Roku 3.0 app: Three big changes, three big fails

One promised feature is MIA, one makes the app harder on the eyes, and one lets anyone have his way with your Roku boxes.

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It was a dark and purple night. The Roku app's new skin is hard on the eyes. And where's Search? Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET
If you own one or more Roku boxes, you probably know you can use your smartphone or tablet as a surrogate remote. That's handy, as those little Roku clickers always seem to go missing -- at least in my house.

Alas, the new Roku 3.0 app brings three big changes to the table, and they're all kind of a letdown.

Let's start with the overhauled interface, which features a heavy emphasis on the company's signature purple.

The onscreen remote, for example, offers controls drawn with thin purple lines on a black background. This is not a change for the better: I found the controls difficult to make out on both an iPhone 4S and a Moto X. The layout is OK; it's just unnecessarily hard to see the buttons.

Next, the Roku app has always required you to sign into your Roku account -- a hassle, yes, but just a one-time hassle.

Now, the app detects any and all players on the local Wi-Fi network, no sign-in required (unless you want to browse the Channel store, in which case you will need to log in). Convenient, yes, but it also means your friends can come over and totally mess with your Roku box while you're binge-watching "Orphan Black."

Finally, Roku 3.0 promises a new cross-service search feature: enter the name of an actor, movie, TV show, or the like and you'll see results across Roku's "top TV and movie channels."

Cool, right? Except it's MIA: although the App Store and Google Play store descriptions tout this feature, it's not available in either version. According to a Roku rep I contacted: "[Search] will be debuting on the Roku Streaming Stick and will be available to other players over time."

Roku's blog post confirms this -- which doesn't explain why both app stores list Search as an included, working feature.

What are your thoughts on Roku 3.0? Good? Bad? Meh?

 

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