How Apple Can Make Apple TV Even Better

Apple Discontinues Entry-Level Apple TV

What Are The Whispers Saying? c/o Steve Read. Steve Read/Getty Images

Apple has discontinued sales of its entry-level third-generation Apple TV, sparking speculation it may soon introduce a new model, probably called Apple TV 5, so how could a future model make the product even better?

What's Cooking?

Available since 2012 the entry-level model was a good box for accessing iTunes content, but lacked the bells and whistles of the fully realized fourth-generation model and its range of apps.

Apple’s silence on the move to abandon the model has fanned speculation it may introduce 4K support in a new model and cut the cost of the current edition. This makes sense given almost every Apple competitor has already introduced 4K TV streaming devices. It also falls in line with long-held speculation the company intends introducing 4K movie rentals through iTunes, thus making significant 4K content available for the first time.

Another motivation might be that with the loss of the older model Apple now has no mid-range streaming product to compete with others available on the market, such as the new 4K Fire Stick, Chromecast Ultra, and Roku Express. Apple is developing a Siri speaker system to rival Amazon Echo which may help in this segment.

Not Discussing Future Plans

Apple’s keeping quiet on its plans, though it told Fortune that with the future of television being apps, it had decided to, “Focus entirely on this app-centered TV experience with the new Apple TV.”

For all of that, there is one hint that suggests Apple may soon do something with Apple TV: the looming introduction of Single Sign On. Originally intended for introduction in fall and available within the current developer beta, Apple could combine launch of this new feature with as yet unknown improvements to its service, such as upgraded movie and TV subscription services or introduction of an improved version of the existing box.


What to Expect

Sifting through current speculation, the most likely significant improvements in any new model might include:

  • A more powerful processor and more memory: Many Apple TV owners made the mistake of purchasing the low-end (32GB) model when Apple TV 4 hit the shelves. That’s fine but as more apps appear on the platform some are beginning to have to make tough decisions about which apps to keep and which ones to abandon. That’s not going to get any easier as apps become more sophisticated and games move to take full advantage of a faster processor.

  • The Bluetooth question: At present Apple TV works with most pairs of Bluetooth headsets. Will Apple upgrade this support to Bluetooth 5.0, or will it introduce support for its proprietary W1 wireless processor?

  • NFC inside: One FCC filing suggests Apple plans to introduce an NFC chip inside the fabled future Apple TV. That’s the same kind of contactless authorization standard you find on credit cards and Apple Pay. Conceivably this would enable the system to recognize and authorize Apple Pay users, enabling them to purchase goods online using an Apple TV app and the Apple payment service.

  • More television content: With some notable exceptions, Apple does appear to be doing a good job convincing broadcasters to offer up content via apps for Apple TV.  The company’s move to hire former Time Warner Cable executive, Peter Stern, has added some fuel to speculation of new television packages via the Apple device.

    Apple has traditionally left a few years in between each Apple TV upgrade. This means that while strong signals suggest we won’t be waiting that long, there is no guarantee a new model will appear before 2017, though Apple has the talent to surprise.