Apple TV (2021): Features, release date, design, and more
12 'Apple TV 2021' stories
August 2020 - August 2021
Apple unveiled during its ‘Spring Loaded’ event the 2021 Apple TV. Named Apple TV 4K, this is the second-generation set-top box with 4K support. It features the A12 Bionic chip, a new Siri Remote, and more.
Table of contents
- History: Apple TV through the years
- Specs and features: 2021 Apple TV
- tvOS 15 features
- tvOS 16 features
- Release date: When will the 2021 Apple TV come out
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.
The sixth-generation Apple TV, or the second-generation Apple TV 4K, was introduced in April of 2021. With a similar design to its predecessor, the main change is the A12 chip and the second-generation Siri Remote.
Specs and features: 2021 Apple TV
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. As for now, the set-top box has been unveiled but without the Find My feature, as it lacks, for example, the U1 chip.
Design and new remote
The new Siri Remote has a dedicated Siri button on the right side and it’s easier to use.
If you want to learn everything about the new Siri Remote, check our guide here.
A12 chip, HDMI 2.1 support
Code seen by 9to5Mac showed that Apple planned to introduce a more powerful processor in the 2021 Apple TV based on the arm64e architecture, which turned out to be the A12 chip.
This chip helps the sixth-generation Apple TV support a high frame rate in AirPlay and display videos shot on iPhone 12 Pro in full 60-fps Dolby Vision.
In early April, 9to5Mac discovered multiple references in tvOS 14.5 to “120Hz” and “supports120Hz.” The new Apple TV 4K technically can support this higher refresh rate because it uses HDMI 2.1 but as of now, Apple didn’t implement it.
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, and this set-top box can have both. The only turn down with the 2021 Apple TV is that the Siri Remote lacks a gyroscope and accelerometer sensor, so some Apple Arcade games require the older Remote or an MFI controller to proper work
tvOS 15 features
With tvOS 15, here’s what Apple TV users can take advantage of:
- For All of You: Browse a new row in the Apple TV app to find something that everyone in the house can’t wait to watch.
- Shared with You: Movies and shows shared through Messages appear in a new row in the Apple TV app.
- Spatial Audio: Listen with AirPods Pro or AirPods Max for a theater-like experience with the sound that surrounds you.
- Smart AirPods routing: Get an automatic onscreen notification to magically connect your AirPods.
- HomeKit camera enhancements: View multiple cameras around the house at the same time on your Apple TV.
- Room-filling stereo sound: Pair two HomePod mini speakers with Apple TV 4K and enjoy rich, balanced sound for everything you watch.
With tvOS 15.1, Apple finally introduced SharePlay, which was one of the main features lacking from the original release of tvOS 15:
- SharePlay: Watch movies or shows while on a FaceTime call on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, then add Apple TV to share the viewing experience on the big screen.
tvOS 15.2, on the other hand, brought some nice additions to the Apple TV:
- Photos Memories: There’s a new interactive interface that provides a new way to watch pictures on the big screen with new transition styles and multiple collages available;
- Apple TV app: It got a new Store tab that combines browse, buy, and rent options for movies and TV shows;
- Apple Music Voice Plan launch: With the arrival of a new Apple Music subscription tier, users can also take advantage of it on the Apple TV;
- Siri knows more languages: with tvOS 15.2, Siri now speaks Dutch and French in Belgium, Russian in Russia, and French, German, and Italian in Switzerland;
- New Screen Savers: Apple also added a new aerial view of Iceland and Scotland with this new update.
While tvOS 15.3 didn’t improve the Apple TV operating system, tvOS 15.4 had some nice new features:
- Captive Wi-Fi network support: You can use your iPhone or iPad to connect the Apple TV and HomePod to networks that need additional sign-in steps;
- Up Next queue: Users can choose the content they have added to their Up Next queue. With just a tap, the app starts playing the movie or series you have chosen;
- Tap to navigate: Apple also brought back the “Tap to Navigate” feature to the Physical and Motor options, after removing it in mid-August of 2021;
- New Siri voice: tvOS 15.4 users got a new non-binary, American Siri voice.
tvOS 15.5 brought “general performance and stability improvements” while the final tvOS 15.6 added voice recognition support in more countries:
- Siri voice recognition support in Mandarin Chinese (China mainland, Taiwan), Cantonese (China Mainland, Hong Kong), and Japanese (Japan);
- Addition of Norwegian and Swedish languages for Siri;
- Performance and stability improvements.
tvOS 16 features
tvOS 16 doesn’t improve that much the experience of the previous operating system. As we wait for Matter support, here’s what’s new with tvOS 16:
- Nintendo Switch controllers compatibility: tvOS 16 will finally support Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Cons and Pro Controller. We feature this story here at 9to5Mac. Apple says “many additional Bluetooth and USB game controllers are supported by the Game Controller.”
- HDR10+ support: The latest generation of high-dynamic-range technology is now supported in the Apple TV app.
- Video-forward featuring on the Apple TV+ tab: Rich video previews at the top of the Apple TV+ tab help users discover their next favorite Apple Original.
- Apple Fitness+: With tvOS 16, at key moments in the workout, Intensity Metrics are called out and will appear on the screen for motivation. The intensities are Easy, Moderate, Hard, and All Out.
How to install tvOS 16 public beta?
On June 30, Apple released the tvOS 16 public beta version. With that, all fourth-generation Apple TV owners or newer will be able to install the upcoming tvOS software. Even though tvOS 16 is already out, users can take advantage of the new 16.X beta updates before everyone else.
Here’s how to install tvOS 16 public betas:
First, go to the beta.apple.com website and sign up with your Apple ID (preferably the one you use with your Apple TV). If you have never joined the Apple Beta Software Program before, the update might not appear on your Apple TV, so make sure you are registered in the program.
After that, follow these steps:
- Open the Settings app on your Apple TV
- Enter the System menu
- Click Software Updates
- Turn on Get Beta Updates option
The second-generation Apple TV 4K starts at $179 on the 32GB model and goes up to $199 on the 64GB version. The set-top box still doesn’t offer an HDMI cable in the box with the product.
Lower prices may be available from Apple’s official Amazon store.
Release date: When will the 2021 Apple TV come out
The 2021 Apple TV was released on May 21.
Rumor: TV box with integrated HomePod speaker and FaceTime camera
A 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, it’s good to know what the company could be planning for the seventh-generation Apple TV.