“THE FUTURE OF TV IS APPS” – that’s what Apple’s Tim Cook has famously said in one of Apple’s annual Keynote Speeches that they give to introduce one of their new products. Last time I introduced the term “Cord Cutting” and how you may consider it at some point down the road. No matter if you plan on cancelling cable entirely, or just gradually phasing it out, if you want to stream television and video, you’ll need something to stream it with. Now, our smartphones and tablets are already set to stream (using the various apps and services that I’ll talk about next time), but I’m sure you and your family aren’t planning on gathering around a small screen and sitting on top of each other to watch a Netflix movie. So, how to we stream to our gigantic 50+ Inch Televisions. Well, there are a few ways.
First, if you have purchased your television within the past 2 or 3 years, it may be considered a “Smart TV”. A Smart TV is simply a television that has Apps already installed (or the ability to download them from an App Store). Samsung Televisions have a colored cube-like button on their remotes called the “Smart Hub”. This takes you to the page where you can find the various apps. Other manufacturers may put the button for the App right on the remote (some Vizio TV’s have a dedicated Netflix button). If you find out you own a Smart TV, then you already have the ability to steam with some apps. However, some TV’s are stuck in their ways, and may not offer the ability to download some of the newer streaming apps. In that case, or if you find out your TV isn’t Smart, then these next options are for you.
There are many devices that you can plug into your existing TV to gain streaming access, even if you already own a Smart TV. You simply plug the device to your TV’s HDMI input and you should see the device appear on the screen. Which device you choose can depend on a number of things. Let’s look at the most popular devices and briefly discuss their pros and cons.
Apple TV – probably the most popular of the streaming devices. A small 4×4 box that includes a remote to navigate between the different apps. (If you’ve ever attended my tech forums at the Lakehouse, this is what I use to wirelessly display my phone up onto the screen as I discuss and teach the topics). Hundreds of apps that work on Apple TV, including the most popular ones. All of your movie/tv show rentals and purchases are super easy to purchase via the Apple Store. Included in the newest Apple TV models is Siri, who will help you find content that you are looking for. Apple TV integrates with iPads and iPhones beautifully (of course, that’s how Steve Jobs envisioned it – all of your Apple devices in perfect harmony). If there’s a negative about the Apple TV, it would probably be the price, as it is the most expensive box out on the market (although you could purchase a refurbished First Generation Apple TV at half the cost in some places).
Amazon Fire Stick – Amazon’s branded streaming device that comes in at more than half the cost of the Apple TV. It has all of the apps that Apple TV does, except you’ll purchase and rent your content through Amazon’s digital library, which has just as good of a selection as Apple. One good thing about Amazon is that if you are a Prime Member (which some people love because of the guaranteed 2 day shipping on products), then with that membership comes access to Amazon Instant Video, which gives you access to thousands of movies and TV shows at no additional cost (except for the Prime Membership itself). It also has a voice-activated remote to help you find shows and movies.
Roku – A few different types of Roku’s exist, each with their own nifty features and abilities, but there’s sure to be a Roku that fits your budget. Some TV’s are also linking up with Roku to include their software directly on the TV (so you wouldn’t have to have a separate box). Roku’s again have all of the streaming apps that you’d find on the other brands.
Google Chromecast – A streaming device based around Google. You’ll be able to buy and stream content directly from the Google Play Store as well as use other 3rd party apps. One thing about Chromecast is that it doesn’t have its own dedicated remote. Instead, you’ll use your tablet or smartphone to operate and control the Chromecast. Android phones work well with Chromecast, but iPhones and iPads will also work.
How to choose will probably depend on a few things. 1) How much you want to spend 2) What devices to you already own (example: if you have invested in an iPhone and/or iPad, then it may make sense to go with the Apple TV). And 3) Who’s got the most or best content?
In my own experience, I choose to stream with the Apple TV, but primarily because I already owned the iPhone and iPad and didn’t want to complicate things by getting a non-Apple device. But, I must say, I have set up many of my customer’s Chromecasts, Amazon Fire Sticks, and Roku’s and they are just as good. Hopefully this post will help you decide on what device may work best for you.
Next time, to finish the discussion of Streaming TV, I’ll discuss the various apps and services that exist on each streaming device and hopefully by then, you’ll have all the information you can to decide whether or not you want to CUT THAT CORD!