Despite a rocky start, Apple will reportedly unveil their new iteration of the Apple TV this September, along with their annual line of iPhones. It’s about time; the last hardware update to the Apple TV was in 2012. That’s like 328 billion tweets ago. (~500 million tweets per day for 3 years.)
A lot has happened since 2012. We’ve seen a surge in competition for streaming boxes like the Roku 3 and Amazon’s Fire TV, as well as the emergence of streaming sticks, like the $35 dollar Chromecast.
There are some things that seem likely: an upgraded A8 processor, a new interface for home screen and an SDK to let developers make their own apps and games. But Apple is going to need a big win to make a splash in this market. Here are some things that we think would make the Apple TV a contender.
Early reports say that Apple is going to be including a Touch ID sensor in the new Apple TV remote. This could be an immediate home run, if it’s implemented correctly. If each user was able to make their own profile and home screen, unlocked based on their fingerprint, families wouldn’t have to worry about parental lock passcodes and roommates could each have their own unique account. Even better if you can add another Apple ID to a separate profile.
Siri, who knows TV
Apple touted Siri’s new knowledge of music during the Apple Music announcement in June. It lives up to the hype—Siri works really well with Apple’s robust library. If Apple were to integrate it with shows and movies available in their store, it could be a killer feature. Even better, if all that content were available in a subscription service like Apple Music, but for movies and television. “Siri, play me the best-rated episode of Seinfeld. Then ten more after that.”
Apple is traditionally behind the curve on resolutions and pixel density, easily outmaneuvered and ever-reluctant to directly compete with the Android operating system’s carousel of hardware. (Example: the iPhone 6’s 750 x 1,334 screen vs the Samsung Galaxy S6’s 2,560 x 1,440 screen.) But in the streaming world, 4K support would be a nice surprise and make the design future-resistant, especially if it plans on waiting another 3 years for an update. The argument against 4K is that there isn’t a lot of 4K content out there right now. Netflix and YouTube are the biggest repositories of the ultra-high resolution video, and even they don’t seem to be pushing it on consumers.
All the features listed above would be nice. People would like them once they own the Apple TV. But if we’re talking about driving people to buy a product, there’s no substitute for having available content. Amazon has learned that with the success of the Fire TV and Stick (the Fire TV had a 30 percent market share of streaming devices as of June). If Apple wants to make the new Apple TV a living room mainstay, it needs to make watching live TV easier and cheaper. It’s been reported that a TV service is coming, although won’t launch until later in the year, or even possibly next year.
Apple TV’s current lineup is fine. You can watch Netflix, the exclusive HBO deal was great for Game of Thrones fans, and even live sports are available through different packages. The broadcast new outlets are there, but it’s often pared-down clips of segments, and no live coverage means it’s not the place for breaking news. (That’s still the domain of the internet and broadcast.) The current services are stale now, and cord-cutters are looking towards live services like Sling TV, which grew by 150 percent from April to June 2015 (although that’s only from 100,000 to 250,000 subscribers). CBS CEO Les Moonves indicated that CBS would “probably” make a deal with Apple for their programming, according to Re/code, and has been in talks with Apple’s Eddy Cue.
The Apple idea behind this live TV seems to be a total replacement of network to premium television: from local programming to HBO. Apple has already shown that they want to get into the market of distributing content. Early reports say that Apple Music has 10 million subscribers, and Apple threw a considerable amount of marketing behind the product. Now it just needs to make a similar strategy play out with video to make the Apple TV a real success.