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The least interesting things about the new Apple TV 4K

It’s a big deal whenever Apple announces new products. OK, maybe not in the global scheme of things, but in our little world here, every sentence of every word of every press release is going to be scrutinized. Things that aren’t a big deal are going to be turned into headlines. Blog. Blog. Blog.

And that’s true again in the case of the latest Apple TV 4K, which will be available for everyone starting November 4. It is, for all intents and purposes, the same as the old one. It’s better, sure. It’s a little less expensive, which is great. It’s almost certainly still the best streaming device you can buy. But the features that are getting the headlines? That’s folks reaching for something to celebrate.

So let’s do the opposite. Let’s celebrate the fact that Apple TV 4K already was so darn good that you have to really reach to find something to crow about, since Apple isn’t reinventing the wheel.

Here are the least exiting things headed our way in the new Apple TV 4K.

USB-C for the remote

The old Siri Remote uses a Lightning cable to charge. The new Siri Remote — identical in nearly every visible way — uses USB-C. That’s actually a good thing. Apple should be moving all of its Lightning-based products to USB-C. The MacBook has done it. The iPad has done it. And now the Siri Remote has too.

Apple TV Siri Remote in 2022.
You can’t see it here, but the new Siri Remote recharges over USB-C.

That’s a big deal on principle, even as we’re still waiting on the the biggest of the deals — the iPhone lineup — to ditch Lightning. Same goes for AirPods.

But it’s also not a big deal here. If you’re buying a new Apple TV, you almost certainly have an iPhone. That Venn diagram basically is as close to a circle as it gets. And thus you almost certainly have a Lightning cable laying around to charge the previous generations of Siri Remote. And, by the way, charging the remote is something you should have to do only on a very infrequent basis.

No fan, apparently

The new Apple TV 4K is slightly smaller than the old one. That’s cool. It also doesn’t have a fan; the previous models do. But in the six years or so that I’ve owned the previous generations of Apple TV 4K, I can’t recall a single time that I’ve ever heard the fan spin up. If it did, I missed it.

If a fan spins and you never hear it, did it ever really spin at all?

A couple thoughts here: It’s possible that the active cooling — the fan — just wasn’t necessary, and Apple got rid of it. It’s also possible that any redesign (smaller size notwithstanding) doesn’t require active cooling that necessitates a fan. Maybe that’s the A15 processor at work. Maybe not. Maybe something else. Regardless, the new Apple TV 4K no longer has a fan that you probably didn’t know was there in the first place. Not interesting.

Lower price

There was a lot of speculation ahead of this announcement regarding the price of any new Apple TV 4K, thanks mostly to a single tweet by analyst Ming-Chi Kuo about five months before the new Apple TV 4K made its appearance. That tweet referenced “a new version of Apple TV that improves cost structure,” which didn’t really mean anything. Whose cost structure? The consumers’? Apple’s?

That led to dreams of a dirt-cheap Apple TV dongle, à la Roku or Amazon Fire TV. Amazon isn’t as open about how things work, but Roku has long said that most of what it sells retails for less than $50. Never say never, but it’s entirely possible that Apple never will make a dirt-cheap dongle, because it doesn’t have to.

Apple TV 4K and Ted Lasso.

Not that we’ll look a gift horse in the mouth. The new Apple TV 4K comes in two variants: $130 for 64GB of storage and Wi-Fi only (and no Thread networking support) or $150 for 128GB of storage, plus Ethernet and Thread support. Those are perfectly good prices for devices that should last years, both mechanically, as well as in terms of software support. And lopping off about a quarter of the previous price is a great thing for anyone purchasing the new Apple TV 4K.

But you’re still talking about a product that costs something like four or five or six times what folks are spending on streaming hardware from Roku or Amazon or Google. We might well see the needle tick up in terms of market share, but likely not remarkably so.

So it’s not that the new prices aren’t interesting. They are. But they likely don’t matter in the big picture for Apple or its competitors.

Analysts moving goalposts

Back to analyst Kuo’s prognostications. After the announcement of the new Apple TV 4K (he correctly predicted that it’d land in the second half of the year), the goalposts have been moved a bit. “The sub-$100 price should be the sweet spot for Apple TV, so I expect the next-gen will be more affordable,” he tweeted hours after the press releases dropped.

More affordable to whom? Affluent Apple customers?

The next version of Apple TV 4K — whenever that may drop — will cost what it costs, not what we want it to. If Apple knows it can turn a profit on a sub-$100 streaming box or stick, great. If it doesn’t see that happening, expect the price to be higher.

But Apple isn’t in the business of making things less expensive just to make the rest of us feel better. At least not in a world in which a $19, uppercased or $9 exist.

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