March 11, 2016 Last Updated 1:30 pm At Bat strikes out with their new Apple TV app – but, remember, it’s a long season

Morning Brief: Apple and the DOJ turn up the heat in their fight over a court order ruling that Apple should help unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters

The highly anticipated, at least for US sports fans, app from Major League Baseball Advanced Media for At Bat for the new Apple TV was released recently. The app was first demoed at September’s iPhone event, where the new Apple TV was unveiled.

The app promised to bring many of the same cool features that can be found in its online version.

TV-MLB-780“This new app can now stream at 60 FPS in Full HD, but you can also pull up stats that are in sync with the game you are watching. The app can notify you when a player is at bat in another game, and you can even go split screen, watching multiple videos at the same time,” wrote Macstories last fall.

In my first real-world tests of the app I can say that it struck out – on three pitches, no less.

But it is spring training, after all, and there is plenty of time to fix up the app.

For those who approach it for the first time one will immediately see that they are locked out and forced to sign in again – this is a bit annoying as neither Apple nor the other TV device makers have yet to come up with a decent system for filling forms on TV box top sets.

What one encounters then is fairly shocking: a new look that doesn’t feel like much of an improvement, and in many ways is a step backwards. But the real problem I found was that the app simply didn’t work for me when I attempted to watch a game yesterday. Clicking on the Giants game led me to a black screen that gave me no clue as to whether the game broadcast was loading or if the app was dead. It was dead, and returning to the home screen led to finding more bugs.

Unlike an app that can be found in the Apple App Store, there is no user reviews that would show the developer what the user experience has been to date, so one hopes MLBAM recognizes the issues and spends spring training getting the app in shape for the regular season.

As an experienced At Bat user, I can tell you that I am not surprised that the app is buggy. This app is the one app I find indispensable on my iPhone, iPad, and TV devices. Many times in the past I have found the apps to be buggy, or the streaming to be very poor, but the apps have improved over the years and I would say that all the apps, with the exception of this new Apple TV app, are excellent, first rate. But it takes MLBAM time to get to that point, and in the meantime things can be frustrating. Ask the users of the new NHL app who are filling iTunes with complaints.

By the way, after failing to get the new Apple TV app to work I immediately powered up my Roku 4 and found that the MLB at made me sign in, indicating I guess that an update for that app may have come through. If it did then I can report that the changes must be minor as it looked the same to me (it may have been that since my subscription to At Bat was renewed that the apps made me sign-in). Once signed in the look of the app was the same and its performance was perfect, with streaming faster than more reliable than the app on the new Apple TV (fault of the app or the Apple TV?).

Looks like I’ll be using my Roku 4 more often this month, rather than the new Apple TV.

Update: I’ve been contacted by the MLB TV team (which is nice) and they say have not encountered any of the problems I have seen with the app. That is, of course, quite possible – and it might be that I will need to uninstall the app and start again. But using the app again this afternoon reveals the pretty much the same results. Hopefully all this will get worked out (on my end or theirs) before the start of the regular season. Meanwhile, as mentioned above, the web and mobile app solutions remain fantastic.

The battle between the US Department of Justice and Apple is beginning to be reminiscent of the Republican debates, with each side accusing other other of lying and misdirection.
“In 30 years of practice, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a legal brief that was more intended to smear the other side with false accusations and innuendo, and less intended to focus on the real merits of the case,” said Bruce Sewell, Apple’s general counsel and senior vice president of Legal and Government Affairs. “For the first time ever, we see an allegation that Apple has deliberately made changes to block law enforcement requests for access. This should be deeply offensive to everyone that reads it. An unsupported, unsubstantiated effort to vilify Apple rather than confront the issues in the case.”

iPhone 6 passcodeIn its official filing with the court, the DOJ says Apple is playing a game of misdirection.

“The Court’s Order is modest. It applies to a single iPhone, and it allows Apple to decide the least burdensome means of complying. As Apple well knows, the Order does not compel it to unlock other iPhones or to give the government a universal “master key” or “back door.” That iPhone belongs to the County of San Bernardino, which has consented to its being searched. The phone was used by the now-dead terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook, who also consented to its being searched as part of his employment agreement with the County. In short, the Order invades no one’s privacy and raises no Fourth Amendment concerns.”

“Apple and its amici try to alarm this Court with issues of network security, encryption, back doors, and privacy, invoking larger debates before Congress and in the news media. That is a diversion. Apple desperately wants—desperately needs—this case not to be ‘about one isolated iPhone’.”

The government, should it prevail here, could unwittingly enter into this year’s Presidential election fray. Many of the candidates, especially on the Republican side, have made the current government a big issue in their campaigns, arguing that the Obama administration has no respect for the rule of law and frequently overreaches. But the Republicans tend to be big law enforcement advocates, more likely to not think privacy concerns are more important than security concerns, so it would be interesting to see how they would play this.

Democrats have been more likely to be on Apple’s side so far (though Sen Diane Feinstein has been her typically hawkish self). “Companies should comply with warrants to the extent they are able to do so, but no company should be forced to deliberately weaken its products,” Sen. Ron Wyden wrote in February. So far both Democratic candidates have been cautious to weigh in on the matter.

Next Tuesday in another big day in this election cycle. But whereas Iowa,New Hampshire and last week Michigan got plenty of attention from political reporters, some rather large states will go to vote next week with very little attention being paid by the press.

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton was in town, with an event only a few miles from where I live and work, though it would have hardly known it based on the lack of press. Illinois, in general, despite its size, simply doesn’t get the attention Iowa does because of its place in the election calendar (Iowas gives out 52 total delegates to the convention, while Illinois has 182).

But NPR this week was the exception and so it is time to defend my state by embedding their report:

Comments are closed.