The new Apple TV was unveiled by Apple at the iPhone launch on 9 September, but it's not available yet. Here's everything you need to know about the upcoming device, including when the Apple TV will launch, how you can buy the Apple TV, whether you will be able to play games on the Apple TV using your existing games controller (or joystick), how much the Apple TV will cost, and how to use headphones with the Apple TV... Read on for more information.
Also unveiled at the Apple event on 9 September:
Apple TV: Release date
Apple said that the new Apple TV will be available in late October and it should be available to order online from Apple’s online store at the end of the month. However, it now looks like the Apple TV might not hit the shops in October as promised by Apple.
A 9to5Mac report is suggesting the new set top box will go on sale in Apple Stores in the first week of November, suggesting that stocks will initially be limited.
How to buy an Apple TV
Unfortunately, when the Apple TV does finally go on sale, you won’t be able to buy it from Amazon.
The humongous online retailer is refusing to sell any devices that compete with its own TV streaming device. This means you also won’t be able to purchase the Google Chromecast from Amazon either.
Apparently this is because these devices don’t offer the Amazon Prime video streaming platform, rather than Amazon just being anti-competitive, although it could look a little like Amazon is holding these companies to ransom.
Here’s Amazon’s take on the matter, according to a report on Bloomberg: “Over the last three years, Prime Video has become an important part of Prime. It’s important that the streaming media players we sell interact well with Prime Video in order to avoid customer confusion.”
Luckily those wanting to buy an Apple TV will be able to purchase one from the Apple website, or at an Apple High Street store, as well as other locations, like John Lewis.
Alternatively, you might be keen for Apple to include Amazon Prime on the Apple TV now that Amazon has bought the rights to Top Gear along with some other popular programs. Although with Apple’s new app based Apple TV interface, surely it’s up to Amazon to design their Amazon Prime app for the device.
Apple TV: UK price
The UK price of the Apple TV is yet to be confirmed, Apple states that the price will be confirmed when the unit goes on sale. In the US the 32GB lowest-capacity version costs twice as much as the entry level model at $149 while the 64GB version costs $199. Given that there are a number of competitors on the market that have considerably lower price points, this higher price may be a stumbling block for Apple.
To get an idea of the UK prices, the two versions will be available at the following price points in the US: $149 for 32GB (£97 before VAT, approx. £120 including VAT) or $199 for 64GB (£129 before VAT, approx. £160 including VAT). UK prices are estimates, expect them to be higher.
Is the Apple TV too expensive?
Given the competition which is priced far lower than the Apple TV, perhaps the Apple TV, now at a higher price than it was previously, is too expensive.
In addition, having long neglected the market for set top boxes, Apple has potentially lost some of the credibility in this arena, suggests Fox Business.
Apple TV: New Siri remote
The new Apple TV comes with a new way of controlling it: Voice and touch. The Remote has been redesigned with this in mind.
There is a glass touch surface across the top and, according to Apple, you can easily glide across a set of movies and then stop when you get to the one you want.
While watching TV you can swipe up for info, swipe down to go back to the screen, for example.
The Remote uses bluetooth too, so no need to point the remote at the Apple TV anymore. And, according to Apple, you can use the remote to turn your TV on and change the volume. When you need to recharge the remote - which we assume will be a bit more power hungry than the current one - there is a lightening connector.
Apple TV: Siri and voice control
The remote features a Siri button. You will be able to use Siri to navigate the Apple TV using natural language.
Hold down this Siri button and ask “show me funny TV shows” and Siri will search iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, HBO, and Showtime (and hopefully UK-based apps eventually) to find the shows and films you want to watch.
Similarly, you could ask to see the episode of Modern Family with Edward Norton, as the keynote presenter did, for example. Or you could ask, “What did she say” and Siri will skip back 15 seconds and turn on the captions.
Siri can help you find what you want to watch if you aren’t sure what you fancy. For example, ask for James Bond and Siri will show you James Bond films - ask for the ones with Sean Connery and it will reduce the list to just those.
You can also ask Siri for info while you are watching your shows, whether you want to know the weather or the sports results, and it won’t interrupt what you are watching, instead it will add a line at the bottom of the screen, but if you want to see more information then you can swipe up to enter the app.
How much does the Apple TV remote control cost?
The Siri Remote comes with the Apple TV, but if you want to purchase an additional remote it will cost $79 (approx £51 ex VAT, UK price TBC) so try not to lose it. You can also buy a $13 strap to keep it on your wrist if you are using it for motion activated gaming. If you do lose your remote it appears that you will still be able to control it with your IPhone, and likely an Apple Watch.
Why the Apple TV will have an app lead interface
During the presentation on 9 September 2015, Apple CEO Tim Cook explained Apple's philosophy in creating an app lead interface for the Apple TV. "More great content being create for TV than every before. This is the golden age of television. But the television hasn’t changed that much in decades. Television has been standing still."
"Our vision for TV is simple and perhaps a little provocative," he continued. "We believe the future of television is apps. In fact this transition has already begun - we are spending more time watching TV on our iPhones and iPads via apps."
Apple's philosophy is that TV as apps is "so much better", because you can search for what you want and watch it where you want.
Cook continued: "We need a new foundation for TV. One that's built on powerful hardware, a modern OS, and with developer tools so that developers can create apps, and has an app store so that customers can find those apps and personalise their experience better than ever before."
"We believe the new Apple TV is the 'future of television'," he said, introducing Phil Schiller to the stage.
Apple TV: tvOS software interface
The company is introducing a new operating system for the Apple TV based on iOS and built for the living room. It is called TVOS.
tvOS is the new Apple TV operating system which is based on iOS. Developers will be able to create apps using the exact same frameworks they use for iOS, OS X And watchOS. However, if you were hoping you would be able to update your existing Apple TV you are out of luck - it won’t run on the current or older models.
It would appear that the new features need that A8 chip in the new Apple TV. We’ve heard that there will be a compatibility update for recent Apple TVs though, we’re not sure if that means that they could be updated with the necessary hardware, we doubt it.
Apple TV: Third party app development and how to get an Apple TV development kit
You will be able to download apps from the tvOS App Store. Developers will be at work adapting their apps for the new interface, no doubt. Some developers were given an early access to the framework so some apps will be ready at launch.
There are 11 million developers and Apple says it’s easy to develop apps, so we should see some great apps soon.
Following the unveiling of the new Apple TV at the 9 September event, Apple invited developers to enter a lottery where successful applicants would be able to get their hands on the Apple TV development kit, and a new Apple TV.
Following the success of the program, Apple later increased availability of the developer kit for the Apple TV, however the company is still limiting the number of developers able to get their hands on one.
As Apple explained in an email released to developers in early October: “Due to overwhelming demand, we’ve made more Apple TV Developer Kits available”. The company is charging $1 for the kit, but this is only to verify the billing address. Once completed Apple will send out a unit. The deadline for applications was 9 October.
Beware if you do get your hands on the Apple TV development kit – Apple is showing no sympathy for anyone who breaks the NDA and reveals features of the new device. iFixIt learned this the hard way after publishing a tear-down of the new Apple TV on their website. In reaction Apple pulled iFixIt’s app from the App Store. Of course Apple probably places more importance on the app store version of websites than the owners of those websites do, and iFixIt has an excellent website so there is no real need to use the app. Apple will just miss out on the profits from the advertising that appears on the app.
Apple TV: TV, movies and more
There are some apps that are already coming to the Apple TV. During the keynote Apple revealed that Netflix and a load of US TV content providers are already in the works. Of course, the ability to watch TV this way won't only depend on the content being provided in the UK, but also on our broadband speeds. Steve Holford, VP Products, Hyperoptic, said: "Apple is renowned for its pedigree in mass-industry digitisation, so it’s highly likely Apple is set to revolutionise the TV market just like it did with music - taking streaming and apps from the laptop to the living room. However the decider will be the consumer experience, which is very much out of Apple’s control and dependent on the quality of the user’s broadband."
Apple TV: Other apps
It’s not just TV apps, AirB&B will be on there too, so you can plan your next holiday. Clothing company Gilt has developed an app so you can shop from the Apple TV.
According to Apple, the app store is just as easy to use as it is on the iPhone.
Developers can create universal apps, so a single purchase can get you the app on your iPhone, iPad and TV.
Apple has added Apple Music to the Apple TV, and you will still have access to your photos.
Apple TV: Games
Thanks to the fast processor and the remote that performs as a touch-based as well as motion-based controller, you can expect gaming to become a big deal for the Apple TV. Apple introduced a number of games developers to the stage during the keynote to show off their wares.
Games coming to Apple TV include: Star Wars, Guitar Hero, Crossy Road and more. Crossy Road is already on the Amazon Fire TV but the Apple TV version will be multiplayer. There’s also Beats Sports with support for four players - all you need is an iPhone or iPad to join in.
Gaming might be a key new feature of the new Apple TV, but Apple seems to be stunting the device as a console. All games developers have to ensure their games work with the Apple Remote. This is fair enough given that it would be unreasonable to expect a customer to purchase an expensive remote to play a game in addition to purchasing the game in the first place, but the limitations of the Apple Remote will no doubt be a limitation to gameplay. It’s not like the games consoles which come with joysticks as standard, the Apple Remote is first and foremost a TV remote control, and gaming with it is likely to be frustrating and perhaps even RSI inducing.
Apple’s tvOS App Programming Guide states: “Your game must support the Apple TV remote. Your game may not require the use of a controller.”
Apple TV and third party controllers and joy sticks
You won’t be stuck with the new Apple TV remote, you will be able to use a number of third-party controllers - they just need to be in the MFi program, which means Apple will need to have certified them. Games developers will need to build support for the various controllers into their games though. The Apple TV will actually support four different controller at once.
However, it appears that the Apple TV is only able to support two Bluetooth controllers at once (along with the Apple Remote) – scuppering developers attempts to make multiplayer games. It’s possible this is just a bug related to the controllers, Touch Arcade has been investigating further but has yet to find a developer able to connect more than two Bluetooth controllers.
Apple TV and Home Automation
Apple has applied for a Trademark for the words Siri Remote. The really interesting thing, points out Patently Apple, is that the company hints in their trademark filing that Apple TV will become the hub for home automation.
We’re awaiting news of Apple’s plans for HomeKit, which it introduced at WWDC back in 2014. While some companies are using the Home Kit APIs for their home automation apps and devices, the expectation was that Apple would utilize the Apple TV as a hub for this activity, allowing users to control their devices when away from the home. As yet this aspect of the solution has not materialized.
However, as Patently Apple spotted in the trademark filing for the Siri Remote, Apple refers to "home automation hubs", suggesting that these will be associated with the Siri Remote.
The filing describes a “remote control devices for controlling the operations of televisions, video monitors, set top boxes, audio, video, and media players and recorders, game players, entertainment systems, home theatre systems, home automation hubs.”
Apple TV: Design
The new Apple TV is a similar design to before, but it’s 10mm taller than the current Apple TV.
Apple TV: dimensions
At 1.3in deep the new Apple TV is just under an inch taller than the old Apple TV.
Apple TV: ports
The new Apple TV will feature a USB-C port along with HDMI.
Apple TV and audi, how to use headphones with the new Apple TV
If you study the image above you will see that the new Apple TV ditches the optical audio out port that was a feature of the older model. This is likely to affect those with a home theatre set up that relies on optical audio out ports – there are copyright compliance requirements that can make it impossible to connect headphones without using an intermediary receiver or an optical out port, notes Apple Insider.
This would suggest that audio can only be sent through the HDMI port – which may stop users being able to connect headphones to the device.
However, it turns out you will be able to listen to the audio coming from your Apple TV using Bluetooth headphones - great news for anyone attempting to watch TV in bed without disturbing their partner’s slumber, notes 9to5Mac.
There’s also a night mode that will reduce the sound levels of everything except speech – so there will be no loud rumblings or music disturb your house mates. This could also be useful for those hard of hearing who find it difficult to separate the speech from the rest of the soundtrack.
Apple TV: Screensavers
Apple’s also created some high def video to be used instead of static screensavers. This video will play day or night shots depending on the time of day where you are.
Another fancy effect, there is a 3D effect on the selected icon - you can even manipulate it with your thumb on the remote.
Apple TV: Specs
The new Apple TV will come in two capacities, one with 32GB Flash storage and one with 64GB Flash storage.
How repairable is the Apple T?
According to that iFixIt teardown (the one that got them in a whole lot of trouble with Apple) the Apple TV is surprisingly repairable.
According to the site, which specializes in repairs: “Only a few plastic clips stand in the way here, with no adhesive or screws in sight.”
This is in marked contrast to many Apple products.
Read on to find out what we expected prior to the 9 September event.