Apple is giving its TV offering an upgrade with the launch of a new 4K Apple TV.
Apple TV, despite the company’s gargantuan commercial clout, has long been an underdog in the streaming media game, with Google’s Chromecast racing into the lead for affordability, Roku’s platform offering a wide range of apps and services, and Amazon’s Fire TV combining both pricing, apps and its Echo-supported voice search.
Crucially, all of those devices already support 4K, so Apple’s announcement at last night’s event of a slick Ultra HD black box is a welcome step back into the race for the technology giant.
Apple’s box will also go one step further, also supporting High Dynamic Range (HDR), which works in tandem with 4K to provider greater detail in both dark and bright scenes. With the iTunes library continuously building its selection, Apple will benefit from both 4K and HDR movies available to buy and rent. iTunes users will also get automatic upgrades of HD titles in their existing iTunes library to 4K HDR versions when they become available.
All this is made possible by a new A10X Fusion chip, the same one that powers the iPad Pro. It also powers support for Siri and the Apple TV app, which allow users to search with their voice for favourite shows and movies across different platforms, as well as – later this year – phrases such as “What’s the score of the Cubs game?” and “Watch the Warriors game”. The Apple TV app will be available shortly in Australia and Canada, as well as the US, and will launch in the UK by the end of the year. In the meantime, customers can still use Siri to search for films in 4K.
The new, improved visuals are a big jump forward for Apple TV: while Chromecast Ultra and Roku’s 4K models support HDR10, Apple TV supports both HDR10 and its rival HDR format, Dolby Vision, which means that the device now boasts the best (and most widely compatible) picture quality on the market. 4K HDR content from other video services, such as Netflix, will also be suppported.
Other services, though, remain Apple’s achilles heel: Spotify, for example, is not available on Apple TV, because of Apple Music and iTunes. In the UK, where US sports have far less traction, Apple’s range of apps is even less extensive, with only NOW TV and Netflix available. That, however, will soon change, as Apple has also announced (as we reported earlier this year) that Amazon Prime Video is officially coming soon.
Thatgamecompany, who brought us Journey, has also announced that it is working on a new game designed specifically for Apple TV. Showcasing the game at the Apple keynote event, the studio’s CEO described it as a “romantic adventure game”, noting that everything can be controlled with one finger on the Siri remote.
It’s announcement that suggests Apple acknowledges the fact that streaming video devices are all well and good, but they need something worth streaming. While 4K visuals are important, increased games support and the addition of Amazon Prime Video could well be the thing that makes Apple TV a more serious contender for space in your living room.
The new Apple TV 4K starts at £179 for 32GB and £199 for 64GB, joining Apple TV (4th generation) 32GB at £149. The new model will be available to order from 15th September, with the box officially released on 22nd September.