The Apple TV is an easy and inexpensive way to make a "dumb" TV smart and also to prepare yourself for the beautiful Apple TV set that's coming to an Apple store near you.
How to Buy a Futureproof TV
A smart TV works like a computer. It runs apps, connects to the Internet and may also connect to other devices in the house on a home network. Although they exist today, smart TVs are undergoing rapid change. A TV isn’t something you’re likely to buy often, so it’s a good idea to think about tomorrow when buying today.
Some TVs are born smart, some achieve smartness and some have smartness thrust upon them.
Most smart TVs will get their smarts from four sources: Apple, Google, Microsoft or the Asian company that makes your TV. For example, you may buy a TV that’s sold as a smart TV, with the intelligence built in, rather than from a separate plug-in device. This smartness may have been created by the TV maker or by Google and be labeled as a “Google TV."
As an alternative, you could buy a TV that doesn’t have a computer built in, but then add an Apple TV box separately. Buying an Xbox game system turns a regular TV into a smart TV as well. The Xbox connects to the Internet and also has a DVD drive for playing not only games but also movies.
And, of course, you can mix and match. You can buy a Google TV and plug in both an Apple TV and an Xbox. It won’t be any smarter, though.
In general, however, most people will benefit from choosing one of these options and sticking with it for the sake of simplicity.
How to Choose a Smart-TV Brand
Apple. If you’re an Apple user and carry an iPhone or use an iPad, embracing and sticking with Apple TV is a great choice. The company’s iCloud service connects your devices, so for example the pictures you take with your phone can be instantly viewed on the TV.
You should also know that it’s a foregone conclusion in Silicon Valley that Apple will actually manufacture and sell Apple TV sets. These will probably look beautiful, like big iMac machines.
By choosing the Apple TV box today, the movies you buy will remain compatible and easily viewable with the future Apple TV set. The future Apple TV will probably also support FaceTime, Apple’s video conferencing app. But this may work only when other people also have Apple hardware. It’s something to know before you buy.
And Apple gadgets are attractive to have lying around in your living room.
Google. Likewise, if you tend to prefer Google’s Android phones and tablets, you may benefit from a Google TV. Google TV video conferencing will almost certainly take place via the Google+ hangouts feature, which enables 10 people to video-chat at once. This may be more broadly usable because anyone, including those with Apple hardware, will be able to video-chat with you.
Apple and Google will probably offer the smartest smart TV options, because they are likely to have the most apps, which will let you leverage that giant screen in all kinds of interesting and unpredictable ways.
In general, Apple TV is less work, more attractive and more expensive. Google TV is more work and less attractive but less expensive overall.