When Google released its Nexus Player in late 2014, I was an early adopter. I even paid a premium ($99.99) to be one of the first.
Google hoped to build on the success of its Chromecast device, by offering a new way to “tailor” entertainment. In truth, Nexus Player was Google’s shot at tackling Apple TV.
Unfortunately, after almost a year, Nexus Player still lacks any significant substance — perhaps the $30 price drop shows the future. And it certainly doesn’t compare in content to Apple TV. Here are three features missing from this “busted” device:
- Expanded array of “cord-cutting” entertainment applications.
- Easily accessible gaming options (cost and quantity)
- Unified, easy-to-use functionality
One of the reasons that Apple TV is so awesome is because of its ever-expanding array of entertainment options. Browsing the Apple TV menu is like scrolling a satellite provider’s spectrum of channels. I’m constantly amazed at the television and video offerings available to Apple TV users.
Nexus Player is missing a number of programming options that make it competitive in the marketplace. Sure, Player’s packed with Google’s offerings, including Play Movies, YouTube, and Music, but it’s lacking channels like History and Discovery, which are available on Apple TV.
Certainly, some of this stems from the developers’ reluctance to integrate into the Android ecosystem. But there’s also the pure and simple fact that even when the apps exists for Android, they’re not Player compatible. Thus, I’m stuck meandering through my ever-dwindling selection of Netflix shows.
Additionally, even when the applications exist for Nexus Player, there aren’t enough of them to bother installing. Currently, I can watch Food Network, Travel Channel, and HGTV. Hardly enough extra channels to get too excited about. I won’t even talk about live television and sporting — three words: no ESPN app.
Google’s biggest problem in this area is the assumption that users want to customize their device for viewing, including adding media servers and the like. That’s simply not the case. I want easy consumption, not complex customization. Apple succeeds, despite it’s lack of “flair”, because of its simplicity. To get Nexus Player right, Google needs to encourage a broad scheme of simplicity for the consumer.
Gaming gone mad
My kids are growing old enough that they’re finally grasping gaming. Nexus Player is a great gaming machine, but it’s extremely limited without a gamepad. I’m growing very tired of my sans-gamepad version.
Yes, I could have, and should have, purchased a gamepad. But at $40, and with so few gaming options, I can put my money to better use elsewhere.
One of the biggest, most frustrating elements of the Nexus Player, is its complete lack of functionality inside apps.
For instance, as a source for content distribution and advertising, you’d think the YouTube app would be a power packed resource. Nope. Navigation is limited to moving around “suggested” cards, and non-clickable boxes. On my Player, Search is almost non-existent. Even my kids get bored of my trying to search for “magic tricks,” only to have Player return, “manic trunks.” Pathetic.
In my home, we’ve almost banned YouTube, because of its total lack of filtering. Restricted mode is a joke — yes, no filter is 100% accurate, but it should at least catch some inappropriate content — where my kids can watch whatever suggested program Google wants. I finally resorted to removing YouTube’s suggested content from my home screen, just so I’d stop seeing suggestions for scantly-clad teens. (And no, I’m not watching YouTube porn.) Luckily my kids are trustworthy enough that they’re not relenting to the suggestions. That won’t last for long though.
If Google really wanted users to use its Nexus Player, it’d make my life easier. Enable restrictions and filters that give me the ability to delegate certain functions to my kids. I’m not talking about a “restricted mode” that lets me turn apps off and on. I’m suggesting delegated accounts use, which actually allows me to filter the content based on ESRB and MPAA ratings, not by some generic “filter.”
Similarly, Google should make it easy for me to consume other users’ content with clickable links and customizable features.
Still dead after all these years
Internet television fails because users want real-time content. We want gaming and commercial free viewing. Chromecast works because of the Google Cast API. Nexus Player fails for the exact same reason.
After owning the Nexus Player for all this time, I’m still not impressed.