When Apple unveiled its first Apple TV fourteen years ago, the world was a very different place. Streaming video services were basically non-existent — “Netflix” was synonymous with renting DVDs by mail — and Apple had only begun selling a handful of movies and TV shows on the iTunes Store a few months earlier.
In fact, the original Apple TV made its debut at Macworld 2007, alongside the very first iPhone, a week before Netflix announced its entry into the streaming business. After that, it would be another full year before Hulu came onto the scene, and Roku released its very first media player.
So, as hard as it may be to believe now that we live in an era where streaming services have eclipsed even traditional cable, Apple was actually way ahead of the curve with its little Apple TV “hobby” project. In the years that followed, rumours would continue to circulate that Steve Jobs had far bigger visions for television, but sadly for reasons that may never be entirely clear, the plan seemed to die along with Apple’s late co-founder. In fact, it’s far from the only ball that Apple dropped over the years and never really picked up again.
The result is that whatever lead the Apple TV had was completely squandered as Roku handily sprinted past it to the goalposts and more smart TV manufacturers began getting into the game as well.
While Apple released a re-envisioned version of its set-top box in 2015, sporting tvOS and the ability to run third-party apps, it remained unclear whether it had truly graduated from “hobby” status, and the uptake for the device from both users and developers remained remarkably low. Even today, the activity on the tvOS App Store pales in comparison to the iPhone and iPad; 9to5Mac reported a snapshot last month that showed that during a one-week period in 2019, 58,875 iPhone apps were submitted to Apple, of which 15,069 were new apps, while the tvOS App Store saw only 142 submissions in the same time frame — 27 of which were new.
It’s pretty clear Apple realizes how much of a niche product the Apple TV has become, as it’s opened up its walled garden in unprecedented ways to embrace and extend services like Apple TV+ and Apple Music onto smart TVs, game consoles like the PS5/PS4 and Xbox, and even directly competing Roku boxes.
So, in a world where you can get every streaming app you could possibly want — including Apple’s — on just about any home entertainment device, this begs the question whether the Apple TV 4K is still relevant at all. While the position of the device has certainly changed over the years, Apple’s decision to release a new model shows that they clearly think it is, and we’d tend to agree. Read on for 9 great reasons why an Apple TV is still a great set-top box — even if you already have a smart TV.