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Apple TV May Finally Get 4K (and HDR) for 2017

by on February 17, 2017

Stephan Jukic – February 17, 2017

After years of ignoring 4K resolution support and later HDR technology in its Apple TV set-top boxes while all the main competitors on the market raced ahead with these new cutting-edge developments, Apple might finally be making the leap into the obviously necessary.

That’s right, according to what are still rumors from a report in, the next generation version of Apple TV might finally come with integrated 4K support and high dynamic range support in 2017. If this is true, the thing most of us can probably agree on is that it’s about damn time.

The existing latest generation version of Apple TV is a perfectly solid product but it definitely lacks the “wow factor” that most consumers usually expect from Apple’s products. And considering Apple’s general prestige in the consumer tech world, it almost seems bizarre that the company has let itself be one-upped by a whole plethora of rivals in the set-top box market. Amazon’s Fire TV, Roku’s new TV boxes and a whole assortment of other set-top streaming media platforms all now offer 4K resolution and high dynamic range support as standard specs, and most of these brands have at least offered the 4K aspect since as early as 2015. NVIDIA’s older 2015 Shield streaming content/gaming platform even got a major HDR update for 2017. During all that time though, Apple just kept ignoring 4K.


Now, according to the Bloomberg report, Apple has hired the former chief architect Timothy Twerdahl of the Amazon Fire TV to handle marketing for Apple TV and given Twerdahl’s established success with making the Fire TV an advanced device that does indeed support 4Kand HDR, this new development bodes well for Apple TV.

According to the anonymous sources that Bloomberg used for their report, Apple has already toyed with a list of planned new developments for their next set-top box but many of these completely fell through. Some of these plans included a coaxial port for streaming live TV to the set-top box, a personalized home screen with fully customized recommendations and a bundled gaming controller that would presumably be similar to the ones that come with the NVIDIA Shield and the Amazon Fire TV box.

Then there is 4K support, which was also a dropped technology according to the sources that talked with Bloomberg. According to them, Apple could have easily future-proofed the 4th generation Apple TV box with a faster processor that would have handled 4K already but chose to avoid this step for the sake of higher profit margins.

Thus, with these failed possibilities behind it, Apple is now supposedly moving over to content differentiation in order to make their next TV set-top box model stand out. These plans include the release of new original shows on Apple Music and plans for the direct release of third-party content from major production companies through the Apple TV box.

And while Apple and its reputation are much bigger than the Apple TV box alone, the stain of lagging behind competitors in this landscape can’t be something that an image-obsessed brand like Apple would like to leave in place. The existing Apple TV is just such a stain and while the company hasn’t openly disclosed sales figures for the little TV streaming box, the company’s CFO, Luca Maestri, has revealed that sales of the set-top box have steadily been declining since 2015 up to late 2016.

What’s all the more galling about the current Apple TV device is that it’s not even all that cheap. The box sells for $149, which is more than $20 above the retail price of the best and most robust of Roku’s 4K HDR set-top boxes, the Roku Ultra. This $149 is also over $60 above the price of the 4K HDR-capable Amazon Fire TV! What makes things even worse here is the fact that unlike these other boxes, the Apple TV doesn’t offer access to all of the same streaming subscription content apps that come standard in most set-top boxes. Thus, never mind 4K, if you want to even watch HD video sources through the device, you need to rent them individually through the iTunes store or pay extra for access to content from select third-party providers.


With all this in mind, we return to the arrival of former Amazon Fire developer Twerdahl. This change in the design staff behind the Apple TV device makes it very likely that the 2017 version of this set-top box finally at least comes with the now fairly standard-issue features of 4K resolution and HDR support. Whether this will be enough to make Apple TV compete effectively with existing rivals like Roku and Amazon is something that we have some doubts about. After all, the competition offers many of the same essential home entertainment features: 4K, HDR and a few neat extras like headphone listening through a mobile device or remote control at cheaper prices.

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  • Hugh Massengill
    February 18, 2017 at 6:02 am

    How about putting an fm radio in it, so one can use it to listen to local music and news? Make it a bluetooth device that works like my wonderful, devoted, soft voiced Alexa…
    Hugh Massengill, Eugene Oregon


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