We’ve been tracking rumors of a “next-gen” Apple TV for well over a year now. And with Apple’s next big reveal event scheduled for Tuesday, April 20th, we’re once again wondering if this will finally be the moment Apple chooses to unveil its next dedicated streaming device. It’s something we’ve pondered leading up to every major Apple event for the past 12 months and change, and it’s given us a lot of time to think. So, as we hold our collective breath for an announcement that may or may not come on Tuesday, I decided to jot down my own wish list for what I’d like to see in the next Apple TV.
An Overdue Upgrade to the Apple TV Remote
Amusingly, perhaps one of the biggest complaints and wished-for improvements to the Apple TV experience among users has nothing to do with the device itself. Instead, there’s palpable demand out there for a new and improved Apple TV remote control. The company’s stuck with the current design for a while now, and many feel it’s time for some changes. Key pain points include the touchpad interface, a symmetrical design that makes it harder to use without looking at it, and a slim form factor that makes even holding it a challenge at times.
What would I like to see? A more ergonomic shape would be nice — something you could pick up without looking and easily tell if you’re holding it upside-down or not. A texture with a bit more grip wouldn’t be the worst thing, either. Of course, a more accurate touchpad or an overhauled navigation scheme would be welcome as well.
There’s plenty of room for improvement in this space while still keeping that trademark “Apple” design intact. Whatever fancy high-end specs come with a potential new Apple TV, here’s hoping the included input device sees some much-needed improvement as well.
Onboard HDMI 2.1
Recent rumors have also pointed to 120Hz support coming to tvOS. And while 120Hz (also often referred to as 120 frames per second) has been a thing for some time now, especially for gamers, it’s taken on renewed significance of late thanks to the advent of a new standard: HDMI 2.1.
The Apple TV 4K’s included HDMI port is a 2.0a variant, which offers support for 4K video at up to 60Hz, or 60 frames per second. To bump that up to 120, Apple would need to include the newer HDMI 2.1 port, which increases bandwidth from the 18Gbps of 2.0a to a more robust 48Gbps. That’s more than enough for 120Hz support at 4K. In fact, the HDMI 2.1 standard itself supports 4K120 and even 8K60 — though that latter use case might be remain a bit rare for the near future.
Still, having 4K/120Hz support onboard could help future-proof a new Apple TV, especially if the company were to leverage that capability for, say, expanded gaming options. More on that later.
Much-Improved Internal Specs
The 2017-era Apple TV 4K still offers more than enough horsepower to serve as a high-end streaming device — so it might not seem all that sensible or necessary to drastically upgrade the hardware in a next-gen Apple TV. Then again, Apple’s been known to pack potent chips into devices that aren’t exactly wanting for more power. The 4K’s A10X Fusion SoC (system on a chip) is a variant of the chip that powered the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. And if Apple follows a similar pattern here, a next-gen Apple TV could possibly carry a more powerful variant of the iPhone 12’s A14 Bionic.
There’s plenty of speculation that Apple will unveil new iPad Pros at the April 20th event, and those could very well carry a souped-up A14 model inside. If so, it’s not that far a stretch to think a new Apple TV could also pack similar hardware.
Of course, that’s way, way more power than a dedicated streaming device really needs, so it would also make sense for a next-gen Apple TV to continue branching out into capabilities well beyond standard streaming entertainment.
A Focus Beyond Streaming — Augmented Reality, Perhaps?
The potential for a high-end connection in HDMI 2.1, combined with some significantly improved internals, opens the door for a next-gen, high-end Apple TV to take on lots of tasks well beyond the realm of serving up Netflix or HBO Max. We’ve seen the company dive into the world of fitness and gaming with its subscription services, and a next-gen Apple TV could be well-positioned as a hub for both of those use cases.
Expanded gaming capabilities in particular could come in handy as Apple’s own Arcade service continues to grow and mature. And earlier rumors have certainly explored the potential of a new Apple TV as a gaming console. Meanwhile, third parties have their own gaming plans for Apple’s hardware as well. Despite some back-and-forth Microsoft has been testing its xCloud gaming service on Apple hardware lately, and a living room device would make a good home for the service.
Beyond all that, and we’re getting into multiple levels of speculation here, but there’s also the potential for augmented reality, or AR. We’ve already reported on rumors of AR support coming to the company’s streaming service, Apple TV+. And augmented reality is expected to be one of the main themes at Tuesday’s event.
If Apple is indeed aiming to unveil an Apple TV built for the future, adding in some AR capabilities seems well within the realm of plausibility. In any case, we’ll have to wait until at least April 20th (and possibly longer!) to know if any of these predictions hit the mark.