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Amazon Prime Video Comes to Apple TV

Yes, Virginia, there is an Amazon Prime Video app on the Apple TV. You’ll have to search for it in the App Store because it’s so new that it’s not yet featured anywhere. Once you’ve installed it on your Apple TV, you can browse without logging in, but unsurprisingly, to watch anything, you’ll need to sign in to your Amazon account.


Usually, I’d insert something snarky here about how no, this app is not available for the third-generation Apple TV and never will be. But surprise, Amazon Prime Video is also available on the third-generation Apple TV, as demonstrated by Doug Miller on Twitter! Third-generation Apple TV buffs, your faith has been rewarded. And you have to wonder how long Amazon has been sitting on this app.

When you log in, you have the option to either sign in directly on the Apple TV or register it online — in the latter case, you visit a special Amazon Web site, log in to your account, and enter an onscreen code. I was surprised to find that if you have two-step authentication enabled on your Amazon account, either one works. On most platforms, you have to register the device online to activate it.

(And you really should have two-step authentication enabled on your Amazon account. Here are Amazon’s instructions for enabling it.)

However, signing in directly on the Apple TV isn’t the smoothest experience if you use two-step authentication. The smart way to sign into stuff on the Apple TV, if there’s no online activation feature, is to use the Apple TV Remote app (or Control Center widget), and copy your username and password from a password manager like 1Password and paste it into the Remote app. But Amazon switches away from the keyboard for the two-step code — you have to enter it by moving the cursor around the screen. It’s frustrating enough already, but to make things extra difficult, you only have a few seconds before the code changes.

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I hope Amazon fixes this. In the meantime, I recommend doing online registration.

After you sign in, it looks pretty much as you’d expect, with a set of links across the top. Search is most prominent, followed by a link to the main Home screen for browsing. Then it lists various content collections (including Originals, Movies, TV, and Kids), purchased items in Video Library, things you’ve marked for later in Watchlist, and Settings.


Although it offers access to content you’ve purchased from Amazon on other platforms, like every other iOS and tvOS app, you cannot purchase content directly from Amazon with the Apple TV app.

Individual shows show up in horizontally scrolling lists organized by various categories, much like the Netflix app, and clicking any one of them displays more information about the show and lets you play it.


It isn’t always obvious how you add a title to your watchlist. Movies, like the above screenshot, provide a simple button to do so. But for TV shows, you have to navigate to its seasons list and then press and hold the touchpad to add the season to your watchlist. Why is it so awkward? Why not just put a button there?

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Amazon Prime Video supports both system-wide search and the TV app (leaving Netflix as the only major streaming service still holding out), but there are bugs. Since the Amazon Prime Video app supports both content included for free with your Prime subscription and content you can purchase from Amazon, it borks things up.

For example, if I search for “My Cousin Vinny,” click the Open In button, and choose Open in Prime Video, it takes me to a totally useless listing, since the movie isn’t available via Prime, nor can I purchase it from the page. Also, it was apparently directed by Fox, Fox, Fox, Fox (ad infinitum).

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Given that Amazon has apparently been sitting on an Apple TV app for years (as evidenced by the app for the third-generation Apple TV), it’s somewhat surprising that it has so many rough edges. But you can also see why Apple and Amazon butted heads for so long.

The fact that Amazon mixes free (with Prime) video with paid video conflicts with Apple’s TV business plan. On the other end, Amazon’s Prime Video app on other platforms is designed to encourage you to buy stuff (like all of Amazon’s offerings). You open the app to view the free stuff and Amazon hopes you’ll buy some stuff while you’re there. Apple and Amazon were clearly at loggerheads.

From a user perspective, ideally Amazon would have designed the app to strip out the stuff for sale and left behind only Prime video and purchased titles. But from Amazon’s perspective, why should it invest additional resources to make things easier for Apple users, when tvOS is the only TV platform that doesn’t let them sell their wares?

In any case, bugs or not, I’m glad to have Amazon Prime TV on the Apple TV. It now feels like a complete platform.

 

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Comments about Amazon Prime Video Comes to Apple TV

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Excellenceseeker  2017-12-06 10:21
Works, still a waste of time.
Reply
See the sign-on advisory (hopefully soon updated as resolved), at The Loop's First Look, about auto-completion issue through Safari:

http://www.loopinsight.com/2017/12/06/first-look-at-apple-tvs-amazon-prime-video-app/
Reply
Alan Forkosh  An apple icon for a TidBITS Supporter 2017-12-06 12:31
The authorization code link broke for me in Safari (I didn't know about the workaround), so I decided to use the Amazon id and password method to be authorized. I have 2-factor authentication on my Amazon account. Thus, after being able to type my id and password via the Apple TV iPhone remote, I needed to type the 6-dgit authorization code presented by Author (my authenticator app). Unfortunately, it required using the onscreen keyboard rather than the keyboard on the phone. Response is not quick and you only have 60 seconds before a new code appears. Normally, that is not an issue as typing on a keyboard takes about 10 seconds. However, the response on the TV was very slow, meaning I probably only had a few seconds of slack time to get the code in.
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Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-12-06 13:11
Yes, that was my experience. No idea why they didn't use the standard keyboard.
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William Timberman  2017-12-06 14:47
One thing about the Apple TV Prime Video app that seems really weird to me is the lack of sound feedback when using the remote. (I used to think that the beeping and booping feedback on the newer cable boxes was annoying, but with the Apple TV, I've come to rely on it, and even like it.) I looked to see if there was some settings option in the app that would restore it, but couldn't find one. Has anyone else noticed this, i.e. am I missing something?
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Jim Conrad  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2017-12-06 21:08
Signed in with A Prime and watched first movie. Many of the choices are the same as Netflix.
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Lewis Butler  An apple icon for a TidBITS Benefactor 2017-12-07 11:02
Works, but is pretty lousy. There’s no way to mark an episode as watched and no way to mark a season as watched. It does seem to sync things that were watched on other clients associated with my prime account, but this is still really annoying. For example, I watched the first season of Gear Top (our name for Grand Tour) at someone else’s house last year, but I have to go in to every episode and scrub to the end to mark it as watched.

Maybe they hired the fools who made Hulu’s recent app?
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Michael E. Cohen  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-12-07 13:34
Works fine for me. I also like how it integrates with the TV app across my iOS devices: I can start watching on the Apple TV, stop, and pick up where I left off with the TV app on my iPad.
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Dennis B. Swaney  2017-12-08 19:40
FINALLY!

I was hoping for it would become available before the start of Season 2 of "The Grand Tour" today (8 Dec 17). So I went to download it but my TV operating system was only at 11.0, so I had to update it. An hour later, I was able to download the app, then registered using my iMac (only took a couple of minutes). I then hit "play" on the second season.
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