It’s been almost three years since Apple has released a new Apple TV, so it’s fair to say that it’s well overdue for an update at this point. Despite plenty of rumours that Apple is working on the next-gen model, however, it’s beginning to look like we still might not see it until early next year, although when it does arrive it could include a couple of interesting new features.
In all fairness, the diminutive set-top box began its life as a “hobby” for Apple, but the company clearly began taking it a bit more seriously when it morphed into a fully app-capable device with the release of the revamped fourth-generation version in 2015 that introduced the new tvOS operating system.
Since the 2015 model only supported HD output, however, two years later we saw a bump into higher resolution with the Apple TV 4K. The new model added a slightly faster CPU to handle the demands of 4K and HDR video, but otherwise remained virtually identical to the original fourth-generation model released in 2015, which got rebranded the “Apple TV HD” and continued to be available alongside the newer 2017 model.
While the Apple TV supported apps and games from the very first version of tvOS, it didn’t really come into its own as a gaming platform until last year, when tvOS 13 added support for mainstream gaming controllers, along with its Apple Arcade subscription gaming service. With two years having passed since the Apple TV 4K was released, we really expected Apple to release a refreshed Apple TV set-top box last fall to go along with the debut of Apple Arcade, and were somewhat surprised when that didn’t happen.
To be fair, there were no rumours pointing to the release of a new Apple TV at that point, however that didn’t rule out the possibility, since the timing seemed almost perfect, and any reports of a minor spec bump on the set-top box would have been easily lost amidst the bigger news of the iPhone 11 and Apple Watch Series 5 launches, not to mention Apple’s Arcade and TV+ services that landed at the same time.
Still, we didn’t really hear anything tangible about a new Apple TV until earlier this year, with code found in tvOS 13.4 making references to an as-yet-unreleased Apple TV device. Those early code references didn’t tell us much about the new Apple TV beyond the fact that it was expected to sport at least an A12 processor, which would be a healthy bump from the A10X found on the Apple TV 4K, but not really a big surprise, since it would be shocking to see Apple release the new set-top box with anything less in light of the demands of the games on Apple Arcade.
A couple of later reports seemingly confirmed the tvOS 13.4 findings of a new set-top box, including the internal “T1125” model number and the same A12X CPU found in the 2018 iPad Pro, with The Verifier suggesting that it would double the storage and add a new ‘Kids Mode’, while prolific leaker Jon Prosser added back in May that it “could drop any time.”
When Is It Coming?
However, while the reports of the new specs may still be accurate (they’re certainly believable), it does seem that the predictions of when the new box will launch have been somewhat premature. According to a new report from Bloomberg, Apple has indeed been working on a new Apple TV with a focus on better gaming performance, but it may not actually ship until next year — a far cry from the “ready to ship” prediction offered by Prosser back in May.
On the other hand, The Verifier had originally pegged a November or December release date, so it’s entirely possible that this could have been Apple’s intention before the novel coronavirus pandemic threw a monkey wrench into the company’s plans. After all, even the iPhone has been delayed at least into October, and that’s arguably a much higher priority for Apple than its set-top box.
The other interesting wrinkle is that tvOS 14 got barely a mention at this year’s WWDC, with Apple lumping it into a new Home category that focused far more on HomeKit features. While there could still be more hidden in there awaiting the new hardware, it does seem like the “Kids Mode” Screen Time feature should have been a part of the tvOS 14 announcement, rather than something exclusive to the new set-top box, as there’s little reason why the existing models shouldn’t be able to support it.
Find My…. Remote
One interesting new tidbit that Bloomberg does offer, however, is that Apple is working on a new Siri Remote for the new Apple TV that would for the first time offer support for Apple’s Find My app.
If true, it would not only be a feature that’s long overdue — considering how small the remote is we’re surprised Apple didn’t offer some kind of audible locator ping feature from the beginning — but it would make for a logical fit with Apple’s new AirTags, which recent rumours have also suggested may finally arrive this fall.
While the Bloomberg report doesn’t offer much detail about the feature, it’s safe to say that this doesn’t mean Apple will be putting a GPS locator chip into the Apple Remote. Instead, it’s very likely that it would work similarly to the Find My AirPods feature, which means at the very minimum users could trigger an audible sound from the Find My app on their iPhone to help them figure out where they left the remote. However, it’s also possible Apple could take this one step further and give it the full AirTags treatment, with an ultra wideband transceiver to allow users of UWB-equipped iPhones to actually hone in on exactly where in the room the remote is.