Chances are good that in the next three months, we'll see the new Apple TV. It's been nearly four years since the launch of the Apple TV 4K and a year after the launch of Apple TV+, which means it's high time for a refresh.
Based on everything we've heard so far, that refresh is likely to arrive at WWDC 2021 that starts on June 7, or at the Apple Spring Loaded event on April 21. The former would make more sense considering that's Apple's major annual event, but the latter might make sense, too, if Apple wants to launch the new device before its slate of upcoming TV shows and movies.
That last part is conjecture clearly, but it's based off something tech analyst Jon Prosser said last year, which was that a new Apple TV was in the works and would be launched by the end of 2021. There's still some time before the end of the year – and at least one more big Apple event around September or October – but it's looking more and more like we're getting a new Apple TV 4K in the very near future.
So what will a possible follow-up look like? Here's what we might see from the Apple TV in 2021, which would be the 6th generation of the box.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? A new version of Apple’s set-top box
- When is it out? Apparently, it was ready to go over a year ago
- What will it cost? Likely around $159 / £150 / AU$250
New Apple TV: Streamer, smart display or both?
One of the most interesting rumors we've read about the new Apple TV is that it could be a hybrid device that's both a smart display and a streaming device all rolled into one, similar to an Amazon Echo Show but with an Apple TV 4K built into it.
If that's the case, the Apple TV 6 might include a camera for video conferencing – seemingly taking a lesson from the Portal TV webcam for FaceTime, Messenger or Whatsapp video calls.
With Apple's huge user base, a TV peripheral that's able to let you easily FaceTime through the screen could gain a lot of traction, putting Apple back on the map for home streaming hardware, which is an area where it's largely considered to have fallen behind in recent years.
If that's exactly what Apple has in store for us is unclear, but we're optimistic we'll be hearing about a new Apple TV either at next week's April event or WWDC in June.
Apple TV 6 (2021): release date
As ever with unannounced Apple products, outside the annual iPhone release, it’s hard to know when, if ever, a new product will hit stores. But we can make educated guesses based on previous models’ release dates.
The fifth-generation, 4K-capable Apple TV model was revealed on September 12, 2017, almost two years to the day that the 4th generation Apple TV was announced.
So when could a new Apple TV arrive? Our best bet right now is it'll launch soon after WWDC 2021, coinciding with the release of The Morning Show season two later this year. That said, nothing is certain at this point. The Apple TV 4K still generally seems to be considered a niche product by Apple – it doesn't get the annual upgrades that the iPhone, iPad and Macbook get, only getting a few minutes on stage at WWDC each year to talk about changes coming to tvOS.
New Apple TV 4K with A12X – 64GB/128GB ready to ship. 👀Codename: Neptune T1125Another one of those things that could drop any time. Apple got no chill right now 😬😂I’ll let you know if/when I hear a date. Who knows, maybe Apple can keep it a secret from me 🤗May 7, 2020
Apple TV 6 (2021): price
Of course, without a confirmed spec sheet, it’s difficult to speculate on cost. Apple knows that messing with the formula too much might hurt sales, though.
It's worth bearing in mind that as far as set-top boxes have gone in the past, Apple’s has always commanded a premium price.
For the sake of context, the current-gen Apple TV costs £179 / $179 / AU$249 for the 32GB version, while the 64GB option costs £199 / $199 / AU$279.
Analyst Jon Prosser has speculated around a $149 RRP, though we wouldn't be surprised to see the cost go higher, especially with a more advanced A12X processor inside the hardware.
Apple TV 6 (2021): what we want to see
The Apple TV line has made some solid steps forward over the last two generation revisions, but there’s still room for improvement should a 6th-generation Apple TV ever hit stores.
Apple’s approach to content and voice control still frustrates at times, and it’s in these areas we’re mostly looking for some progress with a new Apple TV, what with the underlying hardware being reasonably solid at this period in time.
A serious performance upgrade
Whenever we get a new Apple TV model, it might come packing a substantial performance upgrade.
Apple tipster @choco_bit has revealed on Twitter that new Apple TV models will come featuring the Apple A12Z Bionic chip (currently powering the 2020 iPad Pros) and an enhanced version of the Apple A14 Bionic chip (currently powering the 2020 iPad Air 4).
A more user-friendly remote
The remote that ships with the current Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K really broke the mold when it released in 2015. Unfortunately, mold-breaking doesn't always equate to being user-friendly.
The good news is that Apple could be revamping the Apple TV remote that will replace the divisive Siri Remote we've seen since the launch of the Apple TV HD in 2015, but Apple has stayed tight lipped about the rumors. We know that there's some remote in development (codenamed ‘B519’) that has physical buttons, but we don't have much more to go off of than some descriptions from insider sources.
An open approach to apps and third-party video
The walls of Apple’s closed garden have been slowly eroding over the years, but it’s still quite picky about what makes it to its TV-based app store. That’s particularly clear when you’re comparing the Apple TV with something like Android TV-based set-top boxes, where a wide range of applications (including some more controversial options like Kodi) are available.
It’d be great to see Apple take a similarly open approach to its TV viewing options in the future. Tastes across the globe vary, and a wider variety of programming and streaming options (as well as ways to play back your own media) would go down a treat if they were included in the Apple TV 2020
More gaming options
The last two generations of Apple TV have seen the company dip its toes deeper into the world of gaming – something that, outside of the iOS app store, it’s been reticent to do in a home space in the past.
But with the 5th-gen release and the partnership with Thatgamecompany for its game Sky, it started to seem like it was finally taking home gaming seriously – not least with the arrival of Apple Arcade, a game subscription service that allows players to access quality titles across their iOS devices.
An improved processor would do much to sell the Apple TV 4K to iOS-minded gamers, given the 5th-gen model wasn't really designed with that capability in mind.
Deeper voice control with Siri
Controlling your TV with voice commands is still a thrill, but Apple’s Siri lags behind the capabilities of Google’s Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa.
The TV space would be a great area for it to invest in, given the relatively narrow contextual window it has to work within.
We’d love to see Siri integration really dive deep with the 6th-gen Apple TV 2020 – perhaps scheduling a calendar notification for your favorite show release date, for instance, or a way to control other Apple products like iMacs, Macbooks and iPads using our voice.
Better HomePod and HomePod Mini syncing
Apple’s smart speaker can frustrate thanks to Siri’s sometimes weak recognition capabilities, but one thing that is undeniable about the hardware is its sound quality. The HomePod Mini and now-discontinued HomePod were easily the two best-sounding smart speaker on the market – if among the most expensive of them, too. It’d be great to be enveloped by an epic Hollywood soundtrack through those speakers.
A beefed-up Apple TV Plus content library
While Apple finally released its TV streaming service, Apple TV Plus, in 2019, it still offers a pretty paltry offering of shows. A bigger catalogue of programming, and more exclusives to draw viewers to the service, would do much to make an Apple TV 4K device look more tempting – especially given how Apple services tend to run best on Apple products.