When will Apple announce a new Apple TV? In this article, we look at when Apple might update its Apple TV set-top box, bringing you speculation about the new Apple TV release date and Apple TV rumours about the new features we can expect to see in the next-generation.
This article focuses on the Apple TV - the set-top box that will be in its fourth generation - rather than the Apple television that is rumoured to be in the works. If you want to find out about more about the TV set, you can read about the iTV Apple Television here.
We'll update this story as more Apple TV information becomes available, so be sure to check back from time to time.
New Apple TV release date
We've been expecting a new Apple TV for a while now. When Apple announced that it would be hosting an event on 22 October, we were keeping an eye out for an Apple TV announcement. However, Apple chose to focus on new iPads and MacBook Pro models during the event, and no new Apple TV was mentioned.
Apple has rolled out multiple updates to the software for Apple TV over recent months, including adding a number of new app-style TV channels, delivering new content to Apple TV users. However, we've yet to see a hardware update, so we think one is in the pipeline.
In September, a tweet from MG Siegler sparked speculation that Apple would unveil a new Apple TV hardware product in October, so Apple's 22 October was expected to be just the occassion.
"I guess those excited about a software refresh in a week are gonna be really excited when new Apple TV hardware is unveiled next month," Siegler tweeted.
However, he wrote a new blog post that said Apple isn't ready to release a new Apple TV just yet after all, and he was right, no Apple TV came in October.
"While I still haven't heard anything concrete, the most recent whispers I have heard is that the Apple TV project has been delayed a bit," he wrote. "This doesn't mean we won't see an Apple TV update at the event [on 22 October] - we could see an updated unit with a spec bump or something. But the thing to be more excited about, the device with some sort of newfangled control system, doesn't seem like it's ready just yet."
Siegler mentions that it's possible that Apple may decide to host a third event before the end of the year to show off a new Apple TV, but we're rapidly running out of days left in 2013.
In November, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has an impressive Apple prediction track record, told investors that he believes Apple will launch a new Apple TV in 2014.
Apple last updated the Apple TV in March 2012. The third generation model looked and acted exactly the same as the previous model, but added 1080p video support. The launch came in conjunction with Apple TV Software Update 5.0, which bought the new features (with the exception of 1080p) to older Apple TVs. Changes include an interface overhaul, access to your purchased movies for streaming, the ability to purchase movies directly from your Apple TV, and access to Genius Playlists and Mixes in your iTunes Match music and Photo Stream.
A new Apple TV set-top box, or an Apple Television?
Following Apple CEO Tim Cook's comments that the television is an area of "intense interest" for the company, the web lit up with speculation about what the future could hold for Apple's widely anticipated living room take-over.
Most of the excitement surrounds the idea that Apple might have an actual television in the pipeline (fuelled by Steve Jobs’ comments in his biography that he had "cracked" television). However, many are speculating that Apple might intend only to update the Apple TV set-top box in such a way that Apple might be able to transform television without even having to build a box of their own.
"I'd like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use," Steve Jobs is quoted as saying in Walter Isaacson's biography of the Apple founder. "It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it."
Meanwhile Apple guru Jony Ive says that Apple's next big product: "feels like the most important and the best work we've done, and so it would be what we're working on right now, which of course I can't tell you about." Both of these suggests that an Apple television - or iTV - is in the plan for Apple.
Indeed, reports from the Far East claim that there is a fully-fledged Apple television already in production, however, even the most excitable of analysts thinks it's unlikely that Apple will launch a television set this year. Instead it seems much more likely that the company will be revamping its Apple TV set-top box with new features in the near future.
There is a school of thought that Apple would be better off concentrating its efforts on developing its current Apple TV device, rather than pursuing the idea of an actual television (described by some as the iTV despite that being the name of a UK TV channel).
After all, set-top boxes such as Roku, YouView and Google Chromecast are becoming increasingly popular, as internet services like Netflix and Lovefilm grow, and more and more consumers are looking for on-demand TV solutions. Apple is a popular competitor in the set-top box market, so it's likely it'll want to up its game to ensure it stays on top.
New Apple TV rumours: new features
When the new Apple TV launched we expect to see the following new features described below.
New Apple TV rumours: TV as apps
The current Apple TV has had multiple software updates over recent months with Apple adding a number of new app-style TV channels, delivering new content to Apple TV users.
For some time Apple has offered UK owners of the Apple TV access to Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo and Wall Street Journal Live alongside the iTunes content.
In February, news that the HBO Go app would be coming to the Apple TV sparked speculation that similar deals could see Apple offer Sky Go, BBC iPlayer, 4OD and other on-demand apps on the Apple TV in the UK. Then in June, Apple announced several new additions to its Apple TV, including Sky News sparking speculation that on-demand services such as BBC iPlayer could be coming to the Apple TV soon.
Crunchyroll and Qello are also available, with the predicted HBO Go, WatchESPN appearing on US models. Crunchyroll, the leading global video service for Japanese Anime and Asian media, lets users in the UK and other countries watch shows an hour after they air in Japan, while Qello lets worldwide users stream HD concerts and music documentaries on-demand.
The latest Apple TV update has bought Vevo, Disney, Weather & Smithsonian 'channels'. Vevo will provide music video content.
By adding these 'channels' in the form of apps to the Apple TV Apple seems to be suporting our theory that in the future we will be able to subscribe to content in the form of apps. Currently you can buy a series pass to a programme you like, with that programme delivered to your device each week. Could a UK production company such as Tiger Aspect, Hat Trick Productions or Endemol, package up their programming in an app and allow subscribers to download the content to their devices, effectively cutting out the middle man?
Former Apple exec Jean-Louis Gassée writes: "Cook has one thing right: The set-top box experience does place one back in time by 20 to 30 years. The solution? Channels, shows, special events should all be presented as apps. Click, pay and play, with standard fare for free. Catch the 6pm news when you get home at 9.30; watch two programmes side-by-side with Android 7 or iOS 9, all on your screen of choice: smartphone, tablet, PC or TV".
Gassee notes that the obstacle is the "tangled, encrusted business models that the Comcasts, CBSs, and Disneys cling to out of fear that Apple will wrest control of their content, that they’ll be disintermediated à la iTunes or the iPhone/iPad App Store."
Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says Apple may work to integrate "more TV content, services and its App Store" into Apple TV with the next generation, in order to ensure shipment growth is not limited.
New Apple TV rumours: new interface
One look at the Apple TV's current iOS-home-screen-like layout, and your mind starts imagining other icons – like, say, one for iPlayer, and another for Channel 4OD – filling up spaces in the grid. Indeed, the new UI introduced last year seemed like an obvious first step towards allowing content-provider-specific apps, as well as perhaps other types of apps.
Perhaps Apple should let users manage those sources and apps – which ones appear, which are hidden, and how they’re arranged.
New Apple TV rumours: A7 chip
Apple's iPhone 5s, iPad Air and Retina iPad mini sport the new A7 processor, and analyst Ming-Chi Kuo thinks this chip could be used in the next APple TV, too.
New Apple TV rumours: Bluetooth
Reports are suggesting that Apple's set top box may gain Bluetooth functionality in a move that could set that device on its way to taking over the living room.
In our report, we note that if Apple was to bring Bluetooth to Apple TV, users would be able to use a Bluetooth keyboard with the Apple TV, making it easier to add text (currently it is necessary to scroll through the alphabet, selecting one letter at a time with the remote control). The ability to use a keyboard with the Apple TV would make navigation of the iTunes Store and YouTube much easier.
Not only would typing be a breeze, you will be able to use arrow keys for navigation, the Return key to play or pause, and the Escape key to back-step.
It's unlikely that the Bluetooth connection would be used to connect to speakers - speakers are more likely to use Airplay. Nor will the Apple TV connect to the Mac via Bluetooth.
Another advantage of Bluetooth connectivity, it could open up a raft of third party remotes.
New Apple TV rumours: Siri voice control
A Bluetooth connected remote could also include a mic for Siri input, allowing users to control the Apple TV via speech. Users could speak to their Apple TV, requesting that it plays the episode of The Big Bang Theory where Raj has a crush on Siri.
New Apple TV rumours: DVR and cloud based recording
Apple is said to be in talks with cable companies in the US, hoping to come to an agreement that would allow the Apple TV to be used as a DVR (digital video recorder).
According to the Wall Street Journal report, the DVR version of the Apple TV would let customers store TV shows in the cloud to be watched when they like. It would also allow users to access the TV shows they had recorded on the iPhone or iPad.
Sounds like a great idea. Such a facility would turn the Apple TV into more than a mere streaming device and increase the content available to users. However, it has been reported that one of the major hangups is resistance by content providers to give Apple maker permission to make their programming available in this way.
New Apple TV rumours: Apple to be the new Virgin, Sky
Another suggestion is that Apple could set itself up as an alternative to the cable and satellite TV providers. Imagine Apple going head to head with Sky, Virgin and BT? And don't forget it would also be competing with the free TV services from Freeview or Freesat. And then there's YouView.
In the UK, and in the US and elsewhere, Apple would face strong competition, from broadcasters and established platforms for free TV.
Speaking of YouView: the hybrid TV service launched last year and is a partnership between the three telecoms operators and four broadcasters. It offers the BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and Demand5 along with access to Freeview TV. One would imagine that the UK broadcasters have a vested interest in this project, and there is a potential that they won't allow another company access to this content via any other means.
New Apple TV rumours: gaming
We have previously speculated that the Apple TV could become a games console, with iOS already being a popular gaming platform.
The rumour that Apple could turn the Apple TV into a games console has been running for some time. Back in 2009 we reported an analyst's comments that the Apple TV had a future as a gaming device.
Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter claimed Apple had a clear strategy to turn the Apple TV into an all round entertainment system.
"I think Apple has a deliberate strategy. They want to see what they can do with the handhelds - iPod Touch and iPhone - first, then move into console games," Pachter said. "Apple TV is the device that they can turn into a console, and they have essentially the same goals as Microsoft - to turn Apple TV into an entertainment and Internet hub."
Among our predictions for 2012 we discussed the theory that the Apple TV would evolve into a gaming device. While the Mac has traditionally been seen as a poor device for gaming (although this is changing: read about our favourite Mac Games here), there can be no doubt about Apple’s gaming prowess when it comes to the iPhone and the iPad. The iPad’s technological competence is nothing short of incredible when you consider its svelte form, and the new Retina display hints at an impressive future for gaming on the device. Even before the Retina display, impressive iOS titles like Infinity Blade were given an additional layer of detail that approaches the sort of lavish imagery we’re accustomed to on the Xbox 360 and PS3.
We think it’s likely that such a device is in the works, not least because Apple has seen just how lucrative a market gaming on the iPad and iPhone is. The current generation of iOS gaming is arguably giving Nintendo’s Wii a run for its money in graphical terms, what if Apple was to announce a console based on the A6X CPU that powers the iPad? Apple is a company that is constantly looking to expand into new and fertile territory, and gaming is another profitable arena that is waiting to be dominated.
New Apple TV rumours: test run for the Apple television
The question is whether these new features would be enough for Apple TV to transform television. It's fair to say that Apple could test out these ideas on the current device before launching an actual television set onto the market, if that is its plan.
New Apple TV 4: leaked images
It's unlikely that the design of the Apple TV will change from the current model. What may change is the ports on the back.
Currently the Apple TV features the following ports: HDMI2, Optical audio, 10/100BASE-T Ethernet, Built-in IR receiver and Micro-USB (for service and support).
Thunderbolt might be a start, then users could connect their Apple TV to an Apple Thunderbolt Display and pretend that they own the mythical Apple Television. Currently the Apple TV can only connect to a HD TV with an HDMI cable. Many who have decried the Apple TV's lack of a hard drive would be pleased if the company made the USB service port accessible for plugging in a hard drive.