Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.
We have always thought about design as being so much more than just the way something looks. It’s the whole thing: the way something works on so many different levels.
—Jony Ive, about iOS 7.
The recent Apple TV update (7.0) looks like iOS 7/8. Looks like. In fact, there was a beta where the only noticeable change was that before, it looked like iOS 6 and after, it looked like iOS 7/8. Even Apple’s change notes say it’s a “fresh new look“.
Every button is where it were and every list behaves the same. All the animations, all of the timings and all of the physics are the same, despite ostensibly the elements on the screen being made up of different materials.
On a ~4″ screen, it makes sense to keep clutter and transparent layers to a minimum. On the other hand, a 40″+ flat panel screen is where you could use some transparency to show information transiently and concurrently with video. In a phone containing many apps, having the same utilitarian design language including simple (too simple) icons is constricting and confusing. On the edge of a TV, it’s a reasonable way to distinguish the tone and vibrancy of a program from the user interface popping up every now and then.
iOS 7/8-style could make Apple TV fly. What we have now is a skin job, no different in theory or execution from a Winamp skin — swap all the graphics and all the fonts and call it a day. Maybe it’s not worth getting upset about, but as an idea and an expectation, it’s probably worth putting out there. Sometimes, even hobbies deserve more.