AppleTV upgrade adventures

Since my house is all-in on Apple's HomeKit for controlling lights and cameras and devices, I got the latest and greatest new AppleTV so I could add support for Thread, a new home automation communication protocol.

Upgrading to a newer AppleTVs is getting easier, but still has major hiccups. Like Jason Snell found at Six Colors, the first time you power a new AppleTV on, if your phone is near the device, it will use your phone as your identity and automatically sign you in to iCloud and add your wifi points and restore apps you installed on your previous devices. It's fast and handy and seems like you just restored your AppleTV from an online backup.

But it's far from that. When you launch any paid streaming app, and you get prompted for a login. I have about ten different video apps on my AppleTV and it takes about five minutes to login to each one. You quickly learn that also each app logs you in differently. You can even get different behaviors from two apps made by the same company!

The main YouTube app can log you into your account using either the iPhone YouTube app (which didn't work for me this time around) or using a QR code that you open on your phone. It loads the correct URL along with a special code shown on your screen, then in a couple taps, you're logged in.

But the YouTubeTV app—also made by YouTube—doesn't offer app support like their main one, doesn't offer a QR code to auto-open their sign in URL, instead it simply has instructions to type a specific URL into your phone and put in the special code on the screen.

There's no consistency. About half my apps used QR codes in smart ways to redirect you to a login and sped up the setup process. The other half did not, and had to be done manually, or in my case, using my phone as a remote, so I could copy/paste all the passwords in my password manager.

Once all my apps were setup, I had a bit more trouble with basic functions. My old AppleTV turned on my TV automatically through the Apple remote, but the new remote isn't talking to my LG TV. A camera app I use for viewing webcams around my house doesn't work on the newest hardware and instantly crashes. So I guess I'll poke around the remote learning functions and bug the developer of the paid app I use to do some updates.

AppleTV continues to make small improvements each year, but they really need to streamline the setup process so it's as smart and seamless as upgrading from an old iPhone to a new one, which when you're done feels like you are on a new device with everything exactly where you had it on your last one.