Tim Cook will come out on stage and tell the crowd how he’s listened to the feedback, and how Apple is ready to embrace 4K. We’ll all applaud. It will feel good. We’ll finally get the product that Apple, in all fairness, probably should’ve released in 2015 at a time when Roku, Amazon and even Nvidia embraced Ultra-HD as the new norm.
But if that’s all Tim Cook is announcing – a 4K version of the current Apple TV – we’ll be in trouble.
To help Tim and crew out, I’ve come up with a list of five features Apple should consider, if not for tomorrow’s unveiling then for the inevitable Apple TV 4K sequel we’ll see sometime in 2019.
A subscription based movie and show rental program
I’m not advocating that Apple outright steals a good idea. But if Apple were to steal a good idea, one idea that might be worth stealing is Netflix, you know, that small streaming company that made $66 million and reached 100 million subscribers back in July.
An unlimited streaming service that’s subscription based might be the model that makes the most sense for the Apple TV – and doubly so if Apple has the audacity to make it exclusive to Apple products. (Think Apple Music but with shows and movies instead of tunes.)
Why does Apple TV need its own Netflix? Because, let’s face it, for the vast majority of people, buying videos from iTunes for $14.99 a pop for an SD version is getting a little old.
Siri, but like a better Siri
But a new streaming service isn’t the only thing an Apple TV needs. After Apple works through a better way to deliver video content, it needs to turn its eye to Siri, the personal assistant who’s just feeling a little outdated compared to Google Assistant and Alexa.
At this point, the rise of the smart home is inevitable and Apple needs to be on this with 100% of its energy. Having a personal assistant who’s relatively unclear on … well, pretty much anything, has to be fixed in the near future.
An Apple A10 Processor and/or more storage space
OK, at this point I might seem a bit unreasonable. I’m asking for things that, yes, Apple TV definitely needs, but are probably a bit too hard to fix overnight. This next item, I feel, isn’t asking too much and will very likely turn up as a talking point during tomorrow’s unveiling.
Two easy tweaks Apple could make to the next Apple TV are adding a better processor (upgrading the current Apple A8 chip to the heady A10) and larger storage sizes than 32GB/64GB. But why is this such a crucial step for Apple?
Because 4K HDR films aren’t exactly the lightest load on a processor. Add to that all those new 4K assets that Apple will need for the Home Screen and each of its icons and there’s just no way the old A8 can keep up.
As for the storage issues, Apple recently upgraded the file size cap of apps on the App Store from 2GB to 5GB. Do some quick math and you’ll see that 32GB just doesn’t get you as far as it used to.
If Apple wants us to really enjoy all the new content coming to the App Store (and still have room for local movies, shows, podcasts and photos) we should really start talking about storage devices with hundreds of gigabits of storage space instead of dozens.
Amazon Prime Video app
Here’s another non-pipedream item I’d like to see tomorrow. Apple has already promised that its longstanding feud with Amazon is over and that it will, at some point in the near future, make the Amazon Video app available on Apple TV.
What better time is there to make this happen than the launch of the new box?
There’s just no way around this, if Apple wants to be the next big streaming device – taking away part of the pie from devices like the Amazon Fire TV and Roku family of products, it needs to get on board the Amazon Video train.
Dolby Vision, Atmos and DTS:X support
While 4K is literally in the name, chances are very good the new Apple TV 4K will also support High Dynamic Range (HDR) to really bring those crisp, Ultra-HD images to life.
But, here’s the thing: If Apple wants to stop being behind the eightball when it comes to the video streaming space, it can’t just support HDR10, the basic, universal version of HDR – it needs to support Dolby Vision and, perhaps even HDR10+, Samsung’s new venture into the HDR format war.
These formats will allow for even richer videos that will look astonishing on the next generation of 4K TVs.
And why stop at high-end visuals? If we’re really serious about claiming the living room, we need to be talking about Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support – the two names in object-based surround sound – here too.
Combined with Vision and HDR10+, the Apple TV 4K will be fully locked and loaded for the best streaming experiences on the planet.
- Apple's not the only one with a new device on the horizon – Amazon has two new 4K streaming devices waiting in the wings
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Nick Pino is Managing Editor, TV and AV for TechRadar's sister site, Tom's Guide. Previously, he was the Senior Editor of Home Entertainment at TechRadar, covering TVs, headphones, speakers, video games, VR and streaming devices. He's also written for GamesRadar+, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade, and he has a degree in computer science he's not using if anyone wants it.