Apple TV (2021): Everything we know so far
Six 'Apple TV 2021' stories
August 2020 - April 2021
The 2021 Apple TV has been rumored for almost a year now. The sixth-generation set-top box is yet to be unveiled by Apple, but some leaks and tvOS 14.5 code have already given us a glimpse of what to expect from this new Apple TV.
The new set-top-box could be released as early as April 20, at Apple’s ‘Spring Loaded’ Event.
Table of contents
History: Apple TV through the years
The first-generation Apple TV was unveiled in September 2006. The product, which would be called iTV, couldn’t have this name since the British terrestrial broadcast network ITV already held the right to the name in the UK and threatened to take legal action against Apple.
Shipped six months later, the first Apple TV had a 40GB HDD, and a 160GB HDD option was later released.
The second-generation Apple TV was announced in September of 2010 and was the first model to run on a variant of iOS. In a smaller, all-black case, it was one-quarter the size of the original Apple TV. The HDD was replaced by 8GB of internal flash storage, enough for buffering purposes. Also different from the first set-top box, this one was only used for streaming content. It also supported output up to 720p over HDMI only.
The third-generation Apple TV was released almost two years later in March 2012. It included the A5 chip and support for 1080p output. As of 2021, the third-generation set-top box still works with streaming services including Apple TV+, Apple TV Channels, Amazon Video, and Netflix.
The fourth generation, or the Apple TV HD, was the biggest revamp to the set-top box in years, and it launched in September 2015. With a brand-new black remote charged via Lightning cable, it introduced the tvOS operating system with an App Store allowing downloads of third-party apps for video, audio, games, and other content. This device includes the A8 processor and support for Dolby Digital Plus.
Two years later, in September of 2017, Apple introduced the fifth-generation Apple TV, or the Apple TV 4K, which supports 2160p output, HDR10, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, and includes the A10X Fusion processor. This model is similar to the fourth-generation model with the only difference being the addition of vents on the base and the removal of the USB-C port.
Specs and features: 2021 Apple TV expectations
In August of 2020, Bloomberg reported a new Apple TV was in the works with an upgraded remote and a Find My Apple TV remote feature. Although evidence of a new set-top box has been circling around in iOS code for a while, we still don’t know when the product is going to be released.
Design and new remote
The 2021 Apple TV is unlikely to receive a new design upgrade. What Apple could do instead is to use 100% recycled aluminum in its structure, as the company already does with the base-model iPad, the MacBook Air, and the aluminum Apple Watch. This change could somewhat impact the Space Gray color of the set-top box.
As for the remote, a lot of things could change, but specifics are unclear. For example, we recently discovered the “B519” remote for Apple TV, which was designed in cooperation with cable companies and distributed by Universal Electronics, but it’s unlikely this remote has ever been distributed by Apple.
Bloomberg has reported that the new Apple TV remote will have a “Find My” feature. It could also use the U1 chip to help people locate it more accurately.
A12 chip and 120Hz refresh rate
Code seen by 9to5Mac shows that Apple will introduce a more powerful processor in the 2021 Apple TV based on the arm64e architecture, which could be the A12 chip or newer. Because the Apple TV is always plugged in, it doesn’t necessarily need the A14 Bionic chip.
In April, 9to5Mac discovered multiple references in tvOS 14.5 to “120Hz” and “supports120Hz.” Since the fifth-generation set-top box can’t support a 120Hz refresh rate even with a software update, this could only mean that the 2021 Apple TV receives this technology. Apple will also need to add a more powerful processor and an HDMI 2.1 port, as the current Apple TV supports only HDMI 2.0.
If Apple wants to enter the game market with the Apple TV, a higher refresh rate and a more powerful processor are keys to success. Since Apple Arcade now features over 180 games, a proper gaming controller created by Apple could also be coming in this new set-top box.
TV box with integrated HomePod speaker and FaceTime camera
A new report by Bloomberg suggests that Apple is developing a connected TV box with an integrated HomePod speaker and FaceTime camera.
“The device would offer the kind of features users would expect from an Apple TV box — like access to video streaming apps and games console — as well as HomePod-esque smart speaker features and a camera for smart home security and living room FaceTime.
Bloomberg warns the device is in early development and may not ever be released as an actual consumer product.“
Although Apple is not ready yet to launch this product, the company could start introducing some of these ideas on the next generation Apple TV.
The Apple TV 4K starts at $179 on the 32GB model and goes up to $199 on the 64GB version. With a more powerful processor and more storage options being added, Apple could still sell the 2021 Apple TV around the same price, since the set-top box is already more expensive than its competitors and doesn’t offer an HDMI cable.
Release date: When will the 2021 Apple TV come out
There is evidence to suggest that the 2021 Apple TV will be released soon: tvOS 14.5 code and leakers both point to this year. If we look into Apple TV history, the company never took more than four years to update this product, and we have now hit the four-year mark.
On April 13, Apple announced it will hold an event on the following week. April 20 could be the date where Apple announces the sixth-generation Apple TV.