After three years of basically dragging its heels Apple has finally updated its Apple TV platform. But unlike the iPhone 6s, this is no incremental update. No — this update is HUGE, bringing with it a new platform, a new remote, a new look Apple TV puck and a brand new App Store.
The new Apple TV has now gone on sale in the UK and is priced at either £129 or £169, depending on which storage version you go for. Apple’s 2015 update to Apple TV joins the likes of Chromecast 2 on the fast-paced TV Streamer market, however, Google’s offering is significantly cheaper, works with iPhone and has been vastly improved. The Apple TV does have more under the hood though, as well as more features, such as a built in App Store and the ability to play games. It is also the only real option for iPhone/iPad users looking to take advantage of Apple’s AirPlay connectivity.
There’s been a lot of talk about Apple’s plans for the TV space during the past couple of years, largely off the back of how popular media streamers like Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV have become. The new Apple TV attempts to surpass all of the above, however, by taking everything that made its predecessor great and adding in some much needed features like Siri, an actual, proper version of iOS at its core, a brand new and actually useable controller and plenty of additional content options.
Here’s a break down of EVERYTHING you need to know about the new Apple TV.
The New Apple TV Specs
Processor: Dual-core A8 chip
RAM: 2 GB
Storage: 32 GB or 64 GB
Max. Output Video Resolution: 1080p
Dimensions: 98(L) x 98(W) x 33(H) mm
Weight: 425 g
Connectivity: 10/100BASE‑T Ethernet, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi‑Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
The New Apple TV Remote — And Also System Wide Search
A major feature of the new Apple TV is its remote. Called the “Siri Remote”–you guessed it–remote lets you use Siri to control your Apple TV. Pressing the Siri button on the remote you can say things like “Find movies with Tom Cruise” and the Apple TV will find them all based on your command. But you can also use the Siri Remote to navigate within movies too. If you missed something a character has said you can say “What did he say” and Siri will have the Apple TV instantly rewind. You can also use the Siri Remote to enable things like closed captioning or use it to as your Apple TV about the weather.
And that’s not all the Siri Remote can do. It’s also got a touch pad at its top–no more clicking through menus with directional buttons. Now you can swipe through them with ease. As if that’s not enough, the Siri Remote also has a built-in IR transmitter so it can actually control the volume on your TV or A/V receiver and turn it on or off too. That means there’s no need to reach for a separate remote to adjust the volume. The Siri Remote also has a built-in battery that’s charged via the Lightning connector built into it.
Perhaps the biggest software change with the new Apple TV is its focus on app. Though many of the same old Apple TV channels are still on the new Apple TV the new device has its own App Store featuring a host of app ranging from AirBnB to Zillow. Weather apps and animated screensaver were also demoed, as well as shopping apps. Just as with the regular App Stores many apps will be free, but expect some developers to charge for the more advanced ones.
One major announcement those of us in the UK will be happy to hear is that the BBC iPlayer is finally coming to the Apple TV. The service has long been available on virtually every other digital media player, games console, and smart television––with Apple TV being the only major absense.
Announcing the news, the BBC’s director-general Tony Hall told the BBC: “Available on over 10,000 devices, BBC iPlayer is one of the biggest and best on-demand video services in the world, and has transformed how UK audiences watch programmes online. I am delighted that iPlayer will be coming to the new Apple TV in the coming months, helping to bring the BBC’s distinctive and loved content to an even wider audience.”
Besides the BBC’s announcement that it’s iPlayer would finally be coming to the Apple TV, a number of other companies have shown off their apps already, including:
Simplex – an app that will stream your Plex library straight to Apple TV.
Streaks Workout – a fitness app that will give you video tutorials of home workouts right on your TV.
Withings Home – The first security camera compatible with the Apple TV. It will let you view CCTV fottage from your Withings Home cameras right on your Apple TV.
Another big new feature of the Apple TV is its support for not just apps, but games. But Sony and Microsoft need not worry. Apple isn’t going after the hardcore gaming and console market. Instead the games on Apple TV are focused around casual gaming. The company showed off a new Apple TV version of the hit Crossy Roads as well as Beat Sports.
As for playing the games, the new Apple TV remote supports physical gestures, so you can swing and move the remote like you can the controller on the Nintendo Wii. The Apple TV will also support thrid party game controllers like the one below from SteelSeries.
A few games have been announced already, including:
Mr Jump – the popular casual jumper game ffrom iOS comes to the Apple TV.
SketchParty TV –the drawing-and-guessing party game originally from iOS.
We’ll have our full review of the new Apple TV next week, but for now check out what some others are saying about it.
Buzzfeed: “It’s intuitive, uncomplicated, and — crucially — thoughtful. Is that a ridiculous thing to say about a set-top box? Probably. But it’s also true. Over the weekend, I told my loaner Apple TV to “show me horror movies from the ’80s,” and it did. And then I told it to show me “only the good ones,” and it did that too, filtering for films that were critically acclaimed. That’s thoughtful. “What did they say?” That’s thoughtful too.”
Verge: “In terms of iterative improvements to the Apple TV, this is the most important thing Apple could have done, and the execution here is among the best in the game.”
Mashable: “Talking to the TV also comes in handy because using the text interface on the Apple TV, while serviceable, isn’t ideal. Now, let’s be clear — this whole talking to the TV thing isn’t new. Amazon did it first with the Fire TV more than 18 months ago. But what makes the Apple approach different is, out of the box, Siri works with more than just iTunes. It works with Hulu, HBO (Go and Now), Showtime (and Showtime Anytime) and Netflix — with more support coming soon. This is a huge deal because it means you aren’t restricted to Apple’s walled garden of content.”
CNET: “The new Apple TV’s awesome remote and voice control make it one of the best entertainment devices, especially for anyone who already owns plenty of Apple gadgets.”
Walt Mossberg/recode: “I don’t know when, if ever, Apple will reinvent TV. But this isn’t the moment. I can say that, if I were buying a streaming box right now, this is the one I’d buy, if only for the promise of lots of apps. By making the set-top box a part of its giant app and services ecosystem, the company is moving Apple TV into a future that’s much broader and bigger than Roku’s or Amazon’s. And that makes the case. In effect, while it may not have reinvented all of TV, Apple has reinvented the streaming set-top box.”
The Wall Street Journal: “Ultimately, the Apple TV’s advantage is that it isn’t tied to the idea of channels, live TV or even streaming. It’s the place where developers are able to do the most cool interactive stuff for the widest audience. There’s already a workout show on the Apple TV that’s smart enough to know if you’re really working out. The TV of the future needs to be as powerful and easy to use as an iPhone, and this Apple TV is the first box—and the first Apple TV—to achieve that.”
Availability and Price
The Apple TV went on sale on October 30th. The 32GB version costs £129 and the 64GB version costs £169.
It’s because I use my Apple TV so much that I was bummed that Apple didn’t come out with a new TV streaming service and new Apple TV at WWDC like they were rumored to. This general discontent has been running for over a year as the last time the Apple TV received any kind of hardware upgrade was way back in January 2013.
But plans are afoot. And it looks as if September could be the month where we see the new Apple TV upgrade unveiled.
Apple “intends to announce its next-generation Apple TV in September, at the same event at which it typically unveils its new iPhones,” reports BuzzFeed. More recently, a bunch of reports have suggested Apple will unveil the new Apple TV alongside the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus on September 9.
“The device itself is pretty much as we described it to you in March, sources say, but ‘more polished’ after some additional tweaks. Expect a refreshed and slimmer chassis and new innards; Apple’s A8 system on chip; a new remote that sources say has been “drastically improved” by a touch-pad input; an increase in on-board storage; and an improved operating system that will support Siri voice control. Crucially, the new Apple TV will debut alongside a long-awaited App Store and the software development kit developers need to populate it.”
Additionally, the new Apple TV will feature between 8-16 GB of internal storage for cacheing video, reports 9to5Mac: “We are told that Apple has considered two pricing strategies: the simultaneous release of a $149 base model with 8GB of storage alongside a $199 16GB model, or the release of the 16GB Apple TV alone at $149.”
Other sources — like this article in the NY Times — reckon Apple’s next-generation Apple TV device will focus heavily on gaming, as well as film and TV shows. According to the report, Apple has the capabilities to push the idea of casual, living room gaming to the masses. The App Store is packed with hundreds of excellent games, many of which are hugely popular, and this could be thing that separates Apple’s attempt at popularising TV-based mobile gaming from other, less successful endeavours by players like Google and Amazon.
Nevertheless, much of this is speculation and while it is a nice idea I for one cannot see Apple focussing too heavily on gaming. Sure, it might be available but the main thing will be content like film and TV shows, as well as all the exclusive cable deals Apple has wrangled during the past 12 months.
As for the rumoured OTA video streaming service, which has been on the cards for AGES now, sources suggest Apple is currently knocking heads with content providers over rights and licensing deals. According to the report, the service could go live in late-2015, though a release in 2016 is far more likely – international licensing agreements tend to be very longwinded and VERY tricky.
“The Cupertino, Calif., tech firm is making broadcast networks the centerpiece of its cable-killer TV app — and talks with all four networks are rapidly gaining momentum, reports the New York Post. “Apple’s discussions with ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox initially foundered over the tech giant’s desire to offer on the soon-to-launch service local live TV feeds streamed on any Apple device, sources said.”
The platform itself is ready and raring to go as well. According to the Post’s source, “It ROCKS.”
“Apple was granted a patent filing for an Apple TV remote with inbuilt Touch ID sensor last week, allowing users to use their biometric data to enter TV passwords, created personalised profiles or controlling connected devices,” reports The Telegraph. “The patent, filed in January 2014, explores how biometric information collected through fingerprint sensors could be harnessed to personalise user profiles and acess accounts without the need for ‘annoying and/or burdensome’ logins.”
But for those of you who are as big fans of the Apple TV as I am there’s some good news. Slowly clues have been appearing in various bits of software–iOS 9 betas, OS X El Capitan betas, HomeKit frameworks–that majorly hint that a new version of the Apple TV is coming sooner rather than later. We’ve assembled all these clues here to see what they suggest the next version of the Apple TV will be like.
iOS 9 and Siri
This is probably the biggest news yet about the new Apple TV. According to 9to5Mac’s Mark Gurman the new Apple TV will, for the first time ever, run a full-fledged versions of iOS:
“According to sources, this new Apple TV model, codenamed J34, will be the first model to run a full-blown iOS core. Specifically, the new Apple TV operating system will be a TV-optimized version of iOS 9. In addition to the new hardware inside, running iOS 9 will give the new Apple TV a series of benefits over the current model.”
This is HUGE news and will enable the new Apple TV to do things that the old Apple TV never could. For starters, the new Apple TV will support Siri, says Gurman. “Currently, there are two main ways to control an Apple TV: the Remote app on iOS devices, and the small aluminum remote that makes typing characters difficult. Utilizing a microphone in the new physical remote, the Apple TV could make searching for content or beginning playback simpler by using the voice-based Siri system. For example, users will likely be able to search up a James Bond movie by saying ‘Search for Goldfinger,’ or begin playback of an Apple Music playlist by saying ‘Play my Party Mix.’”
Beyond Siri, however, the new Apple TV will also take advantage of iOS 9’s Proactive search, reports Buzzfeed:
“Sources familiar with Apple’s plans say that a cornerstone of the the company’s new set-top box is a universal search feature that will enable searches across multiple streaming video services as well as Apple’s iTunes Store. Instead of searching the catalogs of multiple video services one-at-a-time for a particular movie, you’ll now be able to search all — or most of them — at once and then choose the service on which you’d like to watch it. You’ll also be able to search for actors and directors, and run other more targeted searches as well — all with Siri.”
This will allow users to search both across the OS itself and inside third part apps. In other words, you’ll be able to search for “Star Wars” and see what channels have Star Wars content available: no matter if it’s from the iTunes Store or Netflix–the new Apple TV will show you where you can get the content you are looking for.
App Store and Apple TV Developer SDK
Another sure thing, says Gurman, is an Apple TV App Store and official developer SDK.
“Third-party applications support plus a full Software Development Kit for the Apple TV will be two tentpoles of the new device,” says Gurman. “This means that developers, just like with the iPhone and iPad, will be able to build apps for the Apple TV. These applications will likely be able to be downloaded via a dedicated App Store accessible via the new Apple TV. We are told that Apple’s focus on Apple TV App Store apps has been video-centric applications, which would allow media companies to release new channels on the Apple TV on their own schedule, and not on Apple’s.”
But though developers will be able to make apps for the new Apple TV, Gurman says Apple has designed the SDK with a focus on video–so content providers can create better channels. However, games support is also likely.
New Apple TV Remote With TouchID
The Apple TV remote will also be getting something of an overall too. According to a recent patent filing, obtained by Patently Apple, Apple is looking implementing its Touch ID technology inside the Apple TV remote. Whether this feature will appear inside the next update to Apple TV, however, remains to be seen.
Either way, the inclusion of a fingerprint scanner on the remote will enable a personalised experience for each user, enhanced security features and, perhaps, even the possibility of making payments (via channels) inside the Apple TV ecosystem.
“Along with providing personalised program information,” notes Mac World, “if the Apple TV becomes the hub for HomeKit devices in the home, it could be used to define the optimum setting of gadgets in the home, as preset by the user. The best bit: you’d never have to enter your Netflix password again. It will also help parents ensure that kids don’t gain access to content they aren’t authorised to view.”
Apple Support Documents Suggest New Apple TV Is Imminent
There’s no greater sign that the new Apple TV is imminent than the one Apple has pasted all over one of its support documents. The document, titled “Set up and use HomeKit-enabled accessories with your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch”, can be found here. The document explains how to use HomeKit devices with your iOS devices. The pertinent part is this:
“Control your accessories away from home
If you have an Apple TV (3rd generation or later) with software version 7.0 or later, you can control your HomeKit-enabled accessories when you’re away from home using your iOS device.
Sign into iCloud with the same Apple ID on your iOS device and Apple TV, and you’ll be able to use Siri commands to remotely control your accessories. If your remote access isn’t working, sign out out of iCloud on your Apple TV, then sign back in.”
You’ll notice that it says “If you have an Apple TV (3rd generation or later)”. Right now no “or later” exists. The Apple TV is only 3 generations old, suggesting a new one is coming soon….
OS X 10.11 El Capitan Code Leaks New Apple TV Remote
Further clues to the next Apple TV are found within the code for the latest OS X 10.11 El Capitan beta. As 9to5Mac points out:
“A new file inside of El Capitan seems to confirm that Apple has been working on a new Bluetooth Remote Control. According to our scan of the file’s contents, this new piece of hardware integrates a dedicated Bluetooth wireless chip, can connect with devices via an infrared sensor, and includes a Multi-Touch trackpad with inertial scrolling support. There is also a reference to what could be Force Touch support, but we are less certain about that.”
The code also reveals a hook for audio, which could signal Siri support built right into the remote. This would allow users to perform voice searches for content on a new Apple TV.
iOS 9 Beta Is a Sign of Apple TV Features To Come
But the most pertinent hints of what the next Apple TV will be like are derived from the iOS 9 betas Apple has been releasing. The biggest hint comes from iOS 9’s ability to search in-app. In iOS 9 you’ll be able to use Spotlight search to not only retrieve results from the main apps on your iPhone and the web, but also release from inside third-party apps as well.
“One of the biggest complaints about streaming boxes like the Apple TV is that search is a mess. Let’s say you wanted to watch the brilliant, but recently cancelled, show “Hannibal.” Since the Apple TV offers no system-wide search, you have to dive into each app to see if the show is there. After a bit of digging around, you might figure out that it’s for sale in iTunes and recent episodes are on Hulu Plus, but it will take some work….
Thankfully, iOS 9 offers a solution: in-app search. Thanks to a new Spotlight API, developers will be able to tie their apps’ data into the system-wide search. For example, searching Spotlight for “bacon” might bring up a number of bacon-related recipes in Paprika. How great would this be on the Apple TV? With in-app search, you could use a single search box to find out that “Hannibal” is available in iTunes, Hulu Plus, and on Amazon Prime Instant Video.”
Centers also believes that the new picture-in-picture mode available on the iPad in iOS 9 hints at the same feature coming to the Apple TV.
Is he right? Probably. After all, many clue found in iOS 8 and OS X 10.10 Yosemite hinted at the then-unannounced Apple Watch. Taken together, it’s becoming clear that though Apple didn’t unveil a new television streaming service at WWDC as anticipated, new Apple TV hardware IS on the way–and it’s coming sooner rather than later.