When will Apple release the next Apple TV - the 5th-generation Apple TV, or Apple TV 5 - in the UK? And what new features, tech specs, UK price and design changes should we expect from the new 5G Apple TV for 2017?
The fourth-gen Apple TV - the first Apple TV device to allow users to install apps - was unveiled by Apple at the iPhone 6s launch event on 9 September 2015, and went on sale weeks later. More than 16 months later, we're eagerly looking ahead to the launch of the next, fifth-gen (5G) Apple TV. Indeed, there are already rumours that a next-generation Apple TV might arrive in 2017: perhaps even a special model to celebrate the Apple TV's 10th birthday.
In this article we gather all the evidence related to the fifth-gen Apple TV's release date, as well as reporting on all the rumours and clues about the 2017 Apple TV's new features, tech specs, UK price and design changes. However, if you're still interested in the Apple TV that's available right now, we've got plenty of information about the 2015 Apple TV, including pricing and the best places to buy. And don't forget our Apple TV buying guide 2017.
Last updated to include the rumour that the fifth-generation Apple TV will be 4K and HDR-enabled.
New Apple TV 2017 release date rumours UK: When will Apple release the 5th-gen Apple TV?
We expect Apple to release the next-gen Apple TV in 2017 to tie in with the product's 10th anniversary, but there has been no official announcement.
Here's when the four generations of Apple TV launched:
- 1st-gen Apple TV: January 2007
- 2nd-gen Apple TV: September 2010
- 3rd-gen Apple TV: March 2012
- 4th-gen Apple TV: September 2015
Evidently, Apple updates its Apple TV less often than its iPhones, iPads and Macs: there was a three-and-a-half-year wait between the first and second models, and between the third and fourth. Based on that, it would be reasonable to expect the 5th-gen Apple TV to appear in 2018 or even 2019, and we certainly don't have firm evidence to dispute that.
But our instincts tell us that the Apple TV's position and status in the company's portfolio of products has changed. It used to be a sideline and a hobby, but with the growing importance of streaming media and smart-home applications, and with the arrival on the platform of games and its own App Store, Apple TV is moving to centre stage.
And we're not the only ones to think Apple is likely to start updating the TV more frequently from now on.
A report (link for subscribers only) in DigiTimes last year predicted that the fifth-generation Apple TV would go into trial production as early as December 2015, with volume production starting in the first quarter of 2016. Changes were said to include a dramatically improved hardware performance and new functions "to help it no longer serve only as a set-top box".
Apple has officially discontinued the third-generation Apple TV after being on sale since 2012. The move from Apple forces users to invest in the upgraded fourth-gen Apple TV, which starts at £139 compared to the £59 price-tag of the third-gen device. The third-gen Apple TV didn't feature tvOS or the App Store, but was used as a budget option for users that only wanted to stream content to their TVs.
The choice to remove the third-gen Apple TV from the Apple TV lineup suggests, to us at least, that the wheels are in motion and that the fifth-gen Apple TV will be making an appearance sooner, rather than later.
Q3 2016 earnings call comments: 'Something bigger' on the way
Tim Cook made non-specific but intriguing comments about the future of the Apple TV at Apple's Q3 2016 earnings conference call. He made it very clear that Apple has big plans for its TV division, and plans to build "something bigger" with the product and surrounding ecosystem.
Near the end of the hour-long call, a question was posed by Kulbinder Garcha, the managing director of Credit Suisse:
"I think about some of the comments you've made about the TV market and how it's been stuck in the sixties and seventies, and the experience hasn't changed," Garcha said. "I understand that you've got the Apple TV box out, but in terms of driving actual video-on-demand services, is that something Apple wants to do themselves, do you want to partner, could you even build content? How do you think about that as an actual business opportunity, as opposed to, here's an Apple box and we sell some units but it's not that meaningful to the overall company in terms of size?"
Tim Cook's reply was enigmatic.
"The introduction of Apple TV and tvOS in last October and the subsequent OS releases and what's coming out this fall… think of that as building the foundation for what we believe can be a broader business over time," he said.
"I don't want to be more precise than that but you shouldn't look at what's there today and think we've done what we want to do. We've built a foundation that we can do something bigger off of."
Apple recorded record profit when it presented its Q1 2017 earnings, with iPhone and Mac sales both on the up with the iPhone having its best quarter ever. However, while the iPhone and Mac were on the up, the 'others' category which includes the Apple Watch, accessories, dongles and most importantly, the Apple TV, reported a loss.
The category reported 8 percent losses year-on-year despite the launch of a new Apple Watch and AirPods. Tim Cook claims that the Apple Watch set company records for unit sales and revenue, meaning the Watch isn't the problem. In fact, Apple CFO Luca Maestri told the Financial Times outright that one reason was falling Apple TV sales.
However, during the same earnings call, Tim Cook hinted at bigger Apple TV-focused ambitions. "We've come a long way in a year and it gives us a platform to build off of," he said during the call. "We are learning a lot about the original content business and thinking about ways we could play it."
One of Apple's latest hirings gives a bit more insight into its ultimate plans for the Apple TV division. It was announced in February 2017 that Apple has hired Timothy Twerdahl, a former Amazon exec, as a new vice president in charge of Apple TV. Twerdahl was previously the head of Amazon's Fire TV unit, and before that held executive positions at both Roku and Netflix, so he has plenty of experience when it comes to streaming TV services.
Twerdahl's hiring also frees up Pete Distad, who had previously held his role, to help expand Apple's efforts to create content deals, adding to speculation that the next step for Apple TV is a major move into developing exclusive and original content.
Read next: Complete guide to tvOS's new features
Looking again at those launch dates above, we feel like the tenth anniversary of the Apple TV, which we passed on 9 January 2017, might be a tempting occasion for a big update.
Apple tends to dislike historical wallowing - famously refusing to build a museum in its new headquarters because "we're focused on the future, not the past" - but there is a precedent for an anniversary product in the form of the Twentieth Anniversary Mac (number 4 in our article The 5 weirdest Macs of all time).
New Apple TV 2017 rumours UK: Interface changes
An Apple TV owner's user experience is largely dictated by the software side of things. How will Apple change the Apple TV interface?
Apple's next big plan for its Apple TV isn't new hardware: it's a software-based programme guide. That sounds boring, but it's potentially a powerful way of improving user-friendliness for those who are signed up to multiple content providers.
The first foundation of this strategy was laid with the announcements of tvOS 10 at WWDC in June. tvOS 10 includes a new feature known as 'single sign in', whereby a user can sign in once, with a single login and password, and tvOS will then automatically sign into a whole raft of services for them: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and so on. Nice and convenient.
But for many of us who do use multiple TV and movie services, a bigger issue than multiple sign-ins is simply keeping track of everything that's available to watch. Each service will have its own ways of highlighting new, popular or user-tailored recommendations, but having to open up two, three or even more apps to check out what's on offer when planning an evening's viewing is a slight pain.
This is where Apple comes in. The company is really good at stuff like this: forging relationships with content providers and creating a simple and trusted umbrella interface enabling users to browse and access everything they want. That was what iTunes was so good at, and the iOS App Store is successful in that regard too.
We just hope the new Apple TV programming guide has strong search. The App Store still has disappointing search, with worthless spammy apps that are good at SEO ranking above legitimate apps on relevant search terms. The two scenarios aren't quite the same - there isn't really such a thing as spam TV - but Apple still needs to find a way to foreground higher-quality content so it isn't drowned out by the volume.
For more information about upcoming changes to the Apple TV's interface, take a look at our complete guide to tvOS 10.
New Apple TV 2017 feature rumours: Apple TV streaming service
Rumours that Apple will launch a TV streaming service have been around for a while. If you'd like more of an in-depth discussion of this topic, take a look at our separate article about Apple's streaming service plans. Unfortunately for anyone who was looking forward to the launch of the service, it sounds like it will be further delayed as Apple continues to negotiate with the TV networks in the US.
The December 2015 report from Bloomberg claims that Apple is putting its plans for the streaming service on hold because the cable companies and networks are proving resistant to the idea.
In fact, Apple may ditch the idea altogether, focusing instead on offering the tvOS platform for media companies to sell their content directly to consumers via the App Store, according to the Bloomberg report. Bloomberg reckons the reason for the resistance is Apple's demand for content at a price the networks aren't happy with.
CBS CEO Les Moonves, who has often commented on the rumoured service, has also claimed that Apple has put the streaming service plans "on hold", according to Bloomberg.
Previously Moonves had hinted that the rumoured Apple TV steaming service would arrive in 2015. The revelation came during an earlier interview with Bloomberg TV in which he suggested his company would soon come to an arrangement with Apple.
Moonves said: "Apple is having conversations with everyone about doing their own streaming services. We have had those conversations, as have the other networks. Do I think something will happen? Probably, but I don't know when."
This isn't the first time Moonves has made comments about the rumoured service. Earlier this year he made a similar revelation in an interview at a Re/code conference, giving the impression that he was in ongoing conversations with Apple.
New Apple TV 2017 rumours: Apple rumoured to launch 4K Apple TV
While many of us are waiting for the next Apple TV with high hopes for what it might offer, the latest rumour suggests that the update will be a little... boring. Considering the huge change from the third- to fourth-generation Apple TV, we'd expect similar jumps between fourth- and fifth-generation devices, but if a recent Bloomberg report is anything to go by, that won't be the case.
Instead, the publication reports that Apple is planning to launch a new Apple TV this year with "more vivid colours", which we assume could be related to HDR support, a feature of many new 4K TVs. The fact that it's mention suggests that HDR will be supported also suggests that 4K support is incoming - something that other media streamers have offered since the fouth-gen Apple TV came out back in 2015.
Read on to find out more about the 2015 Apple TV...