Yesterday’s Apple event brought us quite a collection of fun and exciting announcements, but most importantly it also brought another long-awaited Apple product refresh into reality in the form of the new A12-equipped Apple TV 4K.
With the set-top box last updated in 2017, it’s a welcome product refresh, and with a new Siri Remote and modern technology, it promises to be even greater than the sum of its parts. Continue reading to browse 10 interesting things you may not know about the latest Apple TV announcement.
The New Siri Remote Works with Older Models
Perhaps the coolest thing about the new Apple TV 4K is the new second-generation Siri Remote that’s being packed in with it, and the good news is that it’s not exclusive to the new model.
In fact, you’ll be able to order the new Siri Remote separately on April 30th — the same day as the new Apple TV 4K — for $59, and it will work with all tvOS-based Apple TV models, right back to the original 2015 Apple TV HD.
Let’s face it, the old Siri Remote is pretty controversial, so if you’ve been itching to get a new remote for your old Apple TV, but don’t see a need to splurge for the new A12 version, this could make for a nice upgrade by itself.
Unfortunately, for those folks who loved the original Siri Remote, it seems that Apple has stopped selling that one separately. It’s unclear if the older one even works with the new Apple TV 4K, although we suspect the compatibility of older models with the new Siri Remote works both ways.
No ‘Find My Remote’
Despite rumours that Apple was working on adding the Siri Remote to its Find My network, it turns out that the remote doesn’t have a U1 chip, which we found quite surprising, considering Apple also debuted the AirTag yesterday.
In fact, Apple didn’t even add an audible locator capability into the remote, so you’ll still be on your own if you lose it in your couch cushions.
Of course, if you’re really concerned about losing your Siri Remote, you can always spend $29 for an AirTag to slap onto the back of it. In fact, it probably won’t be long before we see some accessory maker come up with a special Siri Remote AirTag case.
The Siri Remote Still Charges Over Lightning
It’s clearer than ever that Apple’s move to USB-C on the iPad Pro is solely about embracing the needs of creative professionals, as it’s determined to stick with its Lightning connector everywhere else — even on those accessories that only need it for pure charging.
This is one area where the new Siri Remote hasn’t changed at all from its predecessor. While we’re not entirely surprised by the presence of the Lightning port — even Apple’s AirPods still use one — we had hoped that it would at least gain wireless charging.
To be fair, the Siri Remote doesn’t need to be charged all that often, but in some ways this makes the need for wired charging even worse. Dropping it on a wireless charging pad every so often would ensure it’s always topped up. Finding a Lightning cable every couple of months is actually a challenge in an era where almost all of Apple’s other Lightning-based devices now charge wirelessly. At least Apple is still including the cable, although you'll have to supply your own USB adapter to charge it — the Apple TV 4K doesn't have a USB port on the back.
The Apple TV HD Lives On
The new Apple TV 4K naturally replaces the 2017 model, which has now been discontinued. It’s fair to say that there’s really no reason for the A10X version to be on the market alongside the newer and more powerful A12 Bionic model.
However, for those who don’t want the latest and greatest 4K capabilities, Apple is actually still selling the original 2015 Apple TV HD — the 1080p version that only sports an A8 chip inside — that’s the same chip found in the original HomePod, but otherwise not seen in the wild since the days of the 2014 iPhone 6.
This wouldn’t be an entirely bad thing if Apple had reduced the price of the older model, but it’s still selling it for $149 for the lone 32GB version, which is only $30 less than the much more powerful 4K model — and $50 less than a 64GB 4K model. While it now bundles the new second-generation Siri Remote, it’s still a pretty hard sell at that price, and when compared with the competition we’re really left wondering what Apple’s thinking here.
No Storage Bump
Rumours last year had suggested that Apple planned to double the storage capacity of the new Apple TV, but sadly, we still got only the usual 32GB and 64GB models.
Granted, that’s not a huge problem for movies and TV shows, since content isn’t stored directly on the device. However, some of the best tvOS games can take up a lot of space, and if Apple really wants people to embrace Apple Arcade, they need to have room to store them all.
Wi-Fi 6 Support (and Bluetooth 5.0 Too)
Considering Apple has now brought Wi-Fi 6 capabilities to almost all of its iPhones, iPads, and M1 Macs, it shouldn’t be a big surprise that the Apple TV 4K also gains support for the latest 802.11ax Wi-Fi standard.
Along similar lines, while the Apple TV 4K supported Bluetooth 5.0, the original Siri Remote was stuck on Bluetooth 4.0. The second-generation Siri Remote now bumps that up to the same 5.0 standard.
HDMI 2.1 But No 120Hz (Yet)
The new Apple TV 4K got a nice bump to the HDMI 2.1 standard, but despite previous rumours that this would also bring 120Hz display support, that doesn’t appear to be here yet.
In other words, the new “high frame rate HDR” is still going to top out at 60fps, but that’s probably not a huge limitation considering that most video content doesn’t push beyond that yet anyway.
120Hz display support would have mostly been useful for gaming at this point, but since the hardware does seem to be in place, it’s also something Apple could add in a future tvOS update.
Thread Home Accessory Support
The new Apple TV 4K also borrows a page from Apple’s HomePod mini by adding support for Thread, a low-power home mesh networking technology that’s starting to gain more widespread adoption.
It’s also fundamentally part of the Connected Home over IP (CHIP) project that Apple joined up with last year to create an interoperability standard for smart home devices, so it stands to reason that Apple wants to make sure that one of its key home hubs is on board with it.
Color Balance Coming to Older Models Too
It looks like one of the cooler features that Apple announced for its new set-top box yesterday is actually a tvOS 14.5 feature that will be coming to the older Apple TV models as well.
The new Color Balance feature will help viewers get perfect colour adjustments by using the iPhone’s light sensor to compare what you’re seeing on your TV screen to what you should be seeing, based on industry-standard specifications. In other words, do not adjust your set — with the help of your iPhone, your Apple TV can now do that for you.
Tucked away in Apple’s press release is a footnote that reveals that Color Balance will be “available for Apple TV 4K (1st generation and later) and Apple TV HD with tvOS 14.5.” You’ll need an iPhone with Face ID that’s also running iOS 14.5 to take advantage of it, as it relies at least partially on the TrueDepth camera to accomplish its magic.
AppleCare+ Now Available
While you’ve been able to buy the more basic “non-plus” version of AppleCare for the Apple TV for years, with the release of the new Apple TV 4K, Apple is introducing its AppleCare+ Protection Plan to the set-top box.
This means that for an additional $29 you can now get three years of extended warranty coverage and technical support, along with up to two incidents of accidental damage protection every 12 months — each subject to the usual fee, which is $19 in this case.
While most people probably don’t need accidental damage coverage for an Apple TV, it’s worth noting that it does cover the new Siri Remote as well, so we could see it being useful for users with young children, or folks who are simply prone to spilling things on their remotes.
You also get Express Replacement service, so you won’t have to live without your Apple TV in the event you have to send it in for replacement.