Apple TV 4K coming soon

Those who read our monthly Letters from America know that the absence of a refresh to the now seemingly ancient “Gen. 4” version of the Apple TV has been a sore spot here. As of today, that has changed. Pilgrims, your search has ended!

Along with the new Apple Watch, the new iPhone 8 and the high-end iPhone X, at the first-ever event at the new Steve Jobs Theater at the Apple Park complex in Cupertino, CA., the Apple TV 4K was finally introduced. Apple ecosystem fans and those who provision for them may now breathe a sigh of relief. Given the extensive coverage one suspects you have already seen on the mainstream products we will focus here on the product that has the most importance for HiddenWires readers.

As the name projects, Apple TV 4K will offer a variety of 4K content and features. From a specification page view, the new product joins the Chromecast Ultra as the only streaming device with both Dolby Vision and HDR10. To make this possible, the new unit is powered by the same A10 Fusion chip that powers the latest iPads and the specs include the required HEVC decoding, HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2 standard compatibility.

Connection is 802.11ac or wired Gigabit Ethernet, upgraded from the 10/100 connectivity on the current Gen. 4. Other connectivity requirements are identical to the Gen.4, with an onboard power supply and identical size for the puck-like form factor. The USB-C port for upgrades is gone, presumably because the platform is stable enough that there was no need for it. Other than a white ring around the Menu button the remote is also identical with charging via a Lightning port. 

Apple TV and remote top downApple TV and remote top downHardware and specs are necessary and nice, but it is, of course, the content that is the most important here. iTunes will be a first-call source of 4K content, with titles from Fox, Lionsgate, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warners. Curiously, Disney is not listed as participating in 4K despite the strong ties between Apple and that studio. Unexpectedly, not only will the price of 4K content not be increased over the HD price. Even better, those with existing iTunes titles in their library will have them updated to 4K versions at no additional charge. Streaming services with 4K content will include Netflix, and later this year, Amazon.  

How incoming content is accessed and managed is as important as the content, itself. For that reason, the new Apple TV 4K will feature the updated “tvOS 11” version of tvOS. This will bring the “TV App” with localised content services outside the US to Canada, UK, France, Germany, Norway and Sweden in the first round with more to follow. In the US this will include pointers to live sports and news content, but that will not be available ex-US at launch. However, even for the US, there was no mention of live sports content in 4K. Rights issues are probably at the bottom of that and we’ll keep a watch out for any 4K additions.

Another feature will be compatibility with the AirPlay 2 speakers. That will allow Apple ecosystem fans to have multiroom functionality that Amazon, Google/Chromecast, Sonos, PlayFi, Heos, Bluesound and others already promoted. The Siri voice interface may also be used with HomeKit products, but curiously there was no mention of the HomePod speaker. We’ll likely have to wait until November for more on that. 

Uncharacteristically for Apple, there was more than usual mention of games for Apple TV, with a full segment devoted to a new game called Sky from thatgamecompany. However, there was no mention of any 4K gaming.

Those are the top level highlights, and when all is said and done, all the updates and improvements will undoubtedly once again make Apple a contender in a market segment where it is now running fourth behind Roku, Chromecast and Amazon fireTV. The new product will be available for customer preorder on Friday, September 15. Pricing will be USD$179/£179 GBP for the 32GB model and USD$199/£199GBP for the 64GB model. The current Apple TV remains in the line at USD$149. Finally, consumer preorder is September 15th for retail availability one week later, on September 22nd. 

While I said at the outset that this report would concentrate on the Apple TV 4K, there is one thing concerning the new iPhones that merits attention to the installation community. The iPhone 8 and iPhone X will be the first iPhones with wireless charging. Although Apple is famous for going their own way, except for USB-C for recent Mac Books, the company has selected the open Qi standard for the new iPhones. Thus, your installations for Apple ecosystem-centric clients will be able to do away with a spaghetti bowl of cables at the bed stand, kitchen counter or office desk. Since Qi is already in the market leading third-party accessory companies, including Belkin, Mophie, iHome, Aircharge and others will be ready at launch with Qi chargers that have already been certified. Anyone anticipating the new iPhones in an installation would be wise to add one or more of these lines to their card.

Those are the headlines, but as the product comes closer to market there will, of course, be more. Suffice to say, I’ll be online at midnight on the 15th to order an Apple TV 4K so that I will have it a week later. Presuming that I get on the list early, I’ll report on how it works in comparison to similar 4K streaming products in a future Letter from America. I can’t wait!

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