Jon Porter from The Verge:

When we tried the HBO Max app for ourselves, we found it doesn’t seem to support the new remote’s D-pad. Instead, we could only use the remote’s touchpad circle, which is technically an element of the remote you’re supposed to be able to disable. Scrubbing using the touchpad works, just very badly. The cause of these problems appears to be a recent app update, which replaced the standard tvOS playback UI with HBO’s own (and apparently far less capable) version.

I have been complaining about the Apple TV (the remote of course, but also tvOS itself) for a long time now. If there’s anything to like about Apple, it’s that they usually try to enforce some type of good design sense throughout their hardware and software. Yes, there are a lot of shitty apps on macOS and iOS, but when it comes to the stuff that goes through their App Store, they at least pretend that they would like all of it to look, work, and generally be designed well.

With that said, why are most1 of the major tvOS apps on the platform able to be approved on the App Store without having even the basics in place? What’s the point of Apple releasing a platform like this if they aren’t going to enforce the very thing that makes people buy Apple products? If some of the most important apps on the platform reduce the video watching experience to just being able to play and pause videos, why bother buying the Apple TV (the most expensive product in this category right now) at all?

I think the answer to the first question is that Apple really doesn’t have any leverage to push companies like HBO to actually make good apps. They can’t really just kick HBO Max off the Apple TV App Store without it being a major issue for them, so why would HBO actually do the hard work of making a good tvOS app2 if they can just make one however they want instead? Can you really call tvOS a good platform if nobody making the major apps has any reason to make them good?

We just ordered one of these new remotes a few days ago. Partially because the old one really is trash, but also because we were suspecting we’re having hardware issues with the original (although the problems we’re seeing might just be because of shitty software 🤷🏾‍♂️) so we figured it made sense. But based on what I’m reading, watching HBO will still be a terrible experience even with the new remote anyway, so I’m already frustrated with it before I even have it.

  1. I’ve had a problem with YouTube on the Apple TV for so long now. They’ve insisted on custom interactions that feel out of place on tvOS in their app the entire time I’ve used it. ↩︎

  2. I think most macOS/iOS developers would agree that it takes a lot of very hard work to make well designed apps for these platforms. Apple provides a lot to developers to make apps that work well for users, but that doesn’t make it easy to actually make happen. It sounds like the HBO Max developers are writing a lot of custom code to control the video playback experience, and I’m guessing it’s because 1) it usually feels easier to do that than to fight with the built-in tools/APIs to get things to work the way all the stakeholders want it to, or 2) they use a lot of cross platform code to simplify development for Roku, Chromecast, smart TVs, etc. These kinds of things are understandable from a code/budget perspective, but they always screw up the quality of the app. Every single time. ↩︎