Ten ways Apple and Google can make TV better

Google TV
Television is in need of an upgrade. Google and Apple are working on it.
(Photo illustration by Sonia Roy For The Times)

Back in the day, watching television was as simple as hitting a switch, maybe messing with some rabbit ears and flipping through all eight of your channel choices. The sound wasn’t so great, and the picture was kind of grainy, but at least it was simple. If a friend was going to stay at your house for a week, you wouldn’t have to prepare a four-page document on how to watch"30 Rock.”

In our more technologically advanced age, however, simply turning on a home entertainment system can involve as many as three remote controls. Once your set is finally on, you’re faced with an interface that is ugly and cluttered and hard to read. And watching live television means scrolling through hundreds of channels, some that you don’t even have access to, others that are in languages that you don’t understand.

It’s enough to make a person abandon her 52-inch hi-def LED screen and just watch her shows on a laptop.

Somebody upgrade us!


Well, both Google and Apple are working on it. So far both companies offer additional boxes you can attach to your television. But Sony is selling a television with Google TV built right in, and if you can believe the Internet rumors, Apple may be launching its own television set later this year.

Here’s what we’d like to see:

1. One -- singular -- remote: At our house, turning on the television involves taking one remote and pressing “TV” then “Power” then “Cable” and “Power,” then turning to a second remote that controls the Blu-ray and sound system. If we want to use Netflix, we pull out the remote to our Wii. There has to be a better way!

2. A more intuitive remote: There are way too many buttons on most remotes, and the important ones like “Power” and “Function” are often not in the most obvious places. This needs to change.


3. One device: We don’t want a television and a Blu-ray player and a cable box that we have to rent and some sort of video game system that also allows us to access Amazon Prime and Netflix and Hulu. We’d like one simple device, please -- easy to set up, easy to move, easy to control.

3. A better-looking interface: Oh, that grid! That horrible looking grid! It’s so ugly and it’s so difficult to read. Our giant, high-definition television sets are crying out for a graphic interface -- streaming Netflix has the right idea. It’s nice to look at and easy to use.

4. A la carte channels: How many channels do you watch on a regular basis? Five? Ten? Maybe 20? And how many channels are bundled into your cable deal? Probably more than 100. We don’t need that many channels and most of us are finally realizing that we don’t want that many either. What if you could pay to subscribe to CNN, ESPN and HBO and that’s it?

5. An easy to use favorites list: For those who aren’t ready to give up their 500-channel deal, there should be easy an way to create a favorites list. Imagine dragging and dropping your top 20 channels into your own favorites list. Dreamy!

6. Content options in one place: There are a lot of ways to watch television and movies now -- Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime. We want our new television to have all those viewing options built right into it -- no cables or extra wires, or extra devices, necessary.

7. No more storage limits: The ability to digitally record a show has redefined television watching for many people, but serious watchers frequently  run out of memory on their devices. We’d like to get rid of the idea of storing television shows, and instead have those shows live somewhere in a cloud so that we don’t have to worry about watch it now, or lose it.

8. A universal system: Watching television at your mom’s house is nothing like watching television at your own house. We are capable of jumping on someone else’s computer to check email real quick if necessary; we should also be capable of turning on someone else’s television with out an instruction manual.

9. Self set-up:The last time we moved, we waited 10 days for our cable company to finally get us cable TV. And we aren’t alone.  Remember that infinitely satisfying"Seinfeld"episode when Kramer finally got to make the cable guy wait? We’d like our children to shake their heads in wonderment that it ever took more than an hour to get a television set up and working.


10. Headphones: Well, this might just be us, but we always thought that wireless headphones would be a great addition to any television set. That way, you can watch as loud as you want and not worry about bugging the neighbors.


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Ten ways Apple and Google can improve our television experience

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