For a while, we’ve heard reports that Apple is working on a new model of its Apple TV set-top box. However, several rumours suggest that Apple already has the new device ready; it just has yet to actually materialize.
It turns out that Apple may, in fact, not only be working on a single new Apple TV but that the company may actually have two new models in the works.
At this point, the Apple TV 4K is one of the oldest devices that Apple is still selling, having originally debuted in the fall of 2017 alongside the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. While the 4K version still works reasonably well for delivering video content, its A10X processor is getting a bit long in the tooth at a time when Apple has clearly been pushing the set-top box as a platform for its Apple Arcade gaming subscription service.
In fact, we really expected Apple to release a new model last fall when it debuted Apple Arcade. Still, clearly, the company had other priorities and decided that the existing Apple TV 4K would do just fine for the time being, especially with the addition of support for PS4 and Xbox game controllers in tvOS 13.
To put things in a bit of context, however, at this point, the only other Apple devices that still pack in anything less than an A12 processor are the Apple TV 4K (A10X), the seventh-generation iPod touch (A10), and Apple’s HomePod (A8). Last year’s entry-level 10.2-inch iPad also contained the A10 chip, but it’s just been superseded by the new A12-based eighth-generation iPad.
So when we heard rumours earlier this year that Apple was working on an A12-based Apple TV 4K, it seemed like an idea whose time had come. With tvOS 13.4 containing references to it, it really did seem that it would arrive sooner rather than later, but after WWDC came and went with nary a mention of it, we were sort of left wondering what Apple was up to.
More Powerful Than You Can Imagine
Well, now it turns out that the company may have even bigger plans for its set-top box than we first thought, with new information suggesting that Apple plans to release not only the A12-equipped model that we previously heard about but that the company is also working on one with an “A14X-like chip” that would be a veritable powerhouse.
This latest report comes from leaker @choco_bit (aka Fudge)who has previously shared detailed information on Apple’s upcoming AirPods Studio, along with suggestions that Apple may ditch the Lightning port soon and some very early rumours about next year’s “iPhone 13.”
The tweet also mentions that a new “Controller” is in the works. While there have been rumours that Apple is developing its own game controller, Fudge could just as easily be referring to the new Siri Remote that we’ve heard about, which will reportedly incorporate support for Apple’s Find My feature.
What’s interesting, however, is that an A14X-equipped Apple TV would offer an unprecedented level of power in Apple’s set-top box, exceeding the chip that will be packed into this year’s iPhone 12 models, and effectively bringing it in line with the iPad Pro that Apple is expected to release early next year, but also the “Apple Silicon” chips that will be included in its next generation of MacBooks.
It’s All About the Games
For the most part, Apple’s A10X chip has been sufficient for handling the demands of 4K HDR video streaming from most services. Although it may be starting to show its limitations in some cases, it doesn’t seem likely that a jump all the way up to an A14X is required simply for video streaming.
On the other hand, this may be Apple’s answer to finally putting world-class Apple Arcade games on the big screen. There have been sporadic rumours for years that Apple has been working on a game console, and certainly, something with the power of an A14X chip would give the big console makers a run for their money, even if it weren’t billed primarily for that purpose.
Fudge also notes that some games may require an A13 or better even to run, which means that Apple could conceivably split the Apple TV lineup into a box that’s designed primarily for streaming and an ”Apple TV Pro” that would pack in all of the power to run the latest games, and perhaps even come with a first-party game controller.
When’s It All Coming?
This latest suggestion that Apple is actually working on two devices makes a lot of sense in light of the conflicting rumours we’ve heard lately.
For example, Jon Prosser originally suggested that a new Apple TV was in the works to include an A12X processor back in the spring. At the same time, another reliable source told 9to5Mac back in April that it would actually be using the newest A14 chip instead. Similarly, while several sources suggested that a new Apple TV would arrive this year, Bloomberg recently revealed that it might not actually ship until sometime next year.
While it’s certainly a possibility that Apple’s original release plans could have been delayed, it’s also quite possible that all of the rumours are reasonably accurate in light of this new information. They’ve simply been assuming that they were all talking about a single Apple TV model — a reasonable assumption since not only has Apple never released more than one version of its set-top box at a time, but those releases are usually spread out over the course of two or three years.
With two models on the horizon, however, it remains to be seen if Apple plans to unveil them both at the same time, or if perhaps the A12 version will simply be pushed out as a minor refresh sooner, with the flagship A14X model arriving with a bigger splash next year.