Apple has recharged its connected-TV play: The tech giant announced Apple TV 4K, priced starting at $179, which will stream Ultra HD movies from major Hollywood studios purchased through iTunes — for the same price as the HD version.
“Now we’re at the next inflection point” for television, CEO Tim Cook said at Apple’s launch event Tuesday. The new Apple TV 4K provides “stunning visuals” and will deliver “cinematic quality to virtually everything you watch.”
The Apple 4K TV will be available to order starting Sept. 15, shipping a week later on Sept. 22. In addition to Ultra HD resolution, the new set-top provides support for high dynamic range (HDR) video, which greatly expands the color depth available on displays.
But it’s not clear the forthcoming Apple TV 4K will really move the needle for the company in the category, where it has trailed rivals like Roku, Amazon’s Fire TV and Google’s Chromecast. At an entry price of $179, it will still be at a premium price relative to competitors, each of which already has models supporting 4K and HDR.
Apple TV 4K is $179 with 32 gigabytes of on-board storage, while a model with 64 GB is $199. The existing fourth-generation Apple TV will continue to be available for $149.
Apple also is working with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video to add support for the streamer’s 4K titles later this year. And the new box’s TV app will include a dedicated “Sports” tab, highlighting live sports scores based on users’ preferences. That will deliver on-screen notifications if their favorite teams are playing, and will be able to launch live-streaming games (if those are available through a participating app, of course; ESPN’s Apple TV app was shown during the presentation).
Apple is counting on iTunes to help sales of Apple TV 4K, and vice versa. With the Apple TV 4K launch, iTunes will offer multiple titles from studios including Warner Bros., Sony Pictures Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures in Ultra HD for the same price as the regular HD versions. The price point for 4K movies was reportedly a contentious issue between Apple and the studios — which wanted to retain their premium pricing on the Ultra HD versions. (Disney films were notably absent from Apple’s featured 4K content lineup.)
Moreover, Apple will automatically deliver 4K versions of the titles (if available) to customers who previously purchased the HD versions, said Eddy Cue, senior VP of internet software and services.
Apple’s last update to the Apple TV line was two years ago. The new Apple TV 4K aims to bring the device up to speed — literally. The box, which supports the HDR 10 spec as well as Dolby Vision HDR, is powered by the A10X Fusion chip, which provides four times the graphics capability (and is the same processor used in the iPad Pro). Apple TV 4K also includes a built-in 4K “video scaler” designed to improve the picture quality of HD on a 4K TV.
To show off new set-top, Apple played a clip from Sony and Marvel Studios’ “Spider-Man: Homecoming” in 4K, which Cue said will be coming to the iTunes Store in a few weeks.
The Apple TV 4K has revamped its entire user interface for the high-resolution format, and the screensavers have been revised to support HDR, Cue added.
Meanwhile, Apple TV’s Siri-enabled remote is getting only a small design tweak with the 4K unit: It has a new white circle around the “Menu” button. Critics have complained that the Apple TV remote is too slim (it’s easily misplaced) and that the touch-panel is too sensitive — and that it’s not always clear when you pick it up which end is up.
Apple hosted the holiday 2017 product launches, which led by the new $1,000 iPhone X smartphone, at its new HQ campus in Cupertino, Calif. It was the first event held in the Steve Jobs Theater.