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Over the past few days there has been a LOT of stuff dropping about the future plans for AppleTV – both near term and longer term, so that’s the focus for today’s video. We’ll start with what’s just around the corner and then look at some patents that have been filed for further out updates, how it ties in with Apple’s wider ecosystem and an idea that I don’t think anyone else has mentioned yet… which actually makes a LOT of sense. Fair warning. There will be a lot of “could mean” or “maybes” in this video, so please, don’t assume all of this to be leaks, its information we have, extrapolated out.
First the hardware. There have been a number of different configurations suggested for what will power the next Apple TV, with the least powerful suggested being an A12Z or A14, lining up with the still at time of writing but not for long 2020 iPad Pro, and the iPad Air 4 and iPhone 12 – though the iPad Air version of A14 is actually faster in many ways than the iPhone version. The more powerful possibility, and perhaps why we haven’t seen it yet is A14X, which would be unlikely to drop in an Apple TV box before it did in the iPad Pro.
Now, bearing in mind that the A14X is as far as we know the same chip, or at least equivalent in performance to the M1, Its difficult to see the Apple TV keeping its current price tag of around $180, so could the reason we’ve had mixed pricing rumours actually be that there will be 2 versions? Thinking about it more, I think that’s a pretty legit argument. We know that Apple can get an A12 with its board along with batteries, a high resolution retina touch panel, speakers, and much more for $300, the student price for iPad, or A13 in a $400 iPhone that also has Touch ID, better cameras, cellular modems etc in the iPhone SE. There’s a lot to strip away from those older chips that would still make a very compelling TV experience at a much lower price. For clarity in the rest of this video, we’ll call theses Apple TV, and Apple TV Pro for the A14X idea.
Apple TV could go 4k 120Hz in 2021
9 to 5 Mac has discovered code in the latest tvOS 14.5 Beta that renders to Apple using HDMI 2.1 to deliver double the frame rate at 4k compared to the current devices that Apple offers. This news actually dropped before I shot yesterday’s show but this as an upgrade to the Apple TV does make more sense than an 8K TV box, needing to push about half the number of pixels that 8K at 60 would need. We know that the A12X and A12Z is quite capable of 120HZ on iPad, though this is a few more pixels but it would be able to use active cooling too just like the current AppleTV 4K which runs A10X right now. This would probably be an AppleTV Pro feature.
Gaming on Apple TV
It sits in line with what we’ve been hearing too about the iPhone Pro models being 120Hz ProMotion capable this year, and also with the rumours of Apple TV getting more of a gaming focus. There are probably more TVs already out there that support 120HZ than there are with 8K panels so that’s a bigger market for apple to address right away and it could encourage more of the higher tier – lets say Double A titles like Call of Duty Mobile to consider supporting AppleTV too – though where their balance point is between paid games and freemium is the tricky part here.
There’s no reason however that Apple couldn’t, as we’ve said before look to buy some game studios and bring their own first party games of a similar level – though I don’t imagine Apple would do something as realistically violent as Call of Duty, but Fortnite manages to make shooting one another in the face with large guns fun, so there are ways. It’s easy to bring the same scene in a movie down from a hard R rating to a PG13 by having either aliens or robots being blown away instead of humans, just look at every big battle in a Marvel movie if you don’t believe me!
Of course, as with the rest of what Apple does, you’d be able to play these games across all the current devices, but with that 120Hz support likely being reserved for things with pro in the name. iPad Pro, iPhone Pro, and now Apple TV Pro. And maybe MacBook Pro, if ProMotion comes to the next generation there too with MiniLED displays. In fact, fine, lets bring back iMac Pro for ProMotion too.
Productivity on Apple TV
But moving away from gaming as we covered that a lot along with Apple Arcade on Monday’s show which you can find right up here – lets talk about how the lines could be blurred into Mac territory. As I mentioned before, the A14X if that’s what we were to get in the next Apple TV would have the performance of an M1 Mac, so why not allow a keyboard and mouse or trackpad to be connected over bluetooth and at least let us use the iPadOS versions of things like Pages, Numbers and Keynote to have a mini productivity machine. Even with as low as the current A10X Apple TV, this would work great, just as it is what also powered the 2017 iPad Pro generation.
Now Apple has recently filed a patent for a Magic keyboard and trackpad that doesn’t appear to be attached to anything and also to support Apple Pencil input on the trackpad – this would make a pretty awesome couch interface for getting some light work done, or kids doing some homework.
Video editing on Apple TV
But with this level of power, why stop at iWork? iMovie on the TV could also be a pretty great experience, especially if it uses your iPhone as the clip picker and maybe a trackpad if you don’t have the keyboard setup. And I know I’m opening a can of worms again here, but maybe an AppleTV Pro with the power of M1 could run Final Cut Pro? Or at least whatever version of Final Cut potentially comes to the iPad Pro as we’ve been hearing for some time. And yes, this could be a subscription option, and I know that a lot of people hate the idea of a subscription option… but it could be. Just saying.
Now, moving further into Patents, and these come via Patently Apple, there are concepts that would add more virtual displays around the physical display in your field of view, and I can imagine these being used to add features like one of the best that Amazon has to offer on Prime, where if you pause the video, X-ray comes up. This basically tells you the name of every actor in the current scene, with a photo so you know who is who as well as what else they’ve been in. It is one of the most GENIUS features I’ve ever seen in streaming video. But with AppleTV’s Augmented reality interfaces, we could see that information popping up beside the screen when you make a certain gesture or ask Siri. Captions could appear just off the screen, perhaps underneath or above rather than overlaying into the content you’re watching. The patent also describes of course the use of this to expand Mac displays, so perhaps when doing the video editing we imagined before, your content bins could slide out from the side of your TV, your timeline could be attached underneath and your display is purely the viewer for the video you’re watching.
In the final Patent that relates to AppleTV is around lenticular displays – these are the kind of glasses free 3D panels that the Nintendo DS used to add depth to its games. Now of course 3D TV did awesome and we all now spend 100% of our time, if not more watching TV with dumb glasses on, as everyone knows. But Apple’s patent would actually not just allow 3D without glasses (and don’t assume that it would suck as hard as some other lenticular displays) but this patent describes a display that could show different content to different viewers, so for example, you could have the whole family sitting down to watch a movie together, but the kids on one side of the room get a censored version on screen and the parents get the full, maybe slightly more gory version.
And I know I said we were done with gaming… but you could also have multiplayer gaming in the same room with each player only seeing their own screen, on the same screen. Pretty awesome. Of course, at this point we’re talking about a display built by Apple too, which I dismissed yesterday in iCaveAnswers as a crazy idea. But this would be a bit different.
So let me know what you think about these ideas, are you more excited for Apple TV now? Also I have to give a big shout out to Apple_Tomorrow again for the renders especially in the thumbnail, and he’s just started a Patreon for his work so if you appreciate what he does, please do go and check it out. Link in the description. But now, let’s get to your questions.
I only want the option to upgrade the storage. Turns out that the 256GBs are not enough for video editing…
Also, #iCaveAnswers do you think that we will see an external Magic Keyboard with Touch Bar? I can’t imagine my Mac experience without the Touch Bar anymore…
#icaveAnswers Do you think it makes sense for most people to buy an 27/31 inch iMac (even once it gets the m1x) given the existence of the m1 or m1x Mac mini?
You can get a decent display and a Mac mini for about £1k, and the base Mac mini holds its price better than any of the other computers so it might only cost £200 to upgrade it in 2 years time…