Following the arrival of the Apple Arcade gaming service on the Apple TV back in September 2019, and the launch of Apple’s TV+ service in November 2019, it’s frankly bizarre that the Apple TV itself hasn’t been updated. In fact, the last new model came out in 2017, which feels like a decade ago now.
It does seem amiss that Apple has failed to develop the hardware while it has promoted the Apple TV as a gaming console.
What’s more, it’s a surprise that despite announcing the new Apple One subscription service on 15 September – which will bundle the Apple TV+ service alongside Apple Music and iCloud – Apple still hasn’t updated the hardware that enables you to watch the Apple TV+ shows on your TV screen. (However, Apple TV isn’t the only way to watch – there are now many TVs with Apple TV built-in.)
The lack of a new and improved – or at least cheaper – Apple TV is astounding given the amount of money Apple has spent creating content for the new TV service. Here’s how the current Apple TV lineup looks:
Apple TV 4K: Unveiled in September 2017 it’s powered by the A10X Fusion chip, found in the 2017 iPad Pro models, and based on the A10 chip used in 2016’s iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. From £179/$179. This was the 5th generation Apple TV.
Apple TV HD: An even less powerful model than the 4K, the HD Apple TV (4th generation) launched in 2015 and sports the A8 chip found in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus (which dates back to 2014.) From £149/$149. This was the 4th generation Apple TV.
So, having established that Apple needs to address the performance gap in Apple TV hardware, when is the new Apple TV likely to arrive?
Before we attempt to answer that question, is there a possibility that we may never see a new Apple TV? Could Apple discontinue the Apple TV?
Will there be a new Apple TV?
Now that many new smart TVs and devices like the Amazon Fire TV, Roku, the new Xbox and PlayStation include the Apple TV app and support AirPlay 2 (for streaming content from your iPad or iPhone), is there a need for the Apple TV?
Perhaps not if the purpose of the Apple TV is to watch the content on Apple TV+ and anything you have bought from the iTunes Store, or AirPlay from your Apple device to your TV screen.
However, Apple TV offers more than a way of watching content. It also includes its own App Store and lots of games – including access to Apple Arcade games.
There are reports that suggest that Apple is going to reinvent the Apple TV as a games console, with a new games controller, and games to rival Zelda: Breath of the Wild. More on those rumours below.
So, while the Apple TV might not be the only device that you can stream Apple’s new shows on, it does look likely that Apple will upgrade its set-top box to what will be the 6th generation of the device (if you were counting), rather than discontinue the device. The next question is when…
When will the new Apple TV come out?
We expect a new Apple TV model to launch in spring 2021. Most likely March, which is when the next Apple event is rumoured to be held.
In fact, according to a tweet from famed Apple leaker Jon Prosser, the event is scheduled for Tuesday 23 March, and we should see the following there:
Based on information from Prosser’s “reliable source” a new Apple TV seems set to launch at that event on 23 March 2021.
This coincides with a Bloomberg report back in December 2020 that indicated an upgraded Apple TV would arrive at some point in 2021.
In fact, that report’s author, Mark Gurman had previously expected to see a new Apple TV in 2020, as he explained in a Periscope video on 21 April 2020.
Gruman wasn’t alone in that expectation. Throughout 2020 we were hearing from pundits and analysts that the new Apple TV was almost ready and just about to launch. The new Apple TV not appearing in 2020 was one of the year’s big surprises.
For example, Jon Prosser had expected to see an Apple TV in 2020 and tweeted on 7 May 2020 that the new Apple TV was ready to ship.
Why is Apple TV delayed?
According to Prosser, the new Apple TV has been ready to ship since May 2020. So where is it and when are we likely to see it?
We’re not sure why it’s been delayed, it could be as a result of component shortages (which are plaguing manufacturers in the wake of COVID-19), but we suspect that Apple is hanging on for the opportunity to launch its new Apple TV in a blaze of glory alongside a raft of new shows on Apple TV+. Right now, TV production faces delays because of the coronavirus pandemic, and there’s not much to announce.
It’s not the longest wait we’ve ever had for a new Apple TV though. It’s now approaching three and a half years, but there was a gap of almost four years between the first and second-generation Apple TV.
Here’s an overview of when Apple has launched new Apple TVs in the past. The fifth-gen Apple TV came out in September 2017, more than three years ago, but that’s no time at all compared to some of the waits we’d endured. Here’s when each of the models came out:
- Apple TV (first gen): Jan 2007
- Apple TV (second-gen): Sep 2010 (4 years later)
- Apple TV (third-gen): Mar 2012 (1.5 years later)
- Apple TV (fourth-gen): Oct 2015 (3.5 years later)
- Apple TV (fifth-gen, 4K): Sep 2017 (2 years later)
How much will the new Apple TV cost?
One change we’d like to see is a price drop. The Apple TV looks overpriced in comparison to the rest of the market – especially when you consider the age of the components used.
Currently, you can get a 32GB 4th generation Apple TV for £149/$149 (buy from Apple). This model launched in October 2015. It’s an extortionately high price for a four-year-old device and it’s powered by the A8 chip, which Apple may even stop supporting in the next year or so.
The newer (September 2017) Apple TV 4K currently sells for £179/$179 (with 32GB of storage) or £199/$199 (64GB). You can buy from Apple, or browse our roundup of the best Apple TV deals.
These prices are very high when compared to dongles such as Amazon’s Fire Stick () and the Google Chromecast (from £30), and Roku offerings (). Considering the Fire and the Roku can also access the Apple TV+ content you might wonder what Apple TV has that these cheaper dongles don’t… (More on that below).
One thing that Apple TV has going for it is the storage supplied. But those GBs of storage seem redundant when we are all used to streaming content. And it’s not as if we can record onto the Apple TV.
It’s not only that the Apple TV costs so much more than other devices. Are people really going to take kindly to paying more than £150 for a box if they also have to pay a monthly subscription for Apple’s new TV service and the Apple Arcade gaming subscription service in order to fully benefit from the hardware? We think not! Currently, you will at least get a year’s subscription to Apple TV+ if you do buy one but that’s not a huge incentive at the price.
We’d like to see Apple offer a cheaper Apple TV dongle to compete with the Fire Stick and Google Chromecast. A dongle might help the company reach the masses with its new streaming video service. An article on The Information in November 2018 claimed that Apple was indeed considering such a move. We’d love a smaller Apple TV that plugged directly into the back of our TV (which hangs on the wall and has no space for boxes beside it – and we’re sure we aren’t the only ones with a setup like that).
But it doesn’t have to be a smaller Apple TV; Apple could continue to sell the current models as a lower price. In the recent past Apple has sold the Apple TV for £99/$99 (until 2014) so reducing the price to that level wouldn’t be completely out of character. In fact, Apple cut the price of that box to £79/$69 at one point.
We’d like to see the price lower than £79/$69, though, given the lower prices of the above competition.
In October 2020 a tweet suggested that the new Apple TV model will be equipped with an “A14X-like” processor and able to play games with graphics like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Fudge isn’t the only leaker to refer to the new games controller. Generally, accurate leaker, Jon Prosser has also said that the new Apple TV could become even more attractive as a gaming platform thanks to the launch of a new gaming controller from Apple. Prosser said back in August 2020 that Apple has its own games controller under development.
Here’s what we’re expecting (or hoping for) in terms of spec updates.
One possible reason for the delay could be that Apple is waiting for a better chip. Prosser had indicated that the new Apple TV would feature an A12X chip – which is the same chip used in the 2018 iPad Pro – but perhaps Apple’s set it sights higher than that.
With new power-hungry services now on the Apple TV, such as the Apple Arcade gaming subscription service, and the HomeKit Secure Video service, the Apple TV seems likely to benefit from a next-generation processor, such as the A14 powering the iPhone 12 line.
Indeed, a Bloomberg report on 1 September 2020 suggested that Apple is giving the Apple TV a faster processor “for improved gaming”. However, that report indicates the new Apple TV might not launch until 2021.
Should Apple decide to use an A14 chip instead, that would allow vastly improved graphics performance and up to 6GB of RAM, according to the 9to5 Mac report mentioned above.
We may also see one of the Apple-made T-series chips inside the Apple TV too – these could be used to power Siri. Alternatively, could we see the M1 Chip on Apple TV?
Bigger hard drive
Given the 4K capabilities in the most recent Apple TV, we felt that an increased storage allocation was likely, but instead, it comes in 32GB and 64GB models, the same as on the 4th-gen model. In fact, 4K movies can only be streamed, not downloaded, much to the annoyance of many Apple TV owners who don’t want to be forced to stream a movie they own.
We expect that Apple will add a 128GB offering at some point, and it is conceivable that a 256GB version could be added. Mind you, we suspect that Apple’s customers don’t need so much, since they tend to be streaming content and storing content in iCloud.
Rumours do indeed suggest that the new model will offer 64GB or 128GB storage options.
Then again, we do wonder whether we really need any storage for this device if it’s just for streaming TV shows. On the other hand, if it’s a gaming device then the storage would be beneficial.
Reports suggest that the new Apple TV might get HDMI 2.1 which offers an Auto Low-Latency Mode that can adjust a television’s settings to better display fast-moving content without any lag.
New Apple TV remote
There is apparently a new Apple Remote in the works at Apple.
9to5Mac revealed in March 2020 that a leaked early build of iOS 14 indicated that a new Apple Remote is in the pipeline.
A September 2020 Bloomberg report also indicates that there will be an upgraded remote control. Bloomberg stated that we will see a new function for the remote control that makes it possible to find it if you have lost it. In other words, a variant of “Find My”. We look forward to being able to find our Apple TV remote many years after we lost it…
We hope Apple overhauls the remote, which we don’t currently like very much. Apple’s theory is that having a lot of buttons makes a remote complicated to use, which is fair enough, but the Apple Remote is complicated to use too, for other reasons.
It’s called the Siri Remote because you’re supposed to use Siri to control the Apple TV rather than the remote itself, but we aren’t really that sold on the idea of controlling everything with our voice. Unfortunately, the buttons aren’t easy to locate without looking down at the remote, and the touch-sensitive trackpad area at the top of the remote is too small to be really useful. In fact, the remote itself is just too small to be held comfortably.
But most of us have lost our remotes anyway, and are relying on our iPhones to control our Apple TVs. Want to use your iPhone to control an Apple TV? Find out more in our tutorial showing how to remote-control an Apple TV with an iPhone.
New Apple TV features
The new Apple TV is likely to feature an array of new hardware features, which we outline in the below section.
Mac mini Apple TV
We’ve always thought it would be great is if Apple combined the Mac mini with the Apple TV so that you could have a media centre in your living room with all the features of both Mac and Apple TV.
With the TV app arriving on the Mac perhaps this functionality is already coming to the Mac mini – and all other Macs. Any Mac could be plugged into a TV screen and the TV+ service run from that device. Read how to connect a Mac to a TV for more information.
HomePod Apple TV Combo
This is another possibility, especially in the light of news that Apple has switched the software on the HomePod from iOS to tvOS, according to a 9to5Mac report.
When the HomePod Software 13.4 update arrived in March, 9to5Mac analysed it and found that version 13.4 of the HomePod operating system is now based on tvOS, instead of iOS.
This is significant for a few reasons. One is that power consumption isn’t an issue for the HomePod or Apple TV as they are always plugged in, unlike iOS devices, so there isn’t the need for code that allows for that.
9to5Mac also notes that both devices operate as a home hub for HomeKit since they are always connected, another reason why they should share common code.
A final reason is the fact that the Apple TV and HomePod are using older processors and unifying the software enables Apple to support those devices even after it stops supporting the same processors in iOS.
But the really interesting idea is if it could indicate that a future device could combine the features of both the HomePod and the Apple TV. As we speculated in an article about how Apple could improve the HomePod, we’d like to see Apple add a screen to its smart speaker.
AirPod Siri support
You can pair the Apple AirPods with the Apple TV – with older AirPods it is possible to pause shows with a double-tap. Now that Siri commands can be used with the AirPods 2 (they can respond to “Hey Siri” commands), perhaps, it will be possible to activate Siri on the Apple TV via the new AirPods.
It is possible to use other Bluetooth headphones with Apple TV, but there are some limitations as to how many Bluetooth devices can be paired, especially if one of them is an audio accessory.
Integration with HomePod
Regardless of whether the two devices merge, as discussed above, we think it would be great if the Apple TV and HomePod could work hand-in-hand, even if it was only for voice recognition – a feature that came to the HomePod with iOS 13. You can already use the HomePod as your audio source for the Apple TV (although there can be some lag, so right now we don’t really recommend it).
What about an Apple TV that incorporated HomePod features. By which we don’t just mean “can play Apple Music”, which it can do currently, but with all the Siri features found in the HomePod.
Our colleagues at Macworld US have imagined a HomePod mini that combines HomePod and Apple TV features. In the event things didn’t quite work out that way – read our HomePod mini-review for more thoughts on that front – but it’s an appealing concept.
Siri on Apple TV
Speaking of which, you can talk to Siri on the HomePod from across the room, and it can hear you even if it’s playing music loud, it’s time that the Apple TV could do the same.
Currently, Siri can only hear your Apple TV commands via Remote control.
Perhaps the biggest factor affecting Apple’s plans in the television space is the fact that modern televisions come with all the software required to play the likes of Netflix, Now TV, UK on-demand channels, and so on. Owners of televisions purchased in the past few years – in fact, any owner of a 4K TV that Apple is targeting with the current Apple TV model – will have all the software required to run the sought after content on their TV.
And now that Samsung is supporting Apple TV+ content on its new TVs, and Sony and other TV manufacturers indicating that their new TVs will also offer Apple content, and Roku and Amazon Fire also offering the TV app, it certainly seems like Apple is now looking at partnering with TV manufacturers rather than selling its own set-top-box. Read more about which TVs run Apple TV+ here.
Another reason why Apple could discontinue the set-top box is the confusion its existence causes. It’s not the product itself but its name. There are too many TV products made by Apple. There’s the Apple TV set-top-box, the TV app (found on iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV, as well as Roku and Amazon Fire players, and some Samsung TVs) and the TV+ subscription service. We feel that Apple either needs to reinvent the Apple TV gadget to make it clearer how these different things fit together or simply stop selling it and remove part of the confusion.
For more information about what Apple will launch in the next 12 months, read our guide to the new Apple products coming out in 2021.
We also have news that Apple TV+ could be banned in Europe if Apple doesn’t commission more European shows!