Apple’s upgraded streaming box will compete with the Chromecast Ultra to offer 4K, HDR, and Dolby Vision support. But is that enough to compete with the growing Smart TV crop?
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Apple’s streaming box is due for a refresh since its predecessor, the 4th Gen Apple TV, was launched back in 2015. Keeping with trends, the new Apple TV is extending support for streaming and playback in 4K, HDR and Dolby Vision formats, at least that is what the latest tvOS 11 firmware leak suggests.
The addition of 4K on the 2017 Apple TV has been a shared expectation of the tech community and is not really a shocking revelation. After Bloomberg outed the information back in August, the new leak goes as far as including UHD images for the Top Shelf on Apple TV, an upgraded Siri remote, and code referring to HDR Mode, 4K, Dolby Vision.
The device is expected to be called the ‘Apple TV 4K,’ as tweeted by developer Steve Troughton-Smith. It will feature a “three-core A10 Fusion CPU and 3GB RAM,” believes the developer. The leaked tvOS 11 firmware revealed a code in the ‘Settings’ app that references ‘HDR Modes’. “Apple TV will choose the widest color range available. If you don’t see an option you expect, make sure Apple TV is plugged into a supported HDMI 2.0 port,” the code explains as per 9to5Mac.
There is also a reference to Dolby Vision with the description saying, “Get the best picture with better, brighter colors, We’ll make sure your HDMI cable is compatible before we turn on Dolby Vision,” explains the blog.
More evidence of Apple TV 4K’s HDR capabilities is found in the code which refers to a dedicated webpage for information on High Dynamic Range. The webpage - support.apple.com/appletv/HDR is not live yet, of course. AirPlay 2 for home audio and HomeKit support are also mentioned in the firmware leak.
Lastly, it seems like the Apple TV 4K will get an upgraded Siri remote. There is a difference in the model number of the remote mentioned in the tvOS 11 firmware leak. The model number goes from B239 to B429 and the remote appears to have its own firmware, separate from the current Siri remote.
While the addition of 4K, HDR and Dolby Vision seems like the right way to go for Apple TV, it faces tough competition from 4K HDR smart TVs since they do offer all this, are faster, and have better app access. Last year’s Chromecast Ultra was also not a great disruptor since 4K TVs increasingly started offering identical functions and features. The only difference remaining that the Chromecast Ultra has the phone for a remote. I do prefer an actual remote rather than my phone, and the Amazon Fire Stick remote does a decent job of that, especially with voice search.
Then there is also the matter of content. Apple needs to offer better content on the Apple TV and given its own content push this year, we hope Apple takes streaming a little more seriously. A rightly priced product, with support for popular apps and interesting standalone content of Apple Music, could make the Apple TV 4K extremely desirable. It also remains to be seen if the growth in popularity of new apps such as Facebook TV and the scarce 4K, HDR content offering apps like Netflix, fosters higher adoption for the Apple TV. In the US, Live TV also plays a big role when it comes to streaming, but it won’t matter for markets like India as there is absolutely nil localisation of content offered by the Apple TV.
The Apple TV 4K will launch today, alongside the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and the redesigned iPhone X at the Apple Event scheduled to begin 10:30PM IST.
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