Only Apple knows when the next Apple TV box will be released, but when it does the TV landscape could very well look different. Android TV will launch next year with support from Sony, Philips & Sharp, and LG’s webOS is also promising. Here is what we hope to see in the next Apple TV. What are you hoping for?
No Smart TV has cracked the formula yet, but new TV platforms are emerging with Android TV and LG’s webOS. The Apple TV still offers one of the best “smart TV” experiences, but it is getting long in the tooth and there is so much more potential here.
If Apple wants to take it to the next level, we hope that they will focus on bringing the following to the next Apple TV box.
App Store The Apple TV box could benefit hugely from an App Store, just like the App Store on your iPhone / iPad. Many TV providers outside the US have no option to release an app on Apple TV right now, but an App Store would change that. An App Store would also open up a world of possibilities that developers could embrace to create apps and experiences that we cannot even imagine yet.
Game Console The Apple TV can already run games from an iPhone or iPad via Airplay, but it is not a great solution. Through an App Store developers could also publish games. We need something else than yet another Angry Birds; we want deeper, better and more beautiful games - just like on game consoles. This would obviously require some powerful graphics chips, but Apple is already taking steps towards this with Metal that will replace OpenGL’s role as well as game controller support that was added in iOS 7. The iPad Air is almost matching the graphics on the last-gen Xbox 360, and the new iOS devices coming out this fall could very well match or exceed it. A TV box plugged into a power outlet also allows Apple to incorporate more powerful iOS hardware than in a mobile device.
Smart Home Apple will release HomeKit this fall; a platform that connects all your devices and appliances at home. For example automatic light and heating/cooling controls and maybe even a platform for managing all your HiFi equipment with one remote (iPhone). So, what device would control all that functionality at home? The Apple TV. It is always there, never moving, and could potentially control everything wirelessly via WiFi and Bluetooth. HomeKit will obviously also communicate with your iPhone, but Apple TV can be the home hub.
No TV tuner, thank you very much To create the future you sometimes have to forget the past. There is absolutely no reason to include a TV tuner in Apple TV. Instead, Apple should focus on internet TV services such as Netflix, HBO, Hulu and future services. That does not mean that live TV and sports should be excluded - it is already partly there - but it has to use the internet as the distribution pipe.
HEVC and 4K Apple should definitely include HEVC decoding, the next step after mpeg4 (H.264). HEVC can drastically reduce the bitrate of a video stream without affecting picture quality - or improve picture quality at the current bitrates. HEVC is the future of internet video streaming and specifically designed for 4K streaming. In addition, Apple could incorporate a HDMI 2.0 port for 4K output, and bump iTunes movies to 4K resolution, where possible.
All these things require muscles. The current Apple TV will not be able to do most of it; it also lacks storage capacity for installing apps. It is not powerful enough to play games and even the new “A8” processor in the upcoming iPhone / iPad will probably not be powerful enough to enable big-screen gaming.
Rumors suggest that a new Apple TV is coming in 2015, so by then we could be looking at more powerful hardware - some kind of A8X chip.
Nice to have
A new Apple TV should not do everything. Apple generally focuses on doing a few things great. But if Apple feels generous we have a small list of nice-to-have things.
Wireless audio Apple TV can already output audio from Netflix, iTunes and all other apps and services wirelessly to an Airplay speaker. It works - but with limitations. Right now you can only connect one Airplay speaker at a time. It would be great if we could at least have stereo and even better if we could do 5.1 surround.
New user interface The current user interface might be too limited for a full App Store. Developers need more freedom to create great apps and experience, and the current user interface is mostly a template approach. Most apps looks almost identical. It would also be great to have a unified search field that includes results from all your video apps.
More Airplay Airplay is already an amazing technology. With Airplay you wirelessly push video, music, photos and even games to the TV screen from your iPhone or iPad. But Airplay should be even easier and faster, sort of like Apple’s Continuity / Hand-off system that Apple recently demonstrated. If we could queue up videos from YouTube, like on Chromecast, that would be nice, too.
Some technical stuff HDMI CEC would be a nice addition, as it would allow Apple to automatically turn on the TV. This is possible with Chromecast. It should also support 1080p24 - the original format of most Hollywood movies. The Apple TV remote is great, but please make it use bluetooth instead of infrared so we can hide the Apple TV behind the TV. And the remote app for iPhone / iPad is just bad. Come on, let us control the Apple TV from the iPhone lock screen instead of having to open the app every single time.
Some of the things on the list are already rumored for the next Apple TV, others are just extracted from our crazy minds. What do you hope to see in the next Apple TV? Speak up.