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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.


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 in a surprising move, Amazon has also released Amazon Prime Video for the third-generation Apple TV, as demonstrated by Doug Miller on Twitter! You have to wonder how long Amazon has been sitting on this app.

Signing In to Amazon Prime Video -- Once you’ve installed it on your Apple TV, you can browse without logging in, but to watch anything, you’ll need to sign in to your Amazon account, which you can do either directly on the Apple TV or by registering the app online. In the latter case, you visit a special Amazon Web site, log in to your account, and enter an onscreen code.

It’s unusual for two-step verification to work with direct logins, but happily it works with either login approach. On most platforms, if you have two-step verification turned on, you have to register the device online to activate it. (We recommend two-step verification for your Amazon account. Here are Amazon’s instructions for enabling it.)

Alas, signing in directly on the Apple TV isn’t the smoothest experience if you use two-step authentication. The smart way to sign into accounts on the Apple TV, besides online activation, is to use the Apple TV Remote app (or Control Center widget), copying your username and password from a password manager like 1Password and pasting them into the Remote app. Unfortunately, Amazon prevents this by switching away from the keyboard for the two-step verification code — you have to enter it by moving the cursor around the screen. That’s frustrating enough, but worse, you have only a few seconds before the code changes.


Ideally, Amazon would let you enter the two-step verification code via the Apple TV Remote app’s keyboard. For now, I recommend the online registration approach.

Using Amazon Prime Video -- After you sign in, the Amazon Prime Video app 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 bought from Amazon on other platforms, you cannot purchase content directly from Amazon within the Apple TV app.

Individual shows line 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 Add to Watchlist button. But for TV shows, you have to navigate to its season list and then press and hold the touchpad to add the season to your watchlist. Why not just put a button there?


Amazon Prime Video supports both system-wide search and the TV app, which leaves 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, Apple’s content-management framework gets confused.

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


Rough edges like this show why Apple and Amazon butted heads for so long. The fact that Amazon mixes free (for Prime subscribers) video with paid video conflicts with Apple’s approach of taking a 30 percent cut of every digital product you buy. On other platforms, the Amazon Prime Video app is designed, like everything Amazon does, to encourage you to buy more stuff from Amazon. But on the Apple TV, Amazon can’t sell anything without giving Apple its cut. So searches will find movies and TV shows you can buy, but only if you switch out to a Web browser.

From the user’s perspective, it might have been better if Amazon had designed the app to ignore movies and TV shows for sale, showing only Prime video and purchased titles. But from Amazon’s viewpoint, showing titles that can be bought elsewhere can only drive sales, even if it won’t be as effective as if the content could be acquired directly on the Apple TV.

Regardless, it’s good to have Amazon Prime Video on the Apple TV at long last. It makes the Apple TV feel like a significantly more 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.
Reply
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?
Reply
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.
Reply
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?
Reply
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.
Reply
James J Rogers  2017-12-11 21:07
Yeah the Amazon Prime Video app! I cheer almost as loudly as I do for the Amazon Prime Video app for iOS.
#sarcasm
The SINGLE biggest limitation is that you have to switch-out to a browser to purchase something to watch/listen to that is not part of Amazon Prime… and Amazon does not make that distinction crystal-clear. I spent (wasted) the better part of a Saturday evening trying to watch/purchase a non-Prime movie that was in my Playlist. All I got was a stupid, uniformative pop-up modal dialogue box from Amazon. C'mon, why so [email protected] difficult?? All I wanted was to have a glass of wine, enjoy good company, and watch a movie… Thumbs down, glad to have AppleTV and Netflix.
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Mike Minton  2017-12-11 21:38
I am wondering why Amazon Prime Video app is not available for the Apple TV 2
Reply
Tony Voss  2017-12-12 08:13
Well Amazon Prime Video is on my Apple TV 3 - obviously not installed through the App Store but it is there.

And the iPhone Apple Remote works with Apple TV 3 too, which is great. Good that Apple gives so much longevity to its older devices. Sorry about your Apple TV 2 ☹️
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