all micro contact rss

Extras, Indeed

While everyone else in the community is still losing its mind over the battery bump, I thought I’d offer a change of pace and criticize something a little more concerning about Apple’s recent endeavors. It didn’t take much effort to find something less controversial, at least.

Let’s take, for instance, the experience of watching iTunes Extras material on an iPad.

iTunes Extras are like DVD bonus features for the movies you buy on iTunes. Some movies only offer an alternate commentary track. Others get quite elaborate, with tons of deleted scenes, interviews, mini-features, the whole nine yards. I’m a big fan of the concept. I am a huge nerd, after all.

A few years ago, you could only watch this bonus stuff on your Mac, which was stupid. Then in 2014 Apple gave iOS the ability to view them again, which was welcome news indeed. Why would I want to watch several hours of video content on my Mac instead of my TV or iPad? Seemed like a no brainer, so I was glad Apple was going to correct this silly omission.

So what’s the problem, Joe? Apple gave you what you wanted, right?

I’ll just make a bulleted list, to keep it simple:

  • iTunes Extras are streaming only. Can’t download them to the iPad. So, no broadband Internet connection at the time you want to watch, no Extras. You can forget about queuing those 90 hours of Hobbit Appendices for your flight to New Zealand, even though you ponied up the extra cash for a 128GB iPad.[1]
  • Where do I find the Extras? There’s no Extras button on the main movie launch screen. First hit play on the movie, then, if you happen to have an Internet connection, and you happen to notice before the controls fade away, there will be a button for Bonus Features on the bottom of the screen below the playback controls. It’s as if Apple is afraid you might actually want to watch this stuff.
  • Enter the Extras, use the menu system, hit play on one of videos. About two minutes in, it’ll pause, as the connection struggles to keep up. This will happen several times while you’re watching no matter how good your broadband is. All part of the experience.
  • Pause the Extra, put the iPad to sleep. You’ve now lost your place. You’ll have to start the entire process over and guess where you were in the video you were watching, if you can remember which one you were watching, that is.
  • Tap on a notification to jump to another app really quickly. You’ve now lost your place. See above.
  • This one is my favorite: Rotate the iPad so that you change orientation.[2] You guessed it, you’ve now lost your place. The video will switch over to the main feature movie and play that. Because that makes perfect sense.
  • Pause the Extra and hit the home button. It’s okay. You can say it. You’ve lost your place yet again. Only it gets even more interesting. Now, the audio of the main movie feature will begin to play, in the background. Ironically it’ll start where you left off the last time you watched the actual movie, just as an extra kick in the nuts. Open up the video app, and sure enough, the main feature movie is now playing. Hit pause, go do whatever you wanted to do, then come back and start all over again.
  • Try scrubbing through the Extra you were watching, and the experience makes the old AppleTV scrubbing seem fluid by comparison. Slide to 8:42, the playhead will jump to 6:23 for no reason. Try to push it back to 8:42, it’ll jump to 11:47. Push it back again, let it jump to 5:50. At this point you’ll just watch it again from the beginning until you get back to where you left off.

I suppose all of this is better than having no ability to watch the Extras at all on mobile, but not by much. After all, if you have a perfect Internet connection, and you want to watch the Extras all in one shot without pausing or getting interrupted for any reason, then it’s just peachy, as long as you don’t mind the occasional pause for the connection to catch up. I’m sure this is how it was tested before being approved for release.

These are not hard bugs to find. They have been present for a while. Either no one is watching iTunes Extras content on their iPads except me, or Apple considers it a super low priority. Which is fine. But it is an embarrassment. Much more so than an ugly iPhone case, at any rate.

  1. I went back to 64GB on my iPad Air 2 for this reason alone. Unfortunately, with the Pro, the only option, if you want the broadband necessary to watch iTunes Extras, is to also get 128GB of storage that you won’t be able to use to store those Extras.  ↩
  2. This is something that happens unintentionally sometimes, like, you know, if you happen to be watching in bed and forgot to lock orientation as you change positions. That’s only happened to me about six thousand times so far, so it’s no big deal.  ↩