Today during Apple’s “Hey Siri” event, the company unveiled three new pieces from their upcoming fall lineup: The iPad pro, which is nothing more than their attempt to emulate the Surface Pro, an updated iPhone, new Apple Watch wrist bands and finishes, and of course the 4th generation of Apple TV. True be told only the announcement of the new Apple TV was something that I was truly excited about, which is rare as I traditionally don’t care or fancy any of Apple’s products. No, I won’t devolve into that, as that’s not important. What is however is the fact that Apple has finally set its sights toward the living room or wherever you go to play your video games and watch your movies.
That said, if you want coverage of the iPad Pro, I’m sure fine folks over at The Verge have that covered.
Launching in October 2015, the new Apple TV will include two favors; a 32GB version that sales for $149.99 and a 64GB version for $50 more, bringing it to $199.99. Powering the device is an updated A8 , 64-bit processor that is found in the iPhone 6, which will give it “console like graphics”, as well as Bluetooth 4.0 (very nice) and wifi via the 802.11ac spec. It will incorporate an IR receiver. The unit will display at 1080p @ 60 fps, so no 4K yet people; however, there was no mention if it will include the standard 5.1 surround sound or bumping it a notch higher to 7.1 surround sound. Yes, I know, no 4K stinks but it will be ok, trust me.
Included with the Apple TV is an updated remote, one that features a glass touch screen, an accelerometer and gyroscope, that can also power and control your TV as well as A/V remotes. Apple also claims that the remote can last up to 3 months on one charge, which of course is done via a lightning connector and charger. Looking back at the remote, it seems that Apple has don’t some serious homework on this, especially implement the swipe function, thanks to the touch screen. In addition, it has that silk look to it, which will allow for it to stand out amongst your other remotes.
However what I found exciting with this update is the addition of Siri, that wonderful yet sassy as all hell virtual assistant. Baked into the Apple TV, Siri will function similar to how Amazon originally envisioned their Fire TV to work (take note Amazon, this is how you do it), but better. It doesn’t seem to be limited to what you’re looking for and can even help you identify movies titles, just by mentioning bits and pieces of the show. Obviously since I didn’t have an hands on with the device, it seems that it’s genuinely something Apple is proud of as they spoke about it on stage. A major showing for sure, however it didn’t stop with that.
Going on, Apple announced that they have created a new OS, called “tvOS”, which will power the Apple TV. The OS is , as Apple claims, built exclusively with the living room in mind and with it’s ease and simplicity, developers are going to love making applications for it. I should hope so, especially if they plan to compete in a market of devices that are already fighting to be the one and only for your living room, video game consoles included. Several applications, including Apple Music, have already been redesigned to take advantage of the new OS, seems Apple is really going all out here. In fact several companies, including Netflix, HBO and Hulu have already started working with the device. And with the backing of Apple behind this, I fully expect more media applications and providers to jump on board.
During the on stage display, they showed the ability for the Apple TV to pull down live states of live sport games and even the ability to shop, directly from your couch, so get ready to get your shopping for the upcoming holiday done, from the comfort of the living room.
However, this is where it gets interesting as this Apple TV will now play games. Not the simple fashion of gaming, mind you. Motion games, Wii and Wii U alike gaming to be perfectly honest. During the presentation, they not only showed off an updated version of Crossy Road (my kids love that game), but also announced that it will include co-op play and will be exclusive to the Apple TV. Joining it will be more games such as a new Galaxy on Fire, Rayman Adventures, Guitar Hero and even Disney’s recent Infinity 3.0. I’m pretty sure that it will also play previous Apple TV, iPod and iPad games, but lets wait for an official announcement from Apple regarding that, ok?
Apple, make this thing play Hearthstone and I may never leave my living room… nah, I will but it will be that much harder at least.
They also demoed a game called Beat Sports, where the remote was used to swing a bat at upcoming balls tossed at you, all thanks to the grooving to the beats of music. If anything it will be fun for the lovers of rhythm games.
Yes, this is where Apple plans to take part of the living room gaming wars, but they aren’t directly competing with the big players for that space. In my eyes it seems like a companion, if you may to your existing setup. It’s not going to over power your PlayStation 4 or Xbox One per-say, but it would have that drive with their remote and simple usage to make it something that you’ll likely want to use over a controller or something you can unplug and move to another TV in your home. Hell, it would be the perfect travelling buddy as well, if you have access to wifi that is.
It would also seem that SteelSeries is already on-board as well, as they have a mock-up of a bluetooth controller already to ship along side the unit. Called the SteelSeries “Nimbus”, the controller will cost $49.95 and looks very similar to an Xbox 360 controller, but also has some elements from a PlayStation Dual Shock with analog sticks aligned directly parallel from each other. SteelSeries states that the controller will sport 40+ hours of battery life and yes folks, as all iDevices it will use a lightning connector for charging duties.
It all seems pretty exciting, no? Well it’s not all positive; however, there is no sign of any optical audio output. The 2nd and 3rd generation Apple TV’s did, so I’m not sure why Apple omitted these two functions.
I didn’t hear anything about MKV or MP4 native support, nor anything along the lines of supporting DLNA for streaming connect from a PC or NAS device to the unit. Seriously Apple, for you to make me even think about replacing my trusty WD Live TV, you have to have native support for MKVand DLNA. Hell for that matter, anyone who is serious about streaming local content should think about that last piece. No, I rather not have to jump through hoops and jailbreak stuff for something that should be baked in from the start, thank you.
So, final thoughts on the reveal. Is this a console killer like many people have exclaimed? Hell to the no, not even remotely and if you came away from the event thinking that is, well there may an issue on what you define what a console killer is. Is this something that can co-exist in your existing living room or home theater setup? Absolutely, in fact I’m banking on many gamers and HT enthusiasts, myself included, to include this into their mix. Sure, Apple has a lot to provide with this, especially since this seems to be their most serious move with the Apple TV, especially since they seemed at one point to let the Apple TV just coast along for a while. Nice to see that there will be some more competition for everyone’s dollar for the living room space, and more so for those “cord cutters.”
Google, Roku, Amazon, as well as the rest of the gang, Apple has just put you all on notice.
Am I going to pick on up? Of course, in fact the first time in a long time that an Apple device has made it past my front door, unless it belonged to something other than those who live here. It will be a welcome addition to my upstairs entertainment system and if it proves its worth, it may even make it down into my “man cave of awesomeness.”