Why Apple TV is useless in the UK

Why Apple TV is useless in the UK
Apple TV: how did $99 become £99?

Badly dubbed adverts really annoy me. Faintly sinister firms make an advert for shoes or yoghurts or incomprehensible children's toys in Germany, and instead of filming a new version for the UK they just do a half-arsed bit of dubbing that doesn't even attempt to match the mouths to the sounds they're supposed to be making. "Oh, who cares," the advertisers think. "It's only the UK."

The Apple TV is a bit like that.

I like the idea of the Apple TV, but like those European adverts something goes horribly wrong when it has to cross the sea to get to Britain.

The price goes up for starters - $99 becomes £99, which either means VAT went up to 50% last night when nobody was looking or Apple's taking the mickey - but more importantly, many of the good bits disappear.

If you look at the US page for the Apple TV, there's a whole section dedicated to HD TV Shows: "Instant TV rentals. Just 99c." On the UK page, there isn't anything. That's because Apple doesn't have the UK deals in place to deliver TV rentals, so there's a big hole in the Apple TV's feature list.

Film rentals aren't much better. Fancy renting Chris Morris's Four Lions? You can't: it's buy-only. Hot Tub Time Machine? Buy only. Zombieland? Buy only. Anchorman? Buy only.

Paying more for less

Apple isn't the only firm who doesn't have the right deals in place for the UK - while things are improving, Microsoft's Xbox Live Marketplace, now Zune Video, spent a long time with a selection of films that would look rubbish on petrol station shelves, never mind a flagship video service - but it does mean that Apple is charging UK customers considerably more than US customers for a device and associated service that does considerably less.

Video on the Xbox 360 is a handy optional extra on a games console, but the whole point of the Apple TV is to be a home entertainment hub.

I know it's not really Apple's fault - the deals or lack of deals is down to negotiations between Apple and the various film studios and TV companies - but I don't really care: no matter who's to blame, the result is the same. It doesn't even have iPlayer, which rather bizarrely means that for me, my iPhone is a better TV device than an Apple TV is.

What's really frustrating about this for me is that I really want a home entertainment hub: the day I can throw my Sky box in a skip and enjoy high definition television at a reasonable price with an interface that doesn't suck giant monkey balls will be one of the happiest days in home entertainment history.

I really want an Apple TV: it's just that I don't want the one Apple is currently making. In the UK at least it's a Windows Media Center rival, a channel changer instead of a game changer.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now and her next book, about pop music, is out in 2025. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind.