Apple may not have taken down the cable giants yet, but the folks in Cupertino are dead serious about the future of television. Today, at its annual iPhone launch event, the company also announced a new version of its Apple TV set-top box, leaning into the idea that apps are the future of television while trying to make everything look a little crisper.
The new box looks like the old box: It’s still a chunky black square, with that love-it-or-hate-it Siri remote. Thanks to some internal upgrades, it can now push 4K and HDR content out to your TV, assuming your set can handle that kind of high-res stuff. Apple’s a bit late to the 4K party, but may be just in time: Sales of 4K TVs have spiked over the last couple of years, and by next year it’ll be all but impossible to buy a big TV that doesn’t do 4K. Netflix, Amazon, and others have accumulated big libraries of 4K stuff to watch, and now Apple TV users can finally get the good stuff.
It runs on the A10X processor, the same one in the iPad Pro. Apple’s Eddy Cue says the new box is twice as fast as the old. And everything’s been upgraded to 4K HDR, including the iTunes movies you’ve already bought—your existing stuff will just appear.
It all runs on tvOS 11, the latest version of the Apple TV software. The new operating system includes an automatically switching dark and night mode, and support for AirPlay 2 and AirPods (so you can watch TV without disturbing the whole house). It also contains some back-end improvements that should make downloading and updating apps mercifully easier, and support for notifications. Best of all, it brings Amazon Prime Video to Apple TV, filling a giant Transparent-sized hole in what you can watch with Apple’s box.
The Apple TV makes up just one part of Apple’s ever-widening TV and movie strategy. The company already spun up shows like Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke, plus has reportedly earmarked $1 billion to spend on shows that are hopefully better than those two. Apple’s apparently even bidding for the rights to all things James Bond.
Meanwhile, it’s continually tweaking its TV app, which acts as a sort of universal guide for streaming services.At the launch, Cue showed off tighter integration with ESPN for live sports, and a new tab for all things Sports in the TV app.
The set-top box is a central part of Apple’s strategy, but the company’s aiming for much more than a slot underneath your TV.
The new box ships September 22nd for $179 and up depending on storage. You can still buy the old, blurry one for $149.