As hard as it is to believe, it's already been two years since the launch of the Apple TV 4K - the streaming box Apple promised us would deliver 4K HDR streaming. It's certainly done that, but now, with new emerging technologies like Apple Arcade on the horizon, it seems like the time is ripe for a new Apple TV in 2019.
Of course, nothing's certain. It's been a tough road for the Apple TV from its inception: Labeled a “hobby” project by Steve Jobs, the idea of a set-top box was very much on the back burner at Apple for many years, and still isn't on the same annual release cycle that the company's phones and tablets are on.
[Update: The iPhone 11 launch saw the Apple TV Plus price and release date finally confirmed – it will cost $4.99 / £4.99 (around AU$7) per month, and will be available from November 1. The launch didn't see in a new Apple TV, however, so we may not see a new device until 2020.]
All that said, the 4K-enabled Apple TV that arrived in 2017 finally saw the streamer meet the promise it’s always held, boasting super-high resolution playback, some fun gaming options and voice control that actually worked.
So what will the follow-up look like? Here's what we might see from the Apple TV 2019, which would be the 6th generation of the box.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? A new version of Apple’s set-top box
- When is it out? We’d expect an announcement in September 2019
- What will it cost? Hopefully around the price of previous models
Apple TV 6 (2019) release date
As ever with unannounced Apple products, outside the annual iPhone release, it’s hard to know when, if ever, a new product will hit stores. But we can make educated guesses based on previous models’ release dates.
The fifth-generation, 4K-capable Apple TV model was revealed on September 12, 2017, almost two years to the day that the 4th generation Apple TV was announced.
By that reckoning, a September 2019 reveal is most likely, giving time for TV technology to progress enough for Apple to have something new to discuss. An Apple TV in 2018 might just not be worth it for Apple – though we're got our eyes on the new iPhone launch event today in case they get in an announcement early.
Of course we now know that WWDC 2018 came and went without any mention of a new Apple TV. Maybe next year.
Apple TV 6 (2019) price
Of course, without a confirmed spec sheet, it’s difficult to speculate on cost. Apple knows that messing with the formula too much might hurt sales, though.
It's worth bearing in mind that as far as set-top boxes have gone in the past, Apple’s has always commanded a premium price.
For the sake of context, the current-gen Apple TV costs £179 / $179 / AU$249 for the 32GB version, while the 64GB option costs £199 / $199 / AU$279. The Apple TV 2018 (or 2019) would be around that, we think.
Apple TV 6 (2019): what we want to see
The Apple TV line has made some solid steps forward over the last two generation revisions, but there’s still room for improvement should a 6th-generation Apple TV ever hit stores.
Apple’s approach to content and voice control still frustrates at times, and it’s in these areas we’re mostly looking for some progress with a new Apple TV, what with the underlying hardware being reasonably solid at this period in time.
An open approach to apps and third-party video
The walls of Apple’s closed garden have been slowly eroding over the years, but it’s still quite picky about what makes it to its TV-based app store. That’s particularly clear when you’re comparing the Apple TV with something like Android TV-based set-top boxes, where a wide range of applications (including some more controversial options like Kodi) are available.
It’d be great to see Apple take a similarly open approach to its TV viewing options in the future. Tastes across the globe vary, and a wider variety of programming and streaming options (as well as ways to play back your own media) would go down a treat if they were included in the Apple TV 2018.
More gaming options
The last two generations of Apple TV have seen the company dip its toes deeper into the world of gaming – something that, outside of the iOS app store, it’s been reticent to do in a home space in the past.
But with the 5th-gen release and the partnership with Thatgamecompany for its game Sky, it started to seem like it was finally taking home gaming seriously.
However, outside of Sky’s release, Apple TV gaming still hasn’t been particularly high profile. Its clearest rival in this respect is the Nvidia Shield, which takes gaming very seriously with built-for-purpose console conversions for its hardware, and a cloud streaming gaming service.
It’d be great to see Apple get more high-quality developers onboard – which shouldn’t be as hard as it's making it seem, considering the relationship that it already has with mobile developers.
Deeper voice control with Siri
Controlling your TV with voice commands is still a thrill, but Apple’s Siri lags behind the capabilities of Google’s Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa.
The TV space would be a great area for it to invest in, given the relatively narrow contextual window it has to work within.
We’d love to see Siri integration really dive deep with the 6th-gen Apple TV 2018 – perhaps scheduling a calendar notification for your favorite show release date, for instance.
Better HomePod syncing
Apple’s smart speaker can frustrate thanks to Siri’s sometimes weak recognition capabilities, but one thing that is undeniable about the hardware is its sound quality.
It’s easily the best-sounding smart speaker on the market – if among the most expensive of them, too.
Now that HomePod speakers support stereo pairing and multi-room, would it be possible to get the HomePod to automatically set up in a surround sound configuration if multiple speakers and the TV box are present?
It’d be great to be enveloped by an epic Hollywood soundtrack through those speakers.
Better exclusive content
Apple’s been investing in exclusive content for a few years now, and while Carpool Karaoke still has a relatively loyal following, there wasn’t much fanfare around its reality TV Planet of the Apps Show.
Compare that to what Amazon is producing for its Prime service and Fire TV devices, and it seems majorly lacking.
Apple needs to do better to pull in big name TV and movie directors if it’s going to compete with Jeff Bezos’s service and Netflix. Perhaps this could be integrated and subsidized by the long-rumored Apple TV subscription service that the company has been allegedly trying to iron out for years.