When will the Apple TV be updated? Is it worth buying an Apple TV now, or will a new Apple TV come out in 2015? And why is Apple taking so long to update the Apple TV? We ask the questions about the 4th generation Apple TV, and attempt to find the answers in this article.
We've been waiting since January 2013 for Apple to update its Apple TV, so it's no surprise that there are so many rumours surrounding the new version of the Apple's set-top box. We've got release date rumours and speculation about new features that the device needs if it is to compete with the alternatives to Apple TV, especially here in the UK. We'll update this story as more Apple TV information becomes available, so be sure to check back from time to time.
Updated on 23 March with new rumours about a WWDC launch in June. Click here to skip straight to the latest news, or sit back and relax as we paint the whole picture.
Find out what else is in store for next year: Apple rumours and predictions for 2015
What is Apple TV?
The Apple TV is a tiny box (less than 10cm squared) that plugs into your TV and connects wirelessly to the internet to bring you access to films, TV programmes, your iTunes music, and more. You can connect to the iTunes Store to rent films and TV shows, or subscribe to Netfilx for £5.99 a month to get access to the massive library Netflix has on offer. Apple TV also offers access to Now TV, Vimeo, YouTube and Flickr, and more. It costs £59.
To avoid potential confusion, this article focuses on the Apple TV - the existing, currently available, set-top box that Apple has described as a hobby until recently - 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 all the rumours about the 'iTV' Apple Television here.
And if you just want to read about the currently available Apple TV model, try our updated Apple TV review and our dedicated Apple TV zone, where you'll find all of our Apple TV articles, reviews, buying advice and tutorials including:
- How to watch TV on Apple TV
- Expert tips for the Apple TV
- How to surf the web on an Apple TV
- How to get US Netflix in the UK on Apple TV
- How to jailbreak an Apple TV
Finally, try our preview of the new Apple TV, including all the features you can expect.
Apple TV price cut - but no new model
At the Apple Watch launch event - where we had hoped to hear about a new Apple TV - Apple instead cut the device's price, from $99 in the US to $69, and from £79 to £59 in the UK. It also announced that the HBO Now service will be available on Apple TV - but that's only in the US. There was, however, no sign of new Apple TV hardware. Read on to find out when we're likely to see a new Apple TV, as well as the details of the latest changes to the Apple TV offering.
One reason for the long wait for a new Apple TV: recent reports have indicated that Apple may launch a Netflix rival at some point, destined for a new version of the Apple TV, but the company has only recently started pitching the idea to the broadcasters.
New Apple TV 2015 release date: When's the new 4th-generation Apple TV coming out?
We've been expecting a new Apple TV for a while now. Could Apple be about to update the long-neglected TV set top box?
We hoped to see a new Apple TV at the Apple Watch event on 9 March. But analyst Gene Munster predicted that it was more likely that an updated Apple TV set-top box would be part of the company's autumn 2015 product lineup - and sure enough, the Apple TV got a price cut, not an update, on the 9 March.
Munster said: "We believe that a content service could be paired with an updated Apple TV box in a fall event alongside a new iPhone or iPad. We believe that an updated Apple TV and/or content offering could be one of the core new offerings from Apple in 2015, given our belief that the phone is likely to be an 'S' upgrade cycle, and there appears to be little new on the iPad side other than a potentially larger screen."
The latest reports suggest that Apple will be unveiling a new Apple TV at WWDC in June, complete with a new iTunes music streaming service that comes as the result of Apple's Beats acquisition.
9To5Mac first predicted the WWDC launch (for the music streaming service, at least) ahead of March's Apple Watch event, when there was lots of speculation to suggest that Apple would launch the Apple TV alongside the Apple Watch at that event.
Of course, that didn't happen (but Apple did reduce the price to £59), so the publication may well be correct.
"Apple currently plans to introduce the [Beats-based music streaming service], at least in beta form, at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in early June," reads the report. "The new iTunes music streaming service is based on technology acquired from Beats Music, including curated playlists, cloud-based libraries, and offering customised to the musical tastes of individual users."
The service is reportedly going to arrive as part of an iOS 8.4 update, and will be integrated into the iOS Music app, and on the Apple TV it'll replace the existing Beats channel.
As for the Apple TV itself, 9To5Mac says it'll be slimmer, with an improved remote control and a redesigned operating system that includes an Apple TV App Store for the first time.
Following the Apple Watch event, yet more reports to suggest that we'll get our first glimpse at a new Apple TV during WWDC 2015 emerged, this time from BuzzFeed of all places.
The website claims that "sources familiar with the company's plans" have said that the new Apple TV is coming at WWDC with a software kit for developers to allow them to create new apps specifically designed for the set-top box.
That same report claims that the Apple TV will have an A8 chip powering it, with much more storage than the 8GB in the current Apple TV model. Siri will also be included, and will work closely with Homekit to act as a hub for home automation. These are all rumours that have been floating around for a while now but seem to have stuck, which history suggests means they're probably accurate. You can find out more about the hardware, specs and features rumours later in this article.
However, this is not the first time we've heard believable rumours about the new Apple TV since its last update.
Back in August 2014, letemsvetem applem, one of the biggest Apple Premium Resellers in Slovakia, suggested that Apple would update the Apple TV the following week. (Their contact claimed that Apple had stopped selling current Apple TVs to resellers.)
Also in the summer of 2014, there was a theory when Apple was giving away £25 (or $25) iTunes vouchers with sales of the Apple TV, that the company was trying to shift the last load of Apple TV boxes before introducing a new unit. There was no delay on shipping the Apple TV though, so there was no evidence that stocks were short. That deal also ended on 30 September, which lead some to suppose that that the new Apple TV could come out on 1 October. It didn't, but if it had those people who had recently bought an Apple TV would have been able to return their model, which is not likely a situation Apple would be happy with (allowing for the 28 day statutory rights law). Obviously this theory proved false.
The idea that a new Apple TV is on the way isn't crazy, though. Back in February 2014, references to a fourth-generation Apple TV were spotted within iOS 7 configuration files, adding evidence to the rumours that suggested a new Apple TV is on the way. The references were spotted within an Apple TV framework that relates to the AirPlay functionality of the device. The framework mentions an "AppleTV4,1" which appears to be a next generation device that follows the current Apple TV, called "AppleTV3,2" within the framework.
Back in July 2014 a report came in from The Information (subscription required) that suggested the launch of the Apple TV (which we'd believed was imminent prior to WWDC of that year in the previous month) had been delayed due to negotiations with the cable companies. The reason for the delay: problems negotiating with the cable companies in the US, including Comcast. According to The Information, TV industry executives have said that "Apple has bit off more than it could chew" in terms of its plans for the Apple TV.
Incidentally, a possible reason for the Apple TV delay might have been the fact that Comcast were to be acquired by Time Warner Cable, with the merger, finally approved on 8 October 2014. The rumour that Apple is in negotiations with Comcast/Time Warner has been circling for some time. You can read more about that deal below.
Why hasn’t Apple updated the Apple TV hardware yet?
The last time Apple significantly updated the Apple TV hardware was three years ago in 2012 (When the company introduced the iPad 3). Since then dozens of set top boxes have entered the market leaving Apple behind in recent years. Why the long wait for an update?
Senior analyst and founder of Opus Research Dan Miller thinks Apple is biding its time, waiting for the role of the TV in the home to be defined, before it updates the Apple TV hardware. He told Benzinga: "The whole battle for rights and the role of the TV and the connected home and that sort of thing is still being defined. What goes on in the home is going to be content-driven. There's no need to upgrade the hardware at this point unless things sort out."
Others just think that the Apple TV isn't a big enough deal to Apple. Analyst, Jeff Kagan, told Benzinga: "We've been talking about Apple TV for years. We thought it would have taken over the landscape for years. But it didn't. It’s lost my attention. I don't really pay attention to it anymore. I don't think the customer does either. It's not a typical Apple success story."
The delay may also be because Apple has been able to reach an agreement with the networks and broadcasters that all parties are satisfied with. More on this below.
[Find out about the Apple Watch: Complete Guide to Apple Watch: release date, UK price, specs, size & weight]
Has Apple left it too late to update the Apple TV?
Apple might proudly be reporting that it has sold 20 million Apple TVs, but it has lost market share to its rivals, many of which offer better services to customers, particularly those in the UK. At least in the US, where Apple offers a good selection of channels, Apple has 17% of the market, in third place behind Roku (29%) and Chromecast (20%). But here in the UK, Apple may have been left behind by those options that include UK on demand television channels.
Apple also talks about how TV is stuck in the seventies. TV is stuck there, still tied to the schedules, but people aren't. People don't watch live TV, they watch TV via streaming services such as Netflix, or they tune into the OnDemand channels to catch up on TV shows they have missed.
People are already choosing to watch what they want when they want. The problem is that the Apple TV isn't giving them that. Sure there is a wealth of content on Netflix, but for the new TV shows, being broadcast now, you have to turn to the OnDemand offerings of those channels. And, at least in the UK, these are absent (with the exception of iPlayer, which is available, but only if you stream from your iPhone or iPad - that's a workaround, not a solution).
The Apple TV has limited appeal in the UK because Netflix is available on other devices, and Apple's own iTunes content is over priced. The company needs to move to a subscription model if the iTunes content is to have any appeal (read on for evidence that this may be happening).
New Apple TV 2015 rumours: HomeKit to make Apple TV the hub of the home?
With products that utilise HomeKit, which is part of iOS 8, likely to start hit stores in the first few months of 2015, and there are expectations that Apple will utilize the Apple TV to make it into a smart hub. Read: Apple HomeKit release date.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster believes that the Apple TV’s updated hardware and software will integrate content and gaming as well as HomeKit support.
Munster believes that with the arrival of HomeKit the Apple TV will become a hub for users' connected homes. He believes the "Hey Siri" handsfree feature that arrived in iOS 8 might be extended to the Apple TV, allowing users to control devices in their home with their voice.
Munster isn't the only one who believes this. Bob O'Donnell, founder and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research told CNBC: "It's a possibility that the company might upgrade the Apple TV to make it a smart home hub."
This is quite likely: the developer notes associated with one beta version of the software for the Apple TV refers to the device being used to "test HomeKit with your iOS apps", suggesting that the Apple TV will become the hub of the digital home, used to control all the devices in your home.
The Apple TV beta software was said to include "support for Family Sharing and can be used for testing Airplay and HomeKit with your iOS apps." That’s from Apple's own notes about the beta release, according to Apple Insider.
It is likely that the Apple TV will become a remote access point for the devices within your home, accessed via iCloud from wherever you are.
We already knew that the Apple TV featured HomeKit support, but this is the first time Apple has referred to it in the notes about the Apple TV. It was a Forbes source that initially revealed that the 7.0 update the Apple TV had added support for HomeKit. That source claims that the Apple TV would serve as the central hub of the HomeKit features. “HomeKit support is built into the Apple TV firmware now,” he said
It is likely that this new functionality will arrive as a software update to existing Apple TV units rather than requiring a new Apple TV box.
According to the Forbes source, anyone with a third generation Apple TV and with the latest 7.0 software update will now likely have a HomeKit-enabled central hub, whether they know it or not.
HomeKit (revealed at WWDC 2014) is the developer kit that enables communication between a iOS device and your various home appliances.
Apple has already revealed that HomeKit will use Bluetooth and WiFi to communicate, and Apple TV offers both. It’s always connected to WiFi and is always in your home. You could connect to it at any time and control your house’s lighting and heating when you are absent.
New Apple TV 2015 remote control rumours: Use Siri to control Apple TV
In some what related speculation, it's also thought that Siri could be used to control the Apple TV.
It was thought that when Steve Jobs claimed he had "cracked" what was wrong with television, and masterminded a way to make it a better user experience, he was talking about Siri. Siri launched around the time he made those comments, so the connection seemed feasible.
The Amazon FireTV offers voice control, which has lead to calls for Apple to include such a feature in the new Apple TV. Rumours have pointed towards Apple using Siri as a new input method for the Apple TV for some time.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster told investors that he expects that Apple will add voice control to the Apple TV.
It was thought that the new Apple TV's remote could 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.
However, some rumours suggest that Apple has moved away from Siri for a method to control the interface of the Apple TV, and alternatives have been listed below.
New Apple TV 2015 remote control rumours
There are a number of rumours suggesting that there will be new ways to control the Apple TV, other than the existing Remote Control, and the Remote app on your iPhone or iPad. These are outlined below:
Use the Apple Watch to control Apple TV
In an interview with BloombergBusinessweek Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed that: "I love operating my Apple TV from the watch". Regarding this feature Cook said: "There's-I don't think we showed this. I've got a little advance copy. And so it will operate your Apple TV, and you can imagine that it can control other things as well." Read more about the Apple Watch here.
Motion control for Apple TV
A magic wand for the Apple TV has been mentioned in a Steve Jobs email being used as evidence in court in the Apple v Samsung case. This "magic wand" was mentioned by Steve Jobs in a agenda for a managers meeting. It was intended for use with the Apple TV. The magic wand idea has also leaked in the past, with claims that Apple was looking at ways of controlling the Apple TV using motion. You can read the whole Steve Jobs email here.
KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is one of the many analysts who expect the new Apple TV will offer motion controls.
An Apple TV job listing in 2014 lead to speculation that Apple is planning to add a camera to the Apple TV. This camera could be used for FaceTime calls, or for motion detection. The vacancy was for a person to join Apple's Camera Software Team and within the job listing Apple refers to the Apple TV, among other Apple products (iPad, iPhone). The job openings was for a Camera Algorithms Developer, Camera Tuning Framework Engineer, Media System Performance Engineer, according to Apple Insider, and the qualified candidates need to have experience working with camera capture frameworks.
Since Apple acquired PrimeSense - the developer of the motion-tracking tech inside the original Kinect sensor for the Xbox 360 - there have been claims that the company would add motion detection to the Apple TV as a way to control the device. Now the first patent reassignment has occurred. Giving Apple a patent for a “projection-based 3D mapping solution”. The patent is based on an optical projection system that emits a light pattern onto objects, and can therefore detect movement in a 3D space, according to Apple Insider.
Apple could use this 3D mapping system to track body movement of customers using the Apple TV, allowing control of the device via gestures.
New look Apple TV remote
Other methods of controlling the Apple TV include bluetooth keyboards. This has been possible since a software update in January 2013 (Apple TV 5.2) meant that a Bluetooth keyboard could be used with the Apple TV – prior to that it was necessary to type by scrolling through the alphabet, selecting one letter at a time with the remote control. You can pair the keyboard under Settings > General > Bluetooth.
Apple's always been keen to make navigation possible with the minimum number of buttons and button presses, but we can't help but think that the current remote makes navigation on the current Apple TV a chore.
Martin Hajek has some concept designs for a new Apple Remote.
New Apple TV 2015 rumours: iOS 8 Continuity coming to the Apple TV
Another feature of iOS 8 and Yosemite is rumoured to be coming to the Apple TV. The 'Continuity' features (which include AirDrop and HandOff) allow you to move seamlessly between your Mac and iOS device. Apparently, Continuity is coming to the Apple TV, too. This may arrive as a software update for the current Apple TV.
9To5Mac reports that users running iOS, OS X and Apple TV betas have spotted evidence that Continuity is coming to the Apple TV sin the future. Several people have seen notifications that read "Device available for Continuity... Apple TV is now available for Continuity."
This could mean that a user who's been watching a movie on their iPhone on their journey home will walk into their house and see their movie automatically begin playing on their television thanks to the Apple TV.
In fact, Apple has also been awarded a new patent that describes a means to stream content from an Apple TV to an iOS device, rather than the other way round. The idea would allow someone watching something via an Apple TV to synchronize playback to their hand held device as they left the room, without interrupting the viewing of anyone else who was watching. The person leaving the room with the Apple TV could pick up watching the media at a later date, just where they left off, although they would have a limited time to access the content.
New Apple TV 2015 rumours: software updates and TV channels
Perhaps more important than the Apple TV set top box itself is the content offered to the owner. This is one reason why Apple frequently offers updates to the Apple TV software, adding new channels to the unit, at least in the US. For example, in the US Apple TV users may soon get a new channel - apparently HBO will be adding its HBO Now video streaming service to the Apple TV in April. The service will cost subscribers $15 monthly. UPDATE, 9 March 2015 - Indeed, Apple tonight confirmed that HBO Now will be added to the Apple TV offering in time for the fifth series of Game of Thrones.
While many are waiting for Apple to launch a new version of the Apple TV, the company has made a number of updates to the software and other capabilities over the years. Various updates to the Apple TV software have added a number of new app-style TV channels to the device, delivering new content to Apple TV users.
We still haven’t got nearly the breadth of content our US cousins have access to, but the a software update to Apple TV back in September 2014 did add some new content from Sky:
Sky has added some more Now TV subscription options to the Apple TV including the Entertainment Month Pass and the Sky Movies Month Pass.
- The Entertainment Month Pass includes shows from Sky 1, Sky Atlantic, Sky Living, ITV Encore, Gold, Comedy Channel, Fox, and ABC Studios. It costs £4.99 a month.
- The Movies Month Pass includes streaming of more than 800 movies for £8.99 a month following a 30-day free trial.
- There is already access to the Sky Sports Day pass, which costs £9.99 a day (currently there is a special offer of £6.99 a day and £10.99 for a week).
Earlier in 2014 a software update added the ability to hide channels from the main menu. This was previously possible, but it is now much simpler. As with iOS, if you wish to hide an item, hold down the Select button on the remote and when the icons start jiggling, select the item, press Play/Pause and select Hide This Item. Previously you had to go in to parental settings to choose whether to hide certain channels.
In February 2014, Apple added a brand-new channel to the Apple TV to commemorate the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' American debut, featuring a video of the band's appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, as well as links to several of the band's albums.
In December 2013 Apple added support for the Sky Sports Day Pass to the Apple TV, via Sky's Now TV service. Thanks to this update sports fans in the UK can buy a 24-hour pass for £9.99 and gain access to all the Sky Sports channels. Just this week, Apple added the Red Bull channel to the Apple TV.
The most recent major update was the Apple TV Software Update 6.0 in September 2013 – in conjunction with the launch of iOS 7. That update bought iTunes Radio (to the US); access to the iTunes Music Store for browsing, purchasing and playing music; iCloud Photos gained support for playing videos in a shared photo stream as well as viewing photo streams; AirPlay from iCloud meant that content stored in iTunes in the Cloud could be streamed; iMovie Theatre became available for streaming homemade iMovies; subtitles, automatic Software Updates and the ability to use an iPhone iPad, or iPod touch to transfer network settings to your Apple TV were also added.
Prior to that update in September, June 2013 bought Apple TV Software Update 5.3, which offered support for third-party content from HBO GO and ESPN in the States, along with Sky News, Quello and Crunchyroll.
As you can see, over the months and years, Apple has added various features to the Apple TV without actually updating the hardware. Many of these updates have bought content to the device, such as the recent addition of Sky's Now TV Sports Day Pass in the UK, and the HBO GO programming on offer in the US. These additions suggest that Apple is working hard behind the scenes to reach agreements with content owners so that it can improve the content offering of the device. The great news is it seems to be the case that even older Apple TV boxes can take advantage of these features as they come in the form of software updates.
Unfortunately there is only a small collection of 'channels' available to Apple TV users in the UK. The US have a much wider range of options. It's actually embarrassing.
Here's how the two compare:
UK Apple TV content:
US Apple TV content:
New Apple TV 2015 rumours: iPlayer and other OnDemand channels to arrive on Apple TV?
The most noticeable absence from the UK line up are the UK OnDemand channels iPlayer, 4OD, iTV Player, Demand 5 and others. When the new Apple TV launched we hope to see the UK's On Demand channels finally coming to the Apple TV. Most of Apple's competition in this field offers catch up TV and On Demand options and Apple's lack of iPlayer and 4oD and the like is particularly astonishing in this context. (While it is true that you can play iPlayer content on the Apple TV this is only when you stream it from an iPad or iPhone, which we see as more of a workaround than a satisfactory set up.)
It is no surprise that this lack of OnDemand content is a major criticism of the existing Apple TV in the UK. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that it this content is available on much of the competition, including Google's Chromecast.
Will the new Apple TV have an iPlayer app, or will the BBC just continue to rely on its iPlayer app for iPhone and iPad? The future looks bleak. The BBC has revealed that it decided to support the Google Chromecast at launch, despite still not offering iPlayer for Apple TV, because the "Apple TV currently works only with Apple devices."
The BBC states on its website: "Chromecast has SDKs available for a number of different platforms including iOS, Android, and the Chrome browser for laptop and desktop computers."
Although the Chromecast requires a mobile device or the Chrome browser to operate, it takes the streams directly from the content provider, not from your phone, and the Chromecast dongle does all the lifting of decoding and playing the video stream. This system is easier on the devices battery and more efficient in terms of network activity, explains the BBC.
As we mentioned below, Apple needs to get the UK's On Demand and catch up TV channels onto the UK Apple TV if it is to match the competition. Apple's main competition in this field: the Roku 3 offers access to the UK On Demand channels, as does YouView and FreeTime and many other TV streaming options. Read more: Why Apple needs to tune in to the needs of UK Apple TV users.
New Apple TV 2015 rumours: Apple to add more content to Apple TV
Luckily, there is evidence that Apple is working hard on its relationship with content producers, and also on making the user experience with third-party apps better.
In February 2015, rumours picked up about a possible Netflix rival from Apple itself that would rival Netflix, with reports from Re/code claiming that industry executives have said Apple is in talks with TV programmers about deals that would enable the company to launch such service for the Apple TV.
According to Re/code, Apple has given up trying to work with the cable companies in the US and is now creating its own streaming service and working directly with content providers. Talks are apparently still in the early stages though, with some programmers telling re/code that they are yet to hear from Apple.
Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster also believes that Apple has been in talks with content providers to develop its own content service akin to Sling TV, a web-based, $20 a month TV service from Dish.
US satellite company, Dish, plans to stream a package of channels over the internet to their customers. The service will cost $20 a month. Those channels include the likes of CNN, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, the Disney Channel, and ESPN. While there are a number of issues with the set up, as indicated by this Re/code report and this Business Insider report, it’s interesting because such a service could feasibly be used by a company such as Apple to deliver free TV streaming to its customers.
Claims that Apple is working with TV companies have been ongoing for some time, for example, in January and February 2014 Apple advertised job vacancies for people to "help ensure that video streaming is smooth as well as liaise with third party content producers to make sure that the user experience is exemplary."
One position is for an Apple TV Content Partner Engineer who will "provide technical support to external vendors as they integrate their content." This person will also focus on the user experience when using third-party Apple TV channels and provide feedback to those partners.
Another position is for a Software QA Engineer to work with content providers and Apple's engineers to identify defects with the content and software, according to Apple Insider's report.
In 2013 Apple was also in discussions with the world's media companies, as can be seen from the gradual roll out of programming from these content providers in Apple TV software updates.
Back in 2009, according to AllThingsD sources, Apple pitched TV networks with the idea of a subscription-based service for which consumers would pay $30 a month.
The idea that Apple could see success by adding more content to the Apple TV is a popular theory. Former Apple exec Jean-Louis Gassée wrote: "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."
Unfortunately one major deal rumoured to have been close to completion was with Time Warner, who were then bought by Comcast, potentially putting a stop to any such agreement with Apple.
Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo also thinks 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 2015 rumours: Apps for Apple TV
Another rumour is that Apple will add other apps, turning the device into a large screen version of your iPad or iPhone. The new Apple TV will blend live TV listings with apps and video, and it will have a big focus on gaming, people familiar with the Apple Comcast talks told The Information.
There are suggestions that Apple may launch an App Store for the Apple TV, allowing us to use many of the apps we use on our iPad and iPhone on our TV. The iPlayer and Channel 4OD apps would be particularly welcome, as would weather apps, news apps, FaceTime, FaceBook and Twitter, and other means of entertainment. Storage could be a necessity here, if users need to be able to download apps to the Apple TV. We address the storage question below.
These Apple TV apps could include games and social networks. We address some of these rumours below.
New Apple TV 2015 rumours: Twitter & Facebook apps on the Apple TV
One rumour is that Apple will be able to offer access to Facebook and Twitter via the Apple TV. Global Equities Research Trip Chowdhry believes that Apple is working with FaceBook and Twitter to bring those apps to the Apple TV, the addition of these apps is said to be part of a drive towards ‘Social TV’, according to a Motley Fool report.
The idea will be that some TV channels will show Tweets using a special hastag along the bottom of the screen while the a programme is airing. While there is very little content that is available to watch live on the Apple TV, tweets could be time stamped so that they appear at the right time.
New Apple TV 2015 rumours: Games on the Apple TV
Calls for Apple to add gaming to the Apple TV increased following the launch of the Amazon FireTV. The FireTV offers more channels than the Apple TV, plus gaming. There are said to be 133 games available for the Amazon FireTV. Roku also offers games on its devices.
Apple does already offer some gaming on the Apple TV - although this is via the iPad.
Other reports are also suggesting that when the rumoured Apple TV update comes it could include games functionality. iLounge reports that, according to "reliable industry sources," an update to the Apple TV will soon bring games support and a game store.
Games would be downloaded directly to the device and the controller would be a Bluetooth device, according to iLounge.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster told investors in a note that he expects that Apple will add gaming to the Apple TV.
Apple has seen a lot of success with gaming on its iPad and iPhone devices and that might suggest that Apple will see as much success if it brings gaming to the Apple TV. Games developers may reach the same conclusion, and with games developers having already written games for the iPad and iPhone, they may be eager to write games for this new platform, especially if the processor and the operating system is the same.
However, rewriting an iOS game for the Apple TV may not be straightforward. It may not be simple to change the game's means of interaction from a touch screen interface to a hand held controller.
There's another reason why games developers may not jump at the chance of providing games for this new platform: right now there are 13 million Apple TVs, and not all of these Apple TV owners will want to play games. There are a lot more games consoles vying for the attention of games developers.
Regardless of the current Apple TV market share, gaming could open up the device to a new market of Apple TV customers.
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.
New Apple TV 2015 rumours: Integrated storage and live TV recording
These rumours of new gaming functionality pose the question of whether the new Apple TV will offer storage. The original Apple TV offered a 40GB or 160GB hard drive when it launched in 2010, but this was omitted from the following generations. Over the years Apple has moved towards streaming content from iTunes and other services, but much of the competition to the Apple TV offers storage, so maybe a SSD inside the Apple TV would be a good call.
Another reason why storage could be a bonus is if the Apple TV turned into a DVR, allowing you to record live TV.
In 2013 reports suggested that Apple was 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 (rather than internal storage) to be watched when they like. It would also allow users to access the TV shows they had recorded on the iPhone or iPad.
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 hang-ups is resistance by content providers to give Apple maker permission to make their programming available in this way.
New Apple TV 2015 rumours: TV Tuner for live TV
To make the recording of live TV possible the Apple TV would need a means to receive live TV. Enter another rumour – this one suggests that the new Apple TV could include a TV tuner, enabling Apple to offer live TV as well as OnDemand services.
With the integration of a TV tuner users could manage all their entertainment from one single Apple-designed interface.
This is a nice idea, but integrating a TV tuner in the device could mean that Apple needs different hardware for different countries. A look at the range of TV tuners offered by Elgato, for example, demonstrates the fact that it is necessary to sell different units in different countries due to the different standards, frequency bands, and so on.
New Apple TV 2015 rumours: Integrated AirPort Express
Reports have also claimed that the new Apple TV could include a built in AirPort Express wireless router. The AirPort Express wasn't updated last year when Apple updated the AirPort Extreme with 802.11ac technology, so, like the Apple TV, the AirPort Express is due an update.
The new version of the new Apple TV would include a 802.11ac router, writes 9to5Mac, explaining that this would improve video quality and stability as there would be no need to connect a separate wireless router.
However, where the AirPort Express is currently a similar size to the Apple TV, the AirPort Extreme features a much bigger box because the antennas needed to be further apart. If Apple integrated an AirPort Express inside the Apple TV it may need to be much bigger.
New Apple TV 2015 rumours: integrated in the Mac mini
This one is pure speculation on our part, but a Mac mini that included Apple TV hardware would be the perfect media centre for the Apple loving household.
New Apple TV 2015 rumours: A8 chip
Earlier in 2014 analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggested that the A7 chip could be used in the next Apple TV. That's the same chip as the iPhone 5s, iPad Air and Retina iPad mini features. Obviously now that the A8 chip has launched in the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus it is possible that the A8 chip could appear.
Should the Apple TV gain either of these chips - which are 64-bit - it would have enough power to run games.
New Apple TV 2014 rumours: concept images
Martin Hajek, famous for creating concept images of the iPhone 6, has now come up with a number of concept images for the Apple TV including a new look remote control that take inspiration from the iPod touch (it reminds us of the iPod nano from a few generations ago). His Apple TV measures 9.8 x 9.8 cm (similar to the current Apple TV) but is thinner at 1.67 cm. He has also suggested that models could come in grey, gold and silver.
Hajek worked with German website CURVED to come up with the images, which include one that shows the remote using inductive charging having been laid on top of the Apple TV.
The following images were produced by Hajek.
New Apple TV 2015 rumours: smaller Apple TV?
Following in the footsteps of the Roku Streaming Stick and Google ChromeCast, it's possible that Apple's next Apple TV could take a completely different form factor. Those devices take on the styling of a USB memory stick, except they plug into an HDMI port. They include no storage, and offer access to various web based TV channels and On Demand and subscription content. It seems reasonable to suppose that Apple might take on this design cue for the new Apple TV.
Luckily, Martin Hajek, famous for creating concept images of the iPhone 6, teamed up with German site, Curved.de to create some images of what they refer to as the AppleTV Air. Curved.de estimates the price at €49, which translates to around £40 or $67.
Alternatively, it is possible that the Apple TV could be bigger than it is currently if Apple was to include an Airport Express and a TV tuner inside the device, as discussed below.
We do expect that the ports on the back of the Apple TV will change. For example, Thunderbolt seems likely to be introduced in the next version of the Apple TV, 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 HDTV with an HDMI cable.
A smaller design wouldn't allow for all the ports currently found on the back of the Apple TV. The device currently features the following ports: HDMI2, Optical audio, 10/100BASE-T Ethernet, Built-in IR receiver and Micro-USB (for service and support). Perhaps the new Apple TV Streaming Stick could by pass these additional ports.
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. There are more concept images further down in this article.
New Apple TV 2014 rumours: New interface
It seems likely that the new Apple TV will feature a revamped interface that is a little more iOS-like than currently.
It is thought that the new Apple TV interface might unify the various apps and channels so that users can navigate all their content. For example, currently the same movie might be available to rent in iTunes and stream in Netflix, this new interface could make it possible to locate what you want to watch via your Apple TV from the home screen, rather than within separate apps.
Should Apple integrate a TV tuner in the new hardware the new interface may also include live TV channels.
Related: Why everyone thinks Apple will launch a 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 design 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 suggest that an Apple television - or iTV, ignoring possible confusion with the British TV broadcaster - is part of the plan for Apple.
Indeed, reports from the Far East claim that there is a fully fledged Apple television already in production.
However, at least for now, more likely that the company will be revamping its Apple TV set-top box with new features. Indeed, 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).
With set-top boxes such as Roku and YouView 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.
Background: What you need to know about the history and future of the Apple TV...
How old is the current Apple TV?
The Apple TV hardware in its current form is about two years old, although the most recent significant hardware update came nearly three years ago on 16 March 2012 when Apple added 1080p video support. The slight revision in January 2013 was more about making it cheaper for Apple to build than adding new functionality for users.
Apple has made a number of software updates to the unit over the years, adding new channels, however this tends to be very US focused, while here in the UK the Apple TV is way behind the competition who offer iPlayer, 4oD and other OnDemand channels. As much as we like the Apple TV we really can't forgive Apple for being so slow on the uptake when it comes to UK content. In the spring of 2014 Apple dropped the price in the UK, so you can now get the Apple TV for £79 (rather than £99), but the jury is out on whether this is a good deal, especially considering the additional features of the ever increasing competition.
Given the level of competition in this industry - you can read about all the Apple TV alternatives here - it is increasingly important that Apple doesn't drop the ball on the development of its 'hobby'. (Apple always used to refer to the Apple TV as a hobby for it, in recent years it's given the impression that it sees it as more important, but unfortunately in the UK Apple seems to have forgotten all about the product.)
- How to connect your iPhone to your TV
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Has Apple given up on the Apple TV?
Is this Comcast/Time Warner hiccup really the reason for the delay? For those of us in the UK any deal with Comcast/Time Warner would be irrelevant, so is this the real reason for the delay? Apple seems stuck in a rut in the UK, unable to even get a dedicated iPlayer channel on the Apple TV while all the competition has iPlayer and the other on demand channels. It looks like the company has all but given up on the product, at least in the UK.
The Apple TV may not be getting much love in the UK, but in the US Apple still seems to be proud of the Apple TV. During WWDC 2014 on 2 June, Apple didn't mention the Apple TV, instead focusing on OS X Yosemite and iOS 8, but, during the aforementioned conference, Apple's Eddy Cue said that he expects sales of the Apple TV to grow in 2014, as Apple works to evolve the device. He admitted that the current TV experience "sucks," but wouldn't talk about future products when probed about the future of the Apple TV. Spoil sport. Some might say the current Apple TV sucks given it's lack of channels in the UK.
Other evidence that Apple does care about the Apple TV includes the fact that Apple started promoting the Apple TV in its own section of the Apple online store earlier in 2014. Previously Apple had put the Apple TV into the same section as the iPod, but, perhaps because the iPod sales are in decline this product has now been given its own spotlight.
New Apple TV rumours: Why Apple needs a new Apple TV
As we mention above, the current Apple TV was last updated in January 2013 (a very minor update) referred to as 'third generation, Rev A'. Some would say that the Apple TV was last significantly updated in March 2012 when it introduced the third generation model with the still in use A5 chip and 512MB RAM, and 1080p video capabilities. Along with 8GB Flash memory (not for customer use) and the 10cm x 10cm dimensions little has changed since Apple redesigned the Apple TV in March 2012.
This hasn't stopped Apple from selling loads of the little boxes, though. During the Code Conference on 28 May, Apple Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue revealed that Apple has sold total of 20 million Apple TVs, making more than $1 billion for the company in fiscal 2013.
Apple has a great deal of competition in the TV streaming field, much of which offers more content and better features as you can see from our Apple TV alternatives article here. Having assessed what's on offer from the competition we concluded that Apple TV needs more UK OnDemand content if it is to be taken seriously here in the UK.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster thinks that the launch of the FireTV by Amazon (launched at the beginning of April) should spur Apple on to update the Apple TV. Munster told investors that he believes the Apple TV should become a "focus product line" for Apple, notes Apple Insider.
Another reason why Apple needs to update the Apple TV is the poor state of the TV experience - specifically cable TV. According to Jean-Louis Gassée (one time head of Apple France) as noted on his blog, cable TV delivery is flawed, and that is made worse by the fact that the US gets poor broadband for a higher price than other countries. Suggesting that "Carriers take too much money for a user-hostile experience simply because they can".
He adds: "In most locations, cable companies have little or no competition, so there’s no reason for them to do anything more than milk the most profit from a cheap infrastructure." Gassée notes that even where he is based, in Paris, the cable TV experience is a poor one, where users have to "juggle set-top box restarts and malfunctioning secondary content subscriptions" and suggests that Apple could "collapse this maze on impenetrable interfaces into one box".
This dismay with the cable TV offering is likely to be one reason why many are talking about Apple and Comcast working together in the US (as discussed below).
What does Tim Cook say about the Apple TV?
Apple CEO Tim Cook has had plenty to say about television over the past few years. In an televised interview with Charlie Rose in September he said: "Think how much your life has changed, and all the things around you that have changed, and yet TV, when you go into the living room to watch TV or wherever it may be, it almost feels like you're rewinding the clock and you've entered a time capsule and you're going backwards. The interface is terrible, I mean it's awful. You watch things when they come on unless you remember to record them."
Cook has often reiterated that the Apple TV is "no longer a hobby product for Apple". The company has sold more than 20 million of the set top boxes. He has also noted that Apple has 'taken a stab' at TV with Apple TV and claimed that it is an area Apple continues to look at.
What did Steve Jobs think of the Apple TV?
Steve Jobs always used to describe the Apple TV as a "hobby" but in the last years of his life he seemed to be won over to the idea that Apple could take a place in the living room. Jobs' biographer asked him about television and Jobs said he'd cracked it, leading to much speculation that Apple has big plans to improve it's Apple TV, or perhaps offer an actual Apple television set, sometimes referred to as iTV.
Jobs told Isaacson: "I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use. It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud. No longer would users have to fiddle with complex remotes for DVD players and cable channels. It will have the simplest use interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it."
However, Jobs wasn't all for the entry into the television market. According to claims in a book, Apple's late CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs had ruled out selling a television. The revelation appears in Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs by former Wall Street Journal reporter Yukari Iwatani Kane. Kane claims that on one occasion at a company retreat Jobs was asked whether Apple intended to release a television set and his response was: "no". Jobs went on to describe TV as a "terrible business," stating that "they don't turn over and the margins suck".
Despite this, further evidence has appeared that suggests that television was an area that Apple is interested in. As part of the Apple versus Samsung legal proceedings an email from Steve Jobs from October 2010 emerged that sheds some light on the importance of the Apple TV, which Apple was still describing as a hobby product at the time. In the rough agenda for a meeting, Jobs notes the strategy is to: "Stay in the living room game and make a great "must have" accessory for iOS devices."
The email suggests that part of the strategy will be to add content from NBC, CBS, Viacom and HBO. In addition, Jobs mentioned TV subscriptions, apps, and browser. This suggests that the company has been considering working with TV companies to offer subscriptions, as well as creating apps for the Apple TV for some time.
Also mentioned in the Steve Jobs email being presented in court in the Apple vs Samsung case is a "magic wand" for use with the Apple TV. The magic wand idea has also leaked in the past, with claims that Apple was looking at ways of controlling the Apple TV using motion. You can read the whole Steve Jobs email here.
What are the Apple TV & Comcast rumours?
As we mention above, Apple is rumoured to be in negotiations with Comcast, the largest television cable company and internet service provider in the US with a view to working with the company to bring the next version of the Apple TV to market.
Comcast, which has owned NBCUniversal since 2011, produces film and television content, operates cable channels and film studio Universal Pictures. Back in February 2014 Comcast agreed to merge with Time Warner Cable in an equity swap deal worth $45.2 billion. Apple is said to have been working on a deal with Time Warner Cable for some time, but the negotiations were thought to have been scuppered by the proposed Comcast buyout.
The latest report, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal in March, suggests that the negotiations have continued, with Apple and Comcast attempting to reach agreement.
It is thought that Comcast could benefit from a deal with Apple in a number of ways, especially at a time when more and more cable customers are cutting the cord in favour of on-demand services.
It is thought that the deal with Apple and Comcast could see Comcast replace the customer’s cable box with an Apple TV. It is suggested that customers will be happier with a user interface and hardware provided by Apple, and this will lower the cost of leasing the box.
Comcast will benefit from leaving Apple to secure content rights – as long as Apple doesn't price the service higher than traditional pay-TV services.
One area of contention is likely to be Apple's desire that users subscribe to Comcast services on the device itself, using their Apple ID credentials, and therefore Comcast will not have access to this customer data.
Apple will benefit because it will get priority treatment on Comcast’s network. By partnering with a cable company, Apple could get "managed service" status, which addresses the problems of net neutrality. If this system was implemented its Apple TV traffic would be separated from public traffic in the final mile, so users would get better bandwidth. This last mile is usually reserved by the cable company for its own services. Net neutrality rulings suggest that this practice shouldn't be allowed, but in January an appeals court ruled that ISPs like Comcast are legally able to prioritise some content over others.
Comcast has been the subject of criticism for its stance on net neutrality. Net neutrality rules are intended to stop ISPs charging companies like Netflix extra fees to ensure their customers receive high-quality service. Netflix and Comcast recently came to an agreement that ensures that Comcast's Netflix users have a good experience.
Apple will benefit if the Apple TV is able to bypass congestion on the web. However, according to the WSJ, Apple isn’t asking for its traffic to be prioritised by Comcast, just for its traffic to be part of Comcast’s managed services, in order to abide with the net neutrality rules that prevent Comcast from discriminating against some network traffic.
Jean-Louis Gassée is sceptical about the credibility of the Comcast and Apple rumours. He seconds Philip Elmer-DeWitt's suggestion that The Wall Street Journal was "played by someone intent on throwing a wrench into Comcast's plan to acquire Time Warner's cable operations".
The latest in the Comcast Apple saga is the revelation that Comcast has revealed that Apple is working on a new set-top box. It noted Apple's plans in its US Federal Communications filing that is part of its efforts to get the go-ahead for its proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable.
The mention of Apple came as Comcast sought to demonstrate that its competitors are looking for new ways to get content to customers. Comcast claimed that Apple is exploring "development of an Apple set-top box" in the filing.
Comcast for the US, what about Europe and UK? Apple and Virgin Media? Sky?
That's all very well, but what does this news mean to UK and European Apple TV owners. Not a lot. Comcast hasn't had a foot on UK soil since it sold its UK division to NTL in February 1998.
NTL went on to become Virgin Media, which is probably the UK's closest equivalent to Comcast. This is where it gets interesting: in 2013 Virgin Media was taken over by Liberty Global.
Liberty Global is the owner of 11 cable companies in Europe making it the largest cable operator in Europe with 18.4 million subscribers. It has a foothold in the UK, Poland, Switzerland, Belgium, Ireland, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic. It recently announced that it would acquire Dutch cable company Ziggo.
If Apple is looking for the European equivalent of Comcast to do business with in Europe, Liberty Global would be the obvious choice.
Incidentally, Liberty Global has a stake in Charter Communications, which was also pursuing Time Warner Cable, although unsuccessfully, given the news that Comcast will be merging with Time Warner.
Liberty Global's chairman John Malone is also chairman of television giant Discovery Communications, who make programming for The Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and other channels.
In his heyday, Malone controlled TCI (Tele-Communications Inc), which was the biggest cable operator in the United States for many years until he sold the systems. It was eventually purchased by AT&T, whose cable TV assets were later acquired by Charter Communications and Comcast.
Incidentally, Malone also owns a controlling stake in Sirius XM Radio, to which iTunes Radio could be considered a competitor.
Should Apple be negotiating a deal with Liberty Global in Europe the company may be in luck: Malone is a self-confessed Apple fan. In an interview with the Denver Post last year he revealed that he is "addicted to the iPad". He also owns an Apple desktop, a MacBook Air and an iPhone. However, he isn't a fan of the iPhone because the battery dies to fast: "I like the Apple ecosystem, I’m comfortable with it. But the iPhone battery life is probably the thing that keeps me from being 100 percent Apple," he said.
In the same interview, Malone shared his thoughts that the major cable operators need to consolidate in order to drive down programming costs and to achieve the scale needed to compete with internet giants such as Apple and Google. "The industry, without that co-operation, doesn't have enough scale to be a serious player in a global world," he said, adding that Google and Apple "are basically thinking in terms of billions of customers rather than tens of millions".
Liberty Global's CEO Mike Fries doesn't expect Apple to sell a television, though. He told Bloomberg last September: "I don't think Apple is going to build a TV." He revealed that Apple's strategy is talking to cable providers about revamping the interface for pay-TV services, one might conclude that Apple had been talking to him.
Another possibility is Apple teaming up with Sky. The Sky Now TV app already exists on the Apple TV, offering the Entertainment Month Pass, Movies Month Pass and the Sky Sports Day pass.