other reason I had to include this is because I’m still giggling at a typo in the description, which exhorts me to “turn it on and watch your family cat get memorized by it!”. Or maybe it’s not a typo. Maybe it actually is memorizing my cat, for some unspecified nefarious future purpose.