What Apple didn’t tell you about Apple TV 4

Apple’s “Hey Siri” media event was packed with many announcements, and expectedly a number of details were not revealed at the event. Here are more information on Apple TV 4 you’ll want to know to get a better picture of what to expect.

The fourth-generation Apple TV is 50% taller (35mm vs 23mm) and 50% heavier (425g vs 272g) than previous model. It has A8 processor (vs A5 in 3rd gen) and 2G of memory. This spec is higher than iPhone 6/6 Plus which is using the same A8 processor but with 1G of memory. The beefier memory is much needed for improved caching and to support demanding games.

Apple TV 4 missing optical audio port

Apple TV 4 does not support 4k video. The HDMI port is version 1.4 and is not the 4k friendly HDMI 2.0. The service-and-support only micro-USB port is now replaced with USB-C. The optical audio port is dropped. This undoubtedly will make some users unhappy when they’re connecting their Apple TV via an AV amplifier that has no HDMI support. You will be fine if you connect Apple TV directly to the HDTV or via an AV amplifier that has HDMI input. Apple TV 4 will now support Dolby Digital 7.1 in addition to Dolby Digital 5.1. Great news for those with a 7.1 home theatre setup at home.

Wi-Fi in the new Apple TV is 802.11a/b/g/n/ac with MIMO. The wireless speed with proper setup could be faster than the wired 10Mb/100Mb Ethernet port. You may still want to use Ethernet for greater network latency and Ethernet is a more reliable connection in general. Apple could easily upgraded the network to gigabyte Ethernet at negligible cost. It is astonishing Apple could release a new networking hardware in 2015 with a technology that is older than 10 years. All hints point to a future revision of Apple TV with only wireless networking.

Curiously Apple TV 4 is using Bluetooth 4.0 instead of the latest Bluetooth 4.2. iPad Pro, iPhone 6s / 6s Plus and even the 6th gen iPod touch released this summer are all sporting Bluetooth 4.2. The latest Bluetooth 4.2  has better throughput and is more efficient. You’d expect Apple to support Bluetooth 4.2 for a device that is well suited to become a HomeKit hub. There is zero sign of anything “HomeKit” in the media event.

Apple is dubbing the new black remote “Siri Remote”. Siri integration is touted as the headline feature for you to use voice commands and for search. Unfortunately Siri in Apple TV will be initially limited to five languages in eight countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, United Kingdom and United States. There is no specific if or when Siri on Apple TV will arrive for other countries.

Siri Remote has build-in accelerometer and gyroscope for playing game like a Nintendo Wii remote. To prevent gamers from throwing the remote at their HDTV screens, Apple is selling a wrist strap called Remote Loop that resembled the one Nintendo released for Wii controller years ago. There is no information on the maximum number of remote/controller that you can used during a game session. And there is no pricing yet for buying just the Siri Remote.

Apple TV4 Siri Remote and Game Controllers

Beside using the Siri Remote for games, Apple TV also supports third parties MFi certified game controllers such as the Nimbus Steelseries Controller that is prominently promoted on Apple site.

Updated: Apple has stated in its App Programming Guide for tvOS that while you can use third party game controller with Apple TV, all games made for Apple TV must support the Siri Remote. This will reduce the number of games available during launch period as time is required to add Siri Remote support into existing games. Complex console type games will also be limited as most of them are designed to play with a dedicated game controller.

As for TV subscription plan, it remains a rumour for now. Judging from the accuracy of recent Apple rumours, it is safe bet that we will see a TV subscription plan from Apple materialise towards the end of the year or early next year.