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've been waiting since January 2013 for Apple to update its Apple TV, some would say 2012 (which is when it last had a significant update), 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.
Latest: Modified version of iOS 9 interface developed for Apple TV
It's widely rumoured that the Apple TV will get a revamped interface when it's updated this autumn: one that's more like the iOS platform that runs on iPhone and iPad than the custom Apple TV interface the device runs currently.
Along with the iOS-like interface will come a dedicated App Store for the Apple TV - so you will be able to run iPhone-like apps on the device - and that also suggests that third-party games could start arriving on Apple TV. Which leads us to our next rumour…
Read next: How to update your iPhone or iPad to iOS 9
Latest: New Apple TV will support third-party wireless Bluetooth games controllers
While lots of attention has focused on the redesigned Apple TV remote that we're expecting this autumn, 9to5Mac's report suggests that the new Apple TV could also support wireless Bluetooth games controllers made by other companies.
It's predicted that controllers with console-standard features - joysticks, pressure-sensitive buttons and so on - will be supported by the Apple TV's software.
The report contradicts earlier rumours, however, by insisting that Apple TV controllers won't include sophisticated, Wii-esque motion-tracking features. (They may support simple motion control of the tilt-to-steer variety, though.)
The bundled remote is expected to feature a touchpad, incidentally, and would presumably make a serviceable controller for simpler games. But proper dedicated controllers by third parties, as on the iPhone and iPad, opens up greater potential in the gaming sphere.
Latest: New Apple TV to feature 'Made for Apple TV' shows
Opinions are mixed on whether Apple will unveil a TV-streaming service alongside the new Apple TV device: a companion service to Apple Music for which two logical brand names - Apple TV and Apple Watch - have already been taken by existing hardware products. (We think Apple Play would work quite well, or Apple Video.)
What is more generally agreed upon is that some kind of streaming service is in the pipeline, whether we'll see it in September or in the following months.
Most intriguing of all? Apple is understood to be working on (or commissioning) its own TV projects, much as Netflix has done. Sources now report that the company was one of the bidders when Clarkson, May and Hammond pitched their follow-up/rival to Top Gear (a programme which was picked up by Amazon Prime in the end), but why stop there? We hope Apple buys up the rights to a new tech-focused series of How It's Made, and gets Jony Ive to do the voiceovers.
Latest: New Apple TV will be 'twice as expensive as current Apple TV'
With all these appealing new rumours, one less pleasing snippet has started doing the rounds: the new Apple TV's price. It's expected to cost from $149 to $200 in the US, which is twice its current price, so expect a similar jump in price in the UK (where it currently costs £59).
It's true that £118 isn't a huge amount of money for what would be a hugely expanded device, with gaming, smart home control and a proprietary streaming service among the expected new areas that the Apple TV will cover; but Apple tends to steer clear of price rises on existing product lines. Maybe now would be the time to rebrand the Apple TV to reflect its greater scope - we'd vote for Apple Home.
In the rest of this article we examine all the rumours that have built up over the weeks and days since Apple last updated the Apple TV...
Find out what else is in store this year: Apple rumours and predictions for 2015
New Apple TV 2015 release date: Apple TV launching in September
The new Apple TV will launch in September, perhaps alongside the new iPhone.
Sources "familiar with Apple's plans" have apparently told BuzzFeed News that we can expect Apple to announce the new Apple TV in September at the traditional iPhone event.
According to the Buzzfeed report, we can “Expect a refreshed and slimmer chassis and new innards; Apple’s A8 system on chip; a new remote that sources say has been "drastically improved" by a touch-pad input; an increase in on-board storage; and an improved operating system that will support Siri voice control. Crucially, the new Apple TV will debut alongside a long-awaited App Store and the software development kit developers need to populate it."
New Apple TV coming, but subscription streaming service delayed
It looks like the new Apple TV will launch at the iPhone event in September, but the rumoured TV subscription service is no where near being ready yet.
The reason for the delay? Apparently talks with CBS, Fox, and NBC have stalled, according to Bloomberg.
As a result Apple's not expected to launch the new service until 2016.
And when it does, don’t expect the company to have confirmed deals in place with UK suppliers, it would appear that currently all its efforts are going into making agreements with US TV networks.
As well as being unsuccessful in coming to agreements with the partners, Apple has also failed to increase network capacity enough to ensure a “glitch-free viewing experience” for customers, according to the report. Bloomberg explains that the programs would need to be stored locally to the customer – that streaming a show from California to New York would not be appropriate. Apple currently has four data centers in California, Nevada, North Carolina and Oregon. Perhaps related to this, Apple is said to be in talks with at least one operator of small "micro-data centers", writes Bloomberg.
Read more about the Apple TV streaming service here.
Some Apple TV set top boxes recalled - new model coming soon?
Apple is recalling a small number of Apple TV units due to an unspecified faulty part, according to a MacRumors report.
The company is said to be contacting owners of the faulty units individually, rather than posting a webpage with information.
The boxes are being replaced with existing units, so it would appear that owners of the faulty units will not qualify for the new unit when it goes on sale.
New Apple TV launch date: WWDC launch rumours
The launch of the new Apple TV has been rumoured for some time. When Apple revealed its second quarter financial report, and during the earnings call CEO Tim Cook said a few things that convinced many that Apple was going to release a new Apple TV soon, and all eyes were on WWDC for a launch on 8 June - but the Apple TV didn't launch then. It is thought that the launch was postponed because Apple is seeking to do deals with cable companies in order to provide a subscription internet-TV.
However, according to the report, Apple's Netflix rival won’t be ready for launch in September. Instead, the Buzzfeed sources think that that will arrive: "Late this year - maybe, but more likely next year."
Speaking to analysts about the Apple TV prior to WWDC, Cook said: "I think we're on the early stages of just major, major changes in media that are going to be really great for consumers and I think Apple can be part of that."
Just days later on 30 April, Apple TV shipping estimates slipped to 1-2 weeks in the US, which is often a sign that a product is about to undergo a refresh. In the UK at time of writing (1 May), Apple TV shipping times still say 1-2 business days, but we'll be keeping an eye on the dispatch estimates and will update you if anything changes.
The biggest indicator that the Apple TV would arrive at WWDC was the invite to this year's WWDC - which had a round cornered square at the 'epicentre' of the image that looks just like an Apple TV.
The words ‘The epicentre of change’ set inside the Apple TV shaped box also hinted that the Apple TV would be gaining a new importance in Apple's line up. Just because the Apple TV didn't launch at WWDC doesn't mean this is not the case, as you will see if you read on, there are a number of rumours that the Apple TV is set to become the centre of Apple's HomeKit set up.
The June release date had been expected for some time. In March reports suggested that Apple would be unveiling a new Apple TV at WWDC in June, and along with news about a rumoured streaming service for TV shows, it is thought that a new iTunes music streaming service may arrive as the result of Apple's Beats acquisition in 2014.
A report in March, from BuzzFeed, authored by an ex Re/Code journalist, suggested that we'd get our first glimpse at a new Apple TV during WWDC 2015.
That 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.
There have been many rumours that an updated Apple TV set-top box will appear this year, but not everyone expected to see it as soon as WWDC. Piper Jaffrey analyst Gene Munster believes it will be part of the company's autumn 2015 product lineup.
In February, 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."
It is thought that the reason Apple didn't launch the Apple TV at WWDC was that it wanted to make a wider announcement about a TV streaming deal and a Apple TV app Store, but the deals weren't all in place so the company decided to bide its time.
How iOS 9 hints at new Apple TV features
When Apple unveiled it's plans for iOS 9 at WWDC in June, there were a few hints at new features that we might see in the Apple TV, we examine them below.
For example, iOS 9 hints at a solution for finding the content on your Apple TV that you want to watch - in-app search. Currently if you want to watch a programme on your Apple TV but don’t know whether it’s on iTunes or Netflix, or even Sky Now, you have to look inside the app to search for it. In iOS 9 the new Spotlight API will allow developers to give users access to the app data in system-wide search. If this rolls out to the Apple TV you could search for the show you want to watch and see which Apple TV channel will offer it, suggests Josh Centers over on Tidbits.com.
Centers also suggests that Siri suggestions in iOS 9 might hint at more Apple TV related goodies. In iOS 9 you can swipe to see suggestions based on your habits, be they recently used apps, nearby places, or news items. On the Apple TV this could be shows you have been watching, new TV shows you might like.
The new picture in picture feature coming to the iPad is another one that Centre’s thinks could make it to the Apple TV. On the iPad you can minimize the playing video, so that it continues to play in a small window while you look at something else, on the Apple TV this could allow you do watch a video while doing something else.
In additon to this, we already know that in Apple’s HomeKit support documentation the company outlines how the Apple TV will be used as a gateway device. The document reads: “If you have an Apple TV (3rd generation or later) with software version 7.0 or later, you can control your HomeKit-enabled accessories when you’re away from home using your iOS device. Sign into iCloud with the same Apple ID on your iOS device and Apple TV, and you’ll be able to use Siri commands to remotely control your accessories. If your remote access isn’t working, sign out of iCloud on your Apple TV, then sign back in.”
Plus AirPlay support in Safari in El Capitan will include the ability to stream web video to your TV, which will open up many more options for watching TV via your Apple TV.
Massive 4th Gen Apple TV clue spotted on Apple's website
Apple has published a new support document about HomeKit, its new smart home platform for internet connected devices, and in that document is a massive hint that a new Apple TV is about to launch.
In a section of the document titled "Control your accessories away from home," Apple has written: "If you have an Apple TV (3rd generation or later) with software version 7.0 or later, you can control your HomeKit-enabled accessories when you're away from home using your iOS device."
For the eagle-eyed among you, you'll notice that the "3rd generation or later" comment is particularly intriguing because there is no "later" yet. We are waiting for the fourth generation to launch, and it looks like WWDC on 8 June is going to be the day.
However, there is one possibility that could mean Apple hasn't confirmed the next Apple TV after all, and that's because Apple could be referring to the 3rd Gen Rev A version of the Apple TV, which was a minor update to the third generation that launched in January 2013.
And after our excitement about the clue in Apple's support document, a new report from the New York Times says the new Apple TV was planned for launch at WWDC 2015 but has in fact been postponed because "the product was not ready to be demonstrated."
Apple TV price: how much will the new Apple TV cost?
At the Apple Watch launch event in March Apple cut the Apple TV'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.
We don't know how much the new Apple TV will cost, but we expect that the new unit will have a higher price than the older unit currently on sale. Therefore, when the new Apple TV launches we think the price may actually rise back to £79 in the UK. Although there is so much competition that maybe Apple will keep it at £59.
How much money can Apple make from TV?
A TV service may generate $2 billion to $3 billion in revenue by 2018, said FBR Capital Markets analyst Daniel Ives, writes Bloomberg.
Why hasn’t Apple updated the Apple TV hardware for so long?
The last time Apple significantly updated the Apple TV hardware was three years ago in 2012. Since then dozens of set top boxes have entered the market leaving Apple behind in recent years. Why the long wait for an update?
Not only has it been ages since Apple last updated the Apple TV, there have been plenty of reports and rumours over the last years suggesting that a new Apple TV is in the works - even Steve Jobs spoke about TV to his biographer before he died, leading many to conclude that a new Apple TV would be launching soon. Years on and no new Apple TV has emerged.
There has been some evidence that a new Apple TV was in the works at Apple. For example, back in February 2014, references to what was thought to be 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.
It certainly appeared that something was holding things up. Then 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, as well as recent news that Comcast is claiming that it was never approached by Apple after all.
It may not be the cable companies that are holding things up, it may just be that Apple has been waiting for the right moment. Senior analyst and founder of Opus Research Dan Miller thinks Apple has been 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 here: Apple's plans for a streaming service and the delays due to Comcast.
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).
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