A more powerful Apple TV 4K may not arrive until 2021

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.” And while these specifications are likely still a part of Apple’s plans, a new report from Bloomberg suggests the timing of this new model may be further out than Prosser had originally guessed.

According to the new report, “[…] that device might not ship until next year, according to people familiar with its development.” That timing would miss the all-important holiday season. Given Prosser’s earlier declaration that the device was capable of being shipped “any time,” we think it’s still possible we’ll see a new Apple TV before November.

Assuming that Prosser was right about the specs, it’s a confirmation that Apple’s revamped set-top box 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.

Prosser’s code-name-dropping of “Neptune T1125” seemingly confirms another report from 9to5Mac earlier this year, as the latest beta of tvOS 13.4 contains references to that same model number.

As for the price of this as-yet-unannounced upgrade, news broke in February that Target employees were seeing 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 throws 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 is increasingly relevant right now. TiVo recently launched its $50 Stream 4K dongle, and rumors are continuing to swirl concerning the possible launch of Google’s Chromecast successor, which might pack Android TV as its operating system.

Given Google’s recent investments in cloud gaming via its Stadia platform, selling an affordable set-top box or dongle that is designed to work with the service would help Google compete 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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