Apple's attempt to reinvent the living room isn't a TV set – it's a new Apple TV box with app support and Siri
Apple just revamped its former "hobby," the Apple TV set top box. The new hardware's improved specs take a backseat to an all new platform with support for apps, along with Siri and a new controller with a touch panel.
Before today, Apple hadn't updated the Apple TV since early 2013. It did drop the price of the little black box earlier this year, but a full upgrade was well overdue. Now we see the reason for the delay; today's update is by far the biggest the platform has seen.
Central to the new Apple TV setup is the brand new remote, which has a selection of physical buttons for key controls like volume, pause and play, alongside a touch panel for precision navigation.
The user interface is controlled by swiping the touch panel, and users can interact with the box using Siri, holding the button on the remote and uttering phrases like "show me movies starring Tom Hardy" to search.
Speaking of search, TV show and movie pages list everywhere you'll be able to watch the content on Apple TV, from iTunes to Netflix and HBO Go. On the previous versions, search was non-universal, only available within each specific app.
The new Apple TV runs on a brand new platform based on iOS, known as tvOS. Aside from a visual revamp, the new software brings full app support – something that Apple believes will have a major impact on how we use our TVs.
Several apps were demoed during the event in San Francisco, including the Gilt shopping service, and an MLB app, the latter of which featured live stats, side-by-side live video and interactive notifications.
There's also a focus on gaming with the new product. While it isn't about to replace your Xbox One or PS4, you will be able to play plenty of popular games from iOS on the device, such as Crossy Road and Transistor. Local multiplayer gaming will also be available on select titles, with one player using the Apple TV remote as a controller, and additional players using an iPhone or iPod touch.
For games, developers can create universal purchases, letting users buy a title on their iOS device, and play it on their Apple TV, with progress cloud saved between devices. If Apple can make it as easy as possible for devs to port their iPhone and iPad games to the tvOS platform, the new Apple TV's gaming library could quickly become a force to be reckoned with.
With more content living locally in the box, storage capacity has been upped, with 32 and 64 GB variants of the system available. The device runs on a 64-bit A8 chip (Apple's late 2014 silicon, also found in the iPhones 6 and 6 Plus), with Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11ac WiFi with MIMO, and an IR receiver.
The new remote connects to the box via Bluetooth 4.0, features an accelerometer and a gyroscope, and is reportedly good for up to three months on a single charge. When it runs out of juice, there's a Lightning connector at the base for recharging.
The 32 and 64 GB variants are priced at US$149 and $199 respectively. They'll ship in late October.
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I still need a Roku and other systems, all offering slightly different services.