Spend a lot of time around Apple products, and you'll inevitably hear talk of the "Apple ecosystem." To Apple, it's the way all of its different devices and software work together for a more unified experience. To critics of the company, it's the so-called "walled garden" that locks you into using Apple hardware unless you want to invite a whole lot of inconveniences into your digital life.
Those critics may have a point. But eliminating inconvenience should be what a lot of device makers strive for. And it's something that Apple succeeds at more often than not, as I'm reminded every time I make use of my favorite Apple TV feature.
The other night, I went through Apple's set-top box to rent a movie to watch on my TV. It's a simple process of heading to the Movie section of the Apple TV software, selecting my movie and confirming my purchase.
That confirmation process used to require entering the password associated with your Apple ID, and that's where the inconvenience used to come into play. You either had to use the Apple TV remove to painstaking enter in each character of your password by navigating around an on-screen keyboard or you could use the on-board Siri assistant to dictate your password.
Because I use strong passwords whenever possible that meant shouting out a series of letters, numbers and special characters anytime I wanted to rent a movie.
Or that was how it was back in the before time. Nowadays, Apple TV has a clever feature for confirming purchases and rentals that removes the pain point of having to enter your password while still keeping things nice and secure.
The confirmation screen on your Apple TV now gives you the option of confirming the purchase via a nearby iPhone or iPad. Agree to that option, and you'll get a text message on your iOS device giving you the chance to verify things. (Apple TV also gives you the option of confirming with a password, for you masochists out there.) From my iPhone, it was just a matter of clicking the side button twice to confirm my rental through Apple Pay.
The convenience of this multi-device confirmation method should be apparent. I'm able to confirm a rental with just a couple of taps and start watching my movie, rather than having to tap out or recite a password (assuming that I even have that password perfectly committed to memory). The chances of a sneaky child or over-presumptuous houseguest renting something without my permission is negligible — even if my iOS device is lying around unattended, they've still got to unlock it and verify the purchase with Face ID. So I'm getting security and convenience, which is the most rare of 2-for-1 combos.
It makes sense from Apple's perspective, too. Entering your password to rent a movie is a barrier to entry — an important one, to be sure, but still something that stands in the way of people giving you their business if you make things too complicated. Removing the hassle of password entry gives people another reason to turn to your hardware when it's time to find something to watch.
You can find a lot of examples of Apple devices working together, whether it's sharing browser tabs between your Mac and iPhone or easy photo transfers using AirDrop. But this Apple TV trick is probably my favorite — and it's why I'm unlikely to ever want to break out of Apple's walled garden.
Next: Check out the new movies and shows to watch this weekend.