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? Reports suggest that the 4th generation Apple TV will launch at Apple's WWDC this June. In the video above we talk about what we think the new Apple TV will offer (as well as discussing some other products likely to launch at WWDC). To find out more about what to expect at WWDC read: WWDC rumours
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.
Updated: We have a new patent hinting at a gesture based interface for the Apple TV, controlled using your hands, and maybe hinting at gaming. There's also news that the there may be a delay before Apple can announce its TV streaming service because one of the American TV companies is dawdling.
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Find out what else is in store this year: Apple rumours and predictions for 2015
Control the Apple TV with Hand gestures
A patent emerged in mid May that hints that Apple is hard at work devising a way of controlling the Apple TV using gestures.
The patent describes a means by which a computer could sense gestures made by a hand, or by “a sensing device coupled to the computer”.
Judging by the illustration it looks like a device could be affixed to the top of the screen, potentially a Mac or a TV attached to an Apple TV.
Apple refers to the various types of user interface that are available, and explains that this patent is for a three-dimensional user interface session control. In the patent application it is noted that systems already exist that use 3D sensors to provide position information and identify gestures and body parts, and also cameras that capture 3D information relating to an object and then shows an image that represents the object.
In Apple’s invention the computer recognises the three-dimensional user interface and any hand gestures within that interface. According to the patent illustrations, gestures could include raising the hand and lowering the hand, or swiping from side to side, or performing push or pull gestures.
If that all sounds a bit like the Xbox Kinect there’s a reason for that, the patent was filed by PrimeSense, the company who invented the motion tracking technology used in the Xbox Kinect, but the patent lists the assignee as Apple – this is because Apple acquired PrimeSense back in 2013.
What can we surmise from this patent in terms of new features we might see in Apple products? One thing is for sure, Apple wants to offer a gesture based interface in a 3D environment – basically Kinect like control of devices, otherwise why buy PrimeSense. What could it enable? The Apple TV seems to be the device that will benefit the most from that sort of control – swiping through programme lists, fast-forwarding or pausing information, for example. The idea that Apple would add motion controls to the Mac seems to go against Steve Jobs dismissal of a touch screen interface on a device that is upright, he said it would give you arm ache swiping around on the screen in front of you.
Another suggestion, that might make sense given the Kinect connection is the idea that the gestures could be used for gaming, and along with rumours that Apple might be transforming the Apple TV into a gaming device, many are excited by the idea that it might be able to play games on the Apple TV using hand gestures.
In fact, the patent suggests it could: “Be used to provide a gesture-based user interface, in which user movements detected by means of system 20 control an interactive computer application, such as a game, in place of tactile interface elements such as a mouse, joystick or other accessory.”
You can take a look at the patent here.
Apple's plans to launch a TV service
There are suggestions that Apple will launch its own TV service, taking on cable companies. It will cost people more, but, according to this Business Insider report, people will be happy to pay more if that means they don’t have to deal with cable companies.
Apple is said to be in discussion with the TV companies such as CBS, AVC and Fox instead of the cable companies.
It sounds like Les Moonves , the CEO of CBS, is keen to sign a deal with Apple to provide content on the Apple TV, at least he has said his company will "Probably do a deal with Apple TV," during an interview at the Recode conference.
However, apparently this TV service will be delayed though so we shouldn’t expect to see it at WWDC on 8 June. It sounds like the negotiation process is taking a little too long and the deals won’t be in place in time for the conference. The delay is said to be with NBC.
Apple TV to hide 4K capability
The new Apple TV will be capable of 4K, but at launch it won’t be 4K enabled, according to reports. Robert X. Cringely’s take on this is that Apple will introduce the Apple TV “in a way that’s exciting yet not intimating to potential partners”. In other words, it won’t be asking too much of them in the early days. There is more information about 4K on page 2 of this article.
New Apple TV to include a new Force Touch remote
The new Apple TV will come with a new look remote that will sport Force Touch features.
The remote will, apparently, have two buttons, as well as a touch sensitive pad that will allow users to navigate the Apple TV user interface, according to the New York Times.
We think that the touch sensitive pad could allow users to choose the speed at which they fast forward and rewind, as is the case on the Force Touch pad on the new MacBook and 13in MacBook Pro, users could press harder if they wanted to whiz through the programme faster.
According to the report the new remote will be thicker than it is currently, but a similar size to the remote for the Amazon Echo speaker.
Apple hasn't revised the Apple TV remote since 2010, when the company switched to a smaller set-top box running iOS.
While most set-top box remotes use AAA batteries, the Apple TV remote uses a coin cell battery, allowing it to be much thinner. It's also more sparsely-equipped than other remotes, with only a directional pad and buttons for selection, menu, and pause/play.
Read on below for more rumours about the new Apple TV remote.
New Apple TV 2015 release date: When's the new 4th-generation Apple TV coming out?
Apple recently revealed its second quarter financial report, and during the earnings call CEO Tim Cook said a few things that have convinced us that Apple really is going to release a new Apple TV soon, and all eyes are on WWDC for the launch on 8 June.
Speaking to analysts about the Apple TV, 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.
That would make the timing for a new Apple TV launch at WWDC on 8 June just about perfect.
When Apple issued the invite to this year's WWDC there could be little doubt that the round cornered square at the 'epicentre' of the image looks just like an Apple TV.
On that basis, and knowing that WWDC is scheduled for 8-12 June, we can be pretty sure that is date when the new Apple TV will arrive.
The words ‘The epicentre of change’ set inside the Apple TV shaped box also hint that the Apple TV will be gaining a new importance in Apple's line up. 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.
This wasn't the first suggestion that an enhanced Apple TV would come in June. In March reports suggested that Apple will 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'll 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."
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.
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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