A new Apple TV may be on the way - what features are you hoping for?

A new Apple TV may be on the way - what features are you hoping for?

If a new Apple TV is coming, what new features would you like to see? Here's my wish list

Rumors abound that Apple is going to roll out a new Apple TV in the coming months - a fourth-generation box that will bolster Apple's already dominant position in the streaming video player market.

Let's assume for the moment that those rumors are correct. If you check the timeline, there's reason to think that they are, since Apple has updated the Apple TV annually for the last couple of years. The Apple TV second-generation debuted in September 2010, followed by the third-gen Apple TV 18 months later in March, 2012, with a Rev. A bump coming last January.

What might a new Apple TV look like, and what might it do that the box doesn't do now? I'm going to share my wish list, and I hope you will too.

First of all, I'm going and predict that the Apple TV isn't going to change shape, at least not radically. I think Apple's going to stick with the streaming box concept and the Apple TV doesn't need a lot of size to pack a lot of power under the hood. But I'll be happy to be proven wrong here, and I would love to know what you think the next Apple TV might look like.

More content

We've seen Apple increase the pace of new channels as they strike deals with content providers - HBO Go here, PBS there, Crunchyroll, Qello, ABC, Netflix and so on. I'd like to see a lot more of that happen. Apple TV comes up particularly short against Roku, its biggest competitor in the streaming box market, which offers literally hundreds of channels to choose from (including Amazon Instant Video, which isn't available on Apple TV but can be streamed to Apple TV from an iOS device or a Mac, go figure).

Obviously some of this is wishful thinking, since it's entirely dependent on the content providers and whatever licensing arrangements they've made with other companies (like Roku) or are willing to make with Apple. But I'd like to see more choices for native content on Apple TV, with a nice balance of free and subscription.

Apps

We know the Apple TV already runs iOS, but it can't access the App Store and download applications. The device currently isn't set up for that capability. It's been rumored that the next-gen Apple TV will have downloadable applications available for it, and that would be a game-changer - even if it's only "channel" downloads the same way that it works for Roku.

But other apps to extend the ability of the Apple TV in different directions would be awfully tasty. I'm a TiVo user, for example. I'd love to see an app running on my Apple TV that would let me stream content from my TiVo instead of having to use TiVo's own Stream box. I'd be able to watch recorded content on my living room TiVo on my Apple TV in the bedroom.

Games

Of course, gaming has been rumored to be coming to the Apple TV for some time. Streaming gaming boxes have been rather hit or miss in the past, but this may be a good time for Apple to enter the market.

Casual gaming is obviously popular fare in the App Store. With the release of iOS 7, we've seen a number of games outfitted with MFi game controller support, and that's a real game changer, if you'll pardon the pun.

Using a Bluetooth wireless controller like Steelseries' Stratus, for example, it's conceivable to imagine an Apple TV as a casual game console for up to four players simultaneously, playing on the same television screen.

Right now you can sort of do that with some MFi games by streaming them to the Apple TV using AirPlay through an iPhone or iPad, but it's fraught with drawbacks, such as Wi-Fi-induced lag between the Apple TV and the iPhone and iPad. Depending on the game it may be playable, but it's not really optimized for that experience.

The Apple TV is not going to be a replacement for a hardcore gaming console like an Xbox One or a PlayStation 4. But Nintendo's the weakest in the herd - the company expects to lose $355 million for its fiscal 2013, and its situation is dire enough that Nintendo's CEO and senior executives have taken significant pay cuts. Apple might be in the right position to fight for the hearts and minds of casual gamers interested in a big-screen console experience.

New features

We're still a way from seeing 4K TV come to the home in any meaningful way - most 4K television sets are still astronomically priced compared to 1080p-capable sets, and there's still a relative dearth of 4K content to enjoy (sure, Netflix and YouTube plan to offer it this year, but good luck getting 4K native content from your cable company or dish network). So I don't think the Apple TV needs 4K for this generation.

Having said that, I think the Apple TV could certainly benefit from better file format support. There are some video codecs that don't work on the Apple TV, requiring you to transcode them and copy them into your iTunes library before they'll work. I watch foreign language content that's often encoded using Matroska (MKV), for example, and right now I need to convert those files using Handbrake on my Mac before the Apple TV will have anything to do with them.

HDMI-CEC could be another useful addition. My Apple TV remote often goes missing, and while I have a Bluetooth keyboard paired with my Apple TV, I'd just as soon rely on the "regular" remote I use to watch TV with for basic menu navigation. HDMI-CEC enables you to command devices using the HDMI connection and the TV remote instead.

With Apple's recent acquisition of PrimeSense, the company behind the sensor technology that powered Microsoft's Kinect interface for the Xbox 360, it's entirely possible that future generations of Apple TV may have some sort of gesture support or ability to sense people standing in front of it.

That acquisition just happened last November, however, so I don't expect to see any PrimeSense technology incorporated into Apple products any time soon; Apple will take their own sweet time to figure out how best to leverage PrimeSense's tech into their gear.

OK, I've had my say. What do you think? What are the key features you'd like to see in the next Apple TV? Share your thoughts!

Peter Cohen

Managing Editor of iMore, Mac and gaming specialist and all-around technologist. Follow him on Twitter @flargh

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A new Apple TV may be on the way - what features are you hoping for?

70 Comments

I for one would love to see the 60mhz kick it up to at least a 120mhz! My Vizio 70" has that refresh rate so at least an equal amount please!

I think you mean Hz. Not mhz.
And what content is available to take advantage of 120Hz? The only advantage I could see is that if movies were kept at the 24fps they were produced at, and not converted to 30, then you have an even 5x multiplier to 120Hz. But movies are converted to 30 when you buy them, so I don't see the reason for 120Hz.

I’m going to pretend I know what you just said, but I do know that my BluRay movies look a lot better running at 120Hz than my iTunes movies do. I’m sure part of it is the compression on the digital files, but they’re still at 1080p. It’d be nice if the playback was smoother.

It's likely the compression. Or you are the only person I've ever met that prefers the interpolated fake "soap opera" look. I can't stand it. In fact, if you google "turn off 120Hz" you'll see lots of posts on the subject.

I'm hoping that non-hardware based changes (layout, theme, games, app store) are available for the Apple TV 3 as well, considering I just bought one. They seem to be pushing the ATV 3 on their store so I'd think they would include them.

To get me to buy a new updated Apple TV, Apple needs to include:
- Integrated apps and games for AppleTV. Especially full-featured, full-screen game support!
- iTunes Extras support! I mean, COME ON ALREADY!!
- Feature support for calendars, reminders, and other iOS features that I use daily. I want my AppleTV to be more useful to me throughout the day other than just giving me a source to consume entertainment media.

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iTunes Extras. So much this. They’re completely wasted as implemented now. You can’t watch them on your TV or your iPad! Who sits down at their computer to watch movie extras?

HDMI passthrough, IR blasting, and program guide, so I can control my cable box with an Apple UI. Note, this is what I want. This is not what I expect.

i knew i am not alone - IR blasting would be nice, indeed. include two of them for leagcy and bo devices.
two lightning connectors to stackup with other aHome devices - the unrevealed arm/ios kits from apple for the smart-home that just works.

I am absolutely hoping it Sherlocks SlingBox and becomes the device that takes anything I input and allows me access on all my idevices on the go!!

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Must Have: App Store
- Apps, Apps, Apps; I want official Plex, EyeTV, and other media client apps..
- Games and other AppleTV optimized Apps.. Dev's could do a lot!
- An official AppleTV App Store.. Allow a full SDK just like other iOS devices!

Would be nice:
- All in one Airport / AppleTV. I like the idea and think it would be great.
- Re-done UI with easier access
- More space; manageable like in iPhone/iPad. 8GB won't cut it if there are Apps.
- A more advanced remote, with mini-keyboard on back, like VIZIO's kind of... OR
- Direct support for something like a Harmony Remote. ONE remote to rule them ALL!

the harmony ultimate can control the current 3rd gen apple tv via bluetooth. i use that in combination with my phone remote app when i need to type something.

4K isn't going to wait for broadcasters. They're going to have the hardest time implementing it, and a majority of the user base probably won't be crying for it for a few years at least.

Streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes will drive 4K adoption; and the great thing is they can provide it without penalizing those that don't. With streaming, the content is provided at the resolution you want at whatever bit-rate you have. And the price of 4K TVs is going to be cut in half again this year, if the announcements at CES were any indication- so it might be slightly ahead of the curve, but probably a smart move to include 4K support in any new aTV, even if Apple itself isn't ready to start suppling 4K content via iTunes yet.

4K is another dead end, like 3D was. It just doesn't make any sense unless you have a giant TV - 80"+. The human eye just can't resolve the extra detail on normal sized screens at normal viewing distances.

That's an oversimplification that I find way too many people are making these days. Will everyone benefit? Absolutely not.

I have 3 ways I watch movies in my house.

First- sitting at my computer. A 27" iMac from about 2' away. Here I'd see a 288% improvement in picture.
Second- a 42" TV from 8' in our Living Room. Here, no benefit.
Third- a 92" projection screen also from 8'. Here, a 181% benefit.

These determinations come from this site-
http://referencehometheater.com/2013/commentary/4k-calculator/

Many people probably don't see the difference between 720 and 1080 content, based on how large their screen is and how far they're seated from it. Does that mean 1080 is pointless?

But unquestionably there's a law of diminishing returns. If only 30% of people who have a TV would benefit from 4K- probably less than 5% would benefit from 8K, which has already being demoed at CES for 2 years running.

But there's no deficit to you if Netflix can supply a range of sizes and bit-rates simultaneously (which it does).

And whether everyone needs it or not, 4K panels will be the same price as HDTVs are in a few years, becoming the defacto standard. The prices are already coming down much faster than many expected. From $15,000 2 years ago to models retailing for just over $1,000 this year.

Speak for yourself. I love watching 3D movies on my 65” tv. I can definitely tell the difference between a 1080p iTunes movie and a 1080p BluRay. 4k isn’t any more of a dead end than current HD is (which is, not at all). It’s just an evolution of technology. There’s no sense going after it now at current prices, but eventually all tv’s will be 4k. It isn’t going to be mainstream tech for another 5 years though, I’d guess. When it is I’ll upgrade to 80” or 90”. I’d agree it’s probably pointless under, say, 50”, which I think is where you can start seeing the difference between 720p and 1080p.

In Europe, and especially very densely populated countries such as the UK, houses are very., very small. 50" is huge in such a small space, so realistically speaking (and population is going in the wrong direction here, so things are only going to get worse), super large TVs are never going to happen. In Asia, things are even worse. Imagine an 80" TV in Japanese home...

Great for you if you enjoy 3D, but it's been a commercial and critical failure. Maybe it will come back in another 30 years or so, as it always tends to do.

UHD isn't just about higher resolution. The color space has drastically improved as well. Look up Rec 2020. UHD is going to bring better color gamut and more beyond a simple resolution increase.

Maybe they can resolve the issues when you rent a movie or TV show and it tells you it will take 7 hours to download over a 75 mbps connection and to reduce the quality so you try it on SD and it does the same thing.

Something is very wrong with your particular situation. I have a WAY slower download speed than you, and I can't remember the last time I had a "wait time" message. Maybe in the First Generation days I'd get 5 or 10 minute "Ready to watch in..." message. But not for years!

An App Store would make a huge difference, especially for the 99% of the world who don't live in America, where the ATV has always been next to useless.

Universal search (as on the xbox) would also be great, with series favourites and intelligent recommendations. And voice control.

A new ios 7 style UI too of course.

As for games, I have a PS3 and a PS4, so I'm not too excited by the idea of playing mobile games on my HDTV. Things could be very interesting though we're Apple to strike a deal, or acquire, Nintendo though.

Apps would be my #1 request. I would like to be able to run XBMC on an Apple TV, without jailbreaking.

For one, I take no one serious when they bring up games. Sure I like games but lets age a few years and not think like a Google/Roku user, but as an Apple user.

I value have the box have a front facing camera with FaceTime abilities, have a small SSD to store content (like iPhone and iPads do) so when traveling it doesn't require internet and my last request I think is a bit far fetched but to be placed inline between my hdmi-TV and my DVR (instead of a stand along device on another TV port). Another request would be for the Apple TV to act more like a Sonos controller which controls other airport device. Now Airplay is a point to point application. The device streaming is the device you adjust/turn off. Instead have any device tell Apple TV what to stream and where. Ok grownup time is over. Back to playing your games.

So the one rumour that scares me ( and perhaps because I don't understand how it would work) is the ATV/airport express combination...

I have 4 ATVs in my house so I can't imagine needing the above rumoured 4 times.. So how would it work? Would there be two new models? 1/similar to what we have now but with the upgrade and another with the airport capabilities?

That’s what I’d guess. It would actually make a lot of sense for my use scenario too. Right now I have a Time Capsule and Apple TV both located in my utility room with my other AV equipment for my “man cave” while in all the other rooms I have Apple TV’s as well. If I could combine the two in my utility room it would be nice for less clutter. They would also be nice as range extenders for the 5GHz band in the other rooms if you desired (I have 2 Expresses extending my 5GHz network in the office and master bedroom, both in opposite corners of the house, which also have Apple TVs in them.). But as you say, it only really makes sense if they have 2 models. Not everybody needs range extenders in every room.

What I want can't be solved by Apple TV. I want to cut my cable entirely but can't because I love my baseball team and am forced to subscribe in order to get my regional sports network. If that situation ever gets solved millions will cut their cable. I hear all about people doing but sports fans are screwed if you live within the blackout areas of your favorite teams.

This is a long shot, but pay-per-channel. That is the only thing that will revolutionize TV for me. For now, I'm a cordcutter.

I think a mixture of ala carte (pay per show) and then individual channel subscriptions for those stations which you watch a lot of content from (HBO), would satisfy most people who are on the verge of cutting cable.

For it to really work though, premium channels like HBO have to divorce themselves from Broadcast exclusivity. And for now anyway, their calculations seem to say they make more money from people ON cable than they'd make by providing a standalone "HBO app" that doesn't require proof of subscription with a traditional provider.

I bought an AppleTV Second Gen years ago, but never had much use for it without jailbreaking and installing XBMC. As encoded videos became more robust, the Apple TV 2 struggled in playback and eventually would not playback at all without crashing.

The lack of an App store with an open SDK has rendered the AppleTV somewhat useless when compared to boxes like Roku. I would switch back to AppleTV in a second should they allow 3rd party developers to create apps like Plex, but until then, it's a non-starter. I encoded my entire library as MKV, and it's embarassing that iTunes - and by extension the AppleTV - has such a poor list of supported playback formats.

These piecemeal releases of apps like HBO Go or ESPN are long overdue, and are coming years behind their availability on other platforms.

Apple is a company that has generally been on the cutting edge, but I've never understood the approach to AppleTV. Here's hoping they surprise me; I'll be back in a second if I can actually use this box to playback my 8TB movie collection.

As a fan of 3D action movies, I’d love for Apple to support 3D content, but I’m not going to hold my breath. It’d be awesome if you could plug your cable or satellite box into an Apple TV and have it take over content UI. DirecTV’s UI is gawdawful. And as mentioned before, the ability to finally play iTunes Extras and display the DVD/BluRay-like UI for iTunes movies would be great. I don’t really see the point of iTunes Extras right now.

Analogue audio out like the 1st generation! Don't laugh!! I'm serious.
I now have to have this contraption permanenetly plugged in to convert optical to analogue! Urgghhh!!

Also, content wise, what is it with the SD quality option! Get rid of it already. Everything should be HD.

And a new remote would be nice.

- Apps
- iTunes Extras
- No idea what this HDMI feature is called, but $10 devices have it (activate ATV input on the TV when turning ATV on)
- A remote that can at least turn the TV on/off and adjust the volume
- An EPG and channel selection GUI for DVB-T/C/S
- A mean to use an iTunes Library on a Time Capsule or other NAS device without the need to have a computer with iTunes running all the time, also a mean to BUY content on the ATV and save it to same storage device***
- Ability to create an ad hoc WiFi network (e.g. for presentations)
- A way to edit the stations list without abusing parental controls (at least remove stations from the list that are not available in a country anyhow), this is worse than 'trial ware' on a new Windows PC...

*** Movies and TV Shows can not be streamed from iCloud where I am, so a Cloud solution is no solution.

The article says "I'd just as soon rely on the "regular" remote I use to watch TV with for basic menu navigation."
Am I misunderstanding this comment? It is already possible to set up your remote in settings and it's exceptionally user friendly.

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The next Apple TV will come in two flavors.

$99 Gen 4 will have modest upgrades. Faster Ax SoC, 11ac Wifi. No apps and 1080p only.

Apple will introduce a new upscale model that will likely go for $199. It'll offer UHD/4K via HEVC support. It'll have a built in router to lower network latency because of hops. It'll offer support for the Apple TV store which will contain apps specifically designed for the Apple TV via an SDK that is announced as a tentpole feature at WWDC 2014.

It will also function as an iBeacon and tie into future indoor location functionality that Apple plans for the ecosystem in the near future seeing as how most homes have a TV in almost every room.

It'll be an input 1 device meaning that it will be able to co-exist and improve your experience by negating the need to switch inputs and provide overlays that can display everything from notifications to emails and other bits of data. It'll also come with its own guide data that searches across the various services that you have installed on your Apple TV (Netflix, Crackle etc)

The Apple TV is now a family and it's important to have two products. One aimed at the general user and one aimed at the enthusiast.

How about a storage space where you can store your photographs and videos ( I am talking about 1TB plus) and then accessing those photos through iOS devices and macs through apps??

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A safari app. I want to be able to surf the web on my big screen tv in widescreen, fill up my screen completely mode. No more 4:3 squarish box mode.

Unicorns...lots of unicorns.

Just kidding. I would like to see apps, but there really needs to be an SDK for that. 802.11AC wireless could be nice as would be HDMI 2.0 for future 4K support.

This may be more of a wish for my iPhone and iPad but I would like to see support to Airplay from my iPhone music from any app to more than one Apple TV at the same time. This would allow for a poor mans Sonos system. I recognize I can kind of already do this from iTunes on my desktop computer, but I want to be able to do this using other apps such as Pandora and Google Play Music from my iPad/iPhone.

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I would love to see more seamless integration with the iOS, with the look os ios7. More easy way to navigate the channels and contents.
Bump up the storage to 32gb at least.
Integration with AppStore for games.
Integration with mfi support for external controllers (games).

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Amazon support. Also, better video. I've done A/B tests of Netflix comparing Atv with my Roku 3. Roku blows it away.

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Private listening mode where you can use your iPhone/iPad remote app and plug in headphones and listen privately so as not to disturb someone in bed with you for example. Roku has the ability to plug in headphones to their remote and it's a great feature

Ciniemax/Max Go, Starz, TnT, TBS, Xfinity TV Go, Scifi, pretty much all of the On Demand and live streaming tv apps that are available for iOS. It baffles me how (and I know that most will argue that its not up to apple but the networks) these networks are available for iOS but not Apple TV. I know that Apple loves money and it would be a win win for them if they pushed to get these networks onboard to launch standalone apple tv apps. This way people who do not want iOS devices would at least give the apple tv a go. While speaking of standalone apps that is the next thing that needs to come along an entire catalog of standalone/universal apple TV apps that can be played on A/TV without having to airplay.

I just acquired my first Apple TV a few months ago so I'm still a little new to it but for me I just want content and I mean main stream content. I have Dish so I'm automatically locked out of anything that requires cable login and that's bull shit, especially with major networks like ABC and NBC. I know that's not really Apples fault but I gave up Netflix for Amazon Prime to kill two bird with one stone so where's my native app? The biggest promise I see right now is the WWE network and what it's going to bring. It is truly the future of television in my opinion. I like watching Vevo for videos and of course the native iOS apps but the rest is just locked out or off brand crap I'll never use and hence have hidden away.

So with adding the app store and gaming, will this new ATV come in the tiered disk configs like an iPad or iPhone....16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB? Isn't this just going to become the iPad/iPhone without a screen, where you use your own display of choice....something like the Mac Mini is to the Mac line?

All I want is Jarvis on my Apple TV. It's got constant power and constant connectivity. I want it to be listening for my commands. I want it to activate when I say "Siri" and then like Ironman's OS I want it to intelligently do whatever I ask it to do. Short of taking over the world ofcourse lol

Apps would be great. Of course for this, Apple TV needs storage.. 16GB should be enough for most consumers, and maybe Apple will keep the 99$ price? Since Apple TV runs iOS, for developers won't be difficult to put apps in App Store. Sharing the same core code from iPhone/iPad apps and changing the UI of the App (of course will not be touch UI). Having said that, now imagine to have the amazing new VLC app of iPhone/iPad on Apple TV. It would be incredible!! No need for iOS to support further codecs. Only we need is App Store ;)

Apple Tv needs to become its own AV receiver... Plug your DVD player, Cable, other devices into it via HDMI. With new technology the APPLE TV will know if there is any change in content on any of the devices. Would you like to switch to your Cable box? etc... APPLE TV becomes the center of the TV main screen. allowing you to use only one HDMI input on your TV simplifying the connections!

Apple TV needs apps. Specifically BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD, MUBI, Spotify, that are available on Samsung Smart TV.

I would like to have the ability to listen to the audio through headphones using my iPad or iPhone if not the remote such as Roku uses.