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Sadly, tvOS won't be coming to a third-generation Apple TV near you

The third-generation Apple TV may be sticking around after today's announcement as a low-cost entry to the Apple TV world, but at a cost: It won't be getting any of the tvOS features shown during today's event.

Apple's comparison page (opens in new tab) has the two models face off, and the older $69 Apple TV doesn't get Siri, the App Store, or third-party controller support... so, basically, the entirety of the new tvOS platform. Nor is the tvOS beta available for the third-generation Apple TV—only new, developer-kit Apple TVs are welcome.

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A large part of this is hardware limitations: The third-generation Apple TV has an A5 processor to the new Apple TV's A8—if the App Store were to be supported, for example, the company would be asking developers to support a chipset from 2012. Do you remember what games and apps looked like in 2012? It'd be a huge handicap limitation, even if the majority of the app were to run on the iPhone and use AirPlay to connect.

This isn't to say that the third-generation Apple TV won't receive ANY software update (with Apple Music goodness) to make it look more like its sibling when the new set top box comes out later this year—I expect that. But if you were hoping to play with tvOS on your existing box, or buy a cheap test unit, you're sadly out of luck.

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.

27 Comments
  • All I want is the UI, the features don't interest me Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Yeah they should at least update the user interface
  • I can't imagine anyone would be surprised by this?I love my Apple TV Gen3 and use it every single day, but it's specs are ancient by tech standards (not that you necessarily need a beast of a machine to stream and play video).
  • Yes, I bought my gen 3 right after they dropped the price, so it's still new to me. I love it, but I would like to see some interface updates. I hear so much complaining about this little remote. I think it's just fine. Yes, you do have to remember where you set it down, but that's the same with all remotes. The IR hasn't been a problem for me. I use an HDMI splitter so I can watch in the living room and in the adjoining bedroom. I just have to remember to not point the remote at the TV in the bedroom, but to point it into the living room. It's not even line-of-sight, the Apple TV is around a corner two feet behind a wall. Still works flawlessly if I point to the correct room. That new remote is Bluetooth like everyone wanted, but it's not much bigger than the old remote, so I bet they'll be losing those the same way. The touch pad is much nicer than I imagined. More like a trackpad. But my old remote is just fine like it is.
  • I like the new Apple TV, but I would be pretty happy with an update to add Apple Music to my 3rd gen boxes... and even the UI update, but maybe it can't handle the new UI?
  • It could, atleast in some shape or another. But that wouldnt extract money from your wallet.
  • So is Apples entire approach to just incrementally add features until consumers are broke? Every Apple product out there has major drawbacks.....and anything new added, is actually not new elsewhere.
  • Hardly. The AppleTV hasn't seen a hardware refresh in a few years and in that time actually had a price drop. It's no surprise that with a lot of new feature additions most would be relegated to new hardware. You're right though. A lot of new stuff is available in some form in other products. Apple's thing is to polish them and make them not suck. Not only that, but EVERY company's approach is to make new things and add features to separate you from your money. Don't see why you'd consider that just Apple's approach. Last I checked Samsung, LG, Motorola, HTC, etc. all come out with new hardware every years be it phones, tablets, tv's or whatever.
  • So what is wrong with Apple products and how do they charge you for new features. I never pay for a new OS for my MAC. Unlike the Windows world all my computer and communication products link seamlessly. The quality is very high with ALL there hardware. I have bata tested Windows since version 2.1 and cut all ties with Windows products with Windows 8 and 9. I was one of the biggest Apple haters, just needed to get my head out of my butt and see there was something going at Apple.
  • The problem is that you have to buy expensive Apple hardware to use their new free software. I reckon the marketing men at Apple felt that if they didn't give their software away for free, their customers would all be broke, for sure...
  • Not surprising considering the ancient hardware in the AppleTV3. And it needs to work with the new bluetooth remote's built-in mic for Siri. Not to mention no storage for apps and games. After so long with no hardware updates, I'm looking forward to upgrading.
  • More the reason why I like and use Roku!!! Sent from the iMore App
  • I will be delegating my Apple TV3 to the bedroom and look forward to purchasing the new Apple TV for the Living room.
  • I'm thinking to do the same. My Apple TV3a is plenty good enough for the bedroom, but I'm overdue to replace this old CRT TV in the living room. I'll get a new Apple TV for it when I do.
  • My AppleTV3 will be going in to the TV we just added to our children's playroom, while the main TV will get the upgraded AppleTV. It would be nice for ATV3 to have access to some of the apps I know are coming (Amazon, Vudu), but it isn't a dealbreaker for a secondary TV.
  • I liked what I saw and will be purchasing one. My current 3rd gen box(es) will still get plenty of usage due to AirPlay and such. Might hook it up to my tele in the kitchen in fact. I'm satisfied. Sent from the iMore App
  • I get that the A5 in the current Apple TV is only single core but the 4S and its A5 get iOS9, so don't I don't see why it shouldn't at least get a similar interface and hopefully even some of the apps crossing between devices.
  • Man Apple sure likes to drag their feet with everything and still charge a very high price.
  • Consumers buy right into it.
  • Nobody is forcing you to abide by their time frame.
  • Apple just keeps taking their time to get it right. Most new items have an OS bug or two but eventually that gets worked out and is always has no cost to the consumer. Another thing is as soon as Apple says they are working on something other companies rush it on the market and it leaves Apple looking like they are behind even though they thought of the idea. There prices are a bit higher but there quality and longevity is beyond all others.
  • Lol I'm still using the 2nd gen apple TV with the A4 processor from 2010. I only use it for Netflix and purchased movies so I am not looking to buy the new one. It would be nice if I could get the updated look (which I highly doubt would ever happen)
  • I'll probably end up with the new one but my gen 3 has really served me well I feel like I'd be getting rid of a perfectly fine piece of equipment to get the shinny new toy. I'm wondering about the prices I'm sure they are posted but I just haven't seen them yet
  • I call BS.
    If I go to the Apple Store on my first gen iPad, I'm told which apps will run and which will not. So your sole justification for why tvOS can't be on a Gen 3 is naive and completely incorrect.
    Simply supporting the Store does not mean every app there needs to support every type of hardware. This is PURELY a marketing decision, in full adherence to Apple's overarching business model for planned obsolescence. Nothing more. I can't fault them for that... they are a business afterall, and can make profit any way the market will support (and, apparently, the market supports a lot). But stop calling it for anything but what it is.
  • Any news on a software update for AppleTV 3rd generation? I don't think I'll buy the new one any soon because of the lack of an optical audio output (my Yamaha receiver from 2004 is working great, thank you!), but the lack of support for Apple Music on an Apple device is becoming just ridiculous!
  • Once again Apple just made a better product.
  • I am reading these comments and wondering why there isn't more outrage about this. I haven't used my 3rd Gen Apple TV since I got my first gen Fire TV. I hear people complaining that Amazon doesn't have a Prime Video app for the Apple TV (maybe they do now I don't check), but do you see Apple's content available on other platforms? It's not a 1 way road. If you want Amazon Prime content on your Apple TV's then allow Fire TV owners access to Apple's content. But you know that will never happen. In addition, my 1st gen Fire TV got updated and now supports Alexa (from the Echo) and had an app store before Apple even was thinking about theirs. I enjoy Apple products. I will only use Macs for my work, but I am not a fan of the iPhone. I have a Nexus 6P. At the same time I am a big fan of the iPad Pro. The point I am trying to make is you are allowed to be upset with Apple because of this. They could have made the interfaces match. They could have put a USB port on the back (like my Fire TV) to expand storage down the line if needed, but they didn't. Even without the USB port, apps could be streamed or downloaded on the fly when needed. Instead they want you to buy the newest device as always, because at the end of the day, Apple is a hardware company. But I am still surprised, even in the iMore community, you can't bring yourselvs to say Apple made the wrong decision with the 3rd gen Apple TV. (Which they did) For the record I bought my Dad and Sister 4th gen Apple TVs for their birthdays last year.