In May, we reported on the details of a potential Apple TV 4K refresh, with information provided by tech analyst Jon Prosser. He tweeted, “New Apple TV 4K with A12X – 64GB/128GB ready to ship. Code name: Neptune T1125. Another one of those things that could drop any time.”
Seven months later, and there’s still no sign of the refreshed black box that Steve Jobs famously referred to as “a hobby.” At this point, despite Apple’s surprise December announcement of the AirPods Max, it’s no surprise that a report from Nikkei Asia Review says the next version won’t appear until next year.
This confirms the timing that Bloomberg suggested in a September report: “[…] that device might not ship until next year, according to people familiar with its development.”
Assuming that Prosser was right about the specs, when Apple does finally announce the new model, it will be considerably more powerful than the original Apple TV 4K, which debuted in 2017 and has never received a hardware refresh.
The Apple-designed A12X processor that Prosser references is the brain inside the 2018 iPad Pro, and it’s a powerhouse of a chip. A sixth-generation Apple TV with that CPU would be notably faster, with improvements in everything from speech recognition (voice commands) to launching apps. The main improvement, however, would be to the games within Apple Arcade, Apple’s subscription gaming service, which was added to the Apple TV in 2019.
As for the price of this as-yet-unannounced upgrade, our biggest clue so far is a story from February that Target employees had seen a new Apple product in their store inventory systems: “Apple TV Gen X,” according to The Verifier. That leak priced the product at $180 — the same price as the current 32GB Apple TV 4K.
Very little has been said about what special features a new-and-improved Apple TV 4K might have. The February report suggested that it might come with more onboard storage — up to 265GB — but Prosser’s tweet threw cold water on that notion.
Kids Mode might be added via a software upgrade, letting parents select which apps and content kids get to use, as well as set a maximum amount of screen time per session. However, it’s unlikely that it will be an exclusive feature of a new set-top box.
Bloomberg’s report did offer one new tidbit: An upgraded Siri remote might ship with the new Apple TV 4K, enabling a “find my remote” feature.
Speculation about the next Apple TV 4K’s launch window was rampant in the fourth quarter of 2020 as Apple’s competitors appeared to be in a device-launching frenzy. TiVo launched its $50 Stream 4K dongle, Google launched its $50 Chromecast with Google TV, Roku launched a beefed-up version of its Ultra, and Amazon debuted two new sub-$50 versions of the Fire TV Stick.
Chromecast with Google TV doesn’t currently support Google’s cloud gaming Stadia platform, but the company says that will change in early 2021. The timing could easily coincide with a more powerful, gaming-oriented Apple TV 4K.
One thing’s for sure: If Apple gives the Apple TV 4K a big boost in the brains department, it will have a very good reason for doing so. Gaming is an obvious area, as Apple expands its services-based operations, but home automation and control could be another. Apple has always seen Apple TV as a logical nexus for its HomeKit software, which can tie an endless variety of smart gadgets into a single ecosystem controlled by Siri.
Presumably, it wouldn’t hurt for the Apple TV 4K to have some extra horsepower on tap so that it can fulfill that role while simultaneously letting people stream their 4K HDR movies and shows, or play games.
We’ll update this post as soon as we know more about the next Apple TV 4K.
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