Roku is the clear leader in the market for “connected TV” devices. The company is obviously doing something right. That doesn’t mean Roku has nothing to learn. Google TV, Fire TV, and Apple TV have features that Roku should make its own.
Part of the reason for Roku’s success is the ease of use of Roku devices. The interface is simple, and it hasn’t really changed since its release. We think a few more features would help make Roku even better.
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Content recommendations on TV platforms are a divisive topic. While some people view them as glorified advertisements, they can also be genuinely useful.
The Google TV home screen, for example, has lots of recommendations. Some of them are literally ads, but a lot of them aren’t. You can rate movies and TV shows to get better recommendations. It also shows you live shows that you might want to watch.
The Roku home screen has none of that. The closest thing to recommendations are the large ads to the right of the channel icons. If I have to see advertisements, might as well be more useful to me.
“Section “Continue watching
Scroll down to the “Continue Watching” line.
Another aspect of the home screen that I’ve come to really appreciate is the “keep watching” feature. It’s found on Google TV, Fire TV, and Android TV, and I think it would make a lot of sense on Roku as well.
The “Keep Watching” feature is basically what it sounds like. It displays the movies and TV shows you are currently watching on the home screen. So you can pick up where you left off without having to launch the app. It’s a very handy shortcut.
Games are not an integral part of the Roku experience, but some games are available on the platform. Google TV, Apple TV, and Fire TV all support connecting gamepads, but Roku does not.
Certainly, this is not a big problem. As we mentioned, games are not the focus of Roku devices. However, controllers aren’t just for gaming. It might be nice to use one to control the normal interface as well. It’s just a bit odd that Roku doesn’t support this feature.
More diversity in applications
The Roku Channel Store is one of the largest “app stores” for streaming TV platforms. But quantity isn’t the only thing that matters. The variety of apps in the Roku Channel Store leaves something to be desired.
What is meant by application diversity? Take the example of YouTube. On Google TV, you’ll find a few third-party YouTube apps that offer features you won’t find in the official app. Roku, on the other hand, has done a lot to remove these kinds of apps.
A restrictive and controlled app store certainly has security benefits. However, allowing these types of third-party apps also has advantages. More choices for users and more tools for developers.
The home screen on Android TV.
Finally, here’s a little feature that not all Roku competitors have: Screenshots. Taking screenshots on a Roku device is next to impossible. There is a method to do this, but it is very restrictive and not really useful in normal situations.
Google TV and Fire TV devices can take screenshots because they’re Android-based, while Apple TVs can’t. It’s not terribly surprising that Roku devices don’t have this feature, but it can be nice to have it sometimes. People share screenshots of their phones all the time. Why not your TV?
Ultimately, the Roku is a very mature platform. It hasn’t changed much, but constant improvements have been made over the years. A few additional features would make Roku devices appealing to more power users.