By now, I’m guessing most of you have seen the very nice-looking Apple TV touch concept art produced by Martin Hajek. This is a very high quality concept and could propel him to well-deserved stardom, but let’s please get into how it should on no accounts be allowed to become a product.
The Apple TV is shown as having a diamond-cut chamfer around its top and bottom edge and coming in black, gold and white. While this is in line with their recent design motifs, it’s far too flashy to be next to a TV. Even on the black version, the chamfer is a prime source of glare. Distraction is not a good property of a set top box.
The whole concept hinges on a small touch remote and there are several problems with this. Possibly to look like it’s a natural successor to the Apple Remote, the touch remote is curved. The last big iPod nano was curved in the same way and even had curved glass, but it was to feel smaller. It’s a reasonable choice for a portable product that you’ll carry with you all day. A remote needs to be somewhat portable, but you won’t carry it around for longer stretches and you won’t move it outside of the room. Additionally, the iPod nano did not have touch — touch on a curved display will be less accurate unless the screen is also curved. A flat display would work better.
The touch remote is just slightly bigger than the Apple Remote. Do the math and you’ll have to hold it closer than an iPhone to your face to be able to read that text.
The touch remote is touch and not tactile. Part of remote design is to design shapes that will trap the finger’s grip in optimal positions where you will know in which cluster of buttons you are and be able to reach and press as many of them as possible without looking. The touch remote has one such button: the home button. The consequence is a remote where nothing is “one blind press away”.
The idea of the touch remote combined with the above shortcomings means that you will need to take your eyes off the 40″+ TV in front of you, pick up a small remote, read small text and navigate on it. How is this better than using the TV in front of you? Not to mention the potential confusion about pushing the home button on a remote and not having the TV screen change.
With touch sensors, a display and Bluetooth or Wi-Fi (the concept has an IR window, but it needs to get info from somewhere), the touch remote will need to be recharged more often; that means either plugging it in, swapping batteries manually or placing it on a charging mat. I know some people will have the discipline to keep it on the charging mat, but many won’t, and now running out of batteries has become a much more haunting prospect than for every other set top box or TV.
The touch remote and the Apple TV unit itself will be significantly more expensive to make than the current version of the Apple TV. If it worked perfectly, that wouldn’t doom it, but even then, many people would ask why they’d have to buy an expensive remote instead of just using the Remote app on their iPhone or iPad, or why they can’t just use the Apple Remote that already works and that they might already have.
Product design is not easy. Developing a concept is not easy either, but product design means doing a concept, living with the consequences, occasionally tossing away something you’ve worked on for a long time and constantly iterating to solve the problem better and better until you can ship it.