Maybe the future of Apple TV is no Apple TV
Recently, I was in the market for a new television for my living room. After looking at countless online reviews and chatting with friends, I decided to purchase a new LG TV. This device isn't my first smart TV, but the first I have purchased in nearly five years. Because of this, I'm having a lot of fun experiencing tools missing on my older Samsung, including Google Assistant integration and personalized entertainment.
At least for now, my LG television doesn't support the third-party Apple TV app. However, that should change soon when an announced firmware update arrives. In the meantime, I'm going back and forth between the LG interface and my Apple TV 4K. However, I'm increasingly finding myself simply using the built-in entertainment apps on my television to watch Netflix, Hulu, and the like. Sure, not everything offered through the Apple TV is available here, such as certain streaming apps. For these times, however, I can use AirPlay 2. All this compatibility has made me question whether, in time, I even need an Apple TV device at all.
Ideas for the next Apple TV
Don't get me wrong, I love my Apple TV and have three units in my home, each synced to my iCloud account. Historically, I've used Apple TV to access all of my streaming video content both through iTunes and third-party services like those mentioned above. More recently, I've dabbled in Apple Arcade on the device, although that's more my daughter's thing, and use it to watch Apple TV+ content.
Here's the thing. Beyond this, I no longer see the need for an Apple TV and can't imagine buying another one in its current form. Weather and social apps, for example, don't do much for me on a bigger screen. The same goes for other apps such as those for photos and financial news.
Buy any smart television, like I just did, and you'll quickly realize Apple TV's fast-becoming a marginalized product, especially for non-gamers. Throw in Apple's decision to finally offer third-party Apple TV apps for smart televisions, Roku, and Amazon Fire devices, and spending money on a physical Apple TV doesn't make a lot of sense anymore.
As someone who has owned every Apple TV model ever made, I have always supported Cupertino's "hobby" device. However, things need to change moving forward for the product to survive. Among my ideas to make this happen are as follows.
Time for an Apple TV Stick
If Apple wants to remain in the Apple TV hardware business, a Fire TV Stick-like product would no doubt be well received. Portable and low-cost, a tiny USB-connected device would be a great way to effortlessly carry Apple Arcade gaming to other televisions in your home or to family and friends.
Amazon charges $50 for its Fire Stick 4K. Even factoring in Apple's propensity for premium pricing, the company could probably offer a USB-based Apple TV for around $99 and sell millions with lots of profit.
Lower the cost
If a Fire Stick-like product isn't possible for whatever reason, Apple still needs to reconsider its Apple TV pricing strategy.
Anything above the $99 mark for an Apple TV device (stick or otherwise) no longer seems justified, especially with the availability now of the Apple TV app on similar devices.
The least expensive Apple TV 4K unit is $179, while the Apple TV HD is $149. Now compare this to the 4K Amazon Fire Cube, which is $120, and best-in-class Roku Ultra, which is $99, and you can see just how off these prices have become. And again, it's worth reminding you that these devices support the Apple TV app!
An actual Apple TV
Nearly a decade ago, the Apple rumor mill mostly assumed an actual Apple television was incoming. That didn't happen, of course. There's little profit in making televisions, especially on the lower end of the pricing scale. However, that hasn't kept companies like LG and Samsung from offering newer (and larger) models each year.
I'm not entirely sold on a physical Apple Television, although I can see a scenario where one could be justified. For one, any Apple Television would need to match or exceed the internals on the current crop of 8K televisions. Second, the television's tvOS would have to have bells and whistles missing from regular tvOS. This one-two combination would almost certainly be enough to launch a first-generation model, assuming Apple backs it up with its many resources, financial and otherwise.
My initial thought was that an Apple Television should be premium-priced. However, perhaps this isn't the way to go, at least at first. With 8K still in its infancy, possibly offering an aggressively priced 8K television is a better choice. Coupled with the launch of an 8K-supported iPhone camera, and suddenly this makes more sense.
Or they could kill the Apple TV in its current form
One final option would be to discontinue Apple TV hardware and continue to expand the Apple TV app's reach to other non-Apple products. Deciding on this solution, however, would do nothing to maintain Apple Arcade and tvOS games. Perhaps along with ending Apple TV development, the company could introduce a USB-based gaming-only device. Another solution: pivot the current Apple TV design to a gaming-only device and make it a PlayStation and Xbox competitor.
Hopefully, we'll hear more about Apple's plans for Apple TV in the coming months. Until then, we can put together wish lists! Where do you hope to see Apple TV go in the future? Let us know your thoughts below.
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Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.