Today’s Apple announcements of a beefed-up Apple TV and a new season for its most popular TV+ show were hardly surprises but definitely overdue as the company finally gave a bit of love to one of its most neglected sectors.
The “next generation” of the Apple TV 4K will get a more powerful A12 Bionic chip, and added the ability to display High Frame Rate video as well as the existing ability to show High Dynamic Range video, in what Apple executives said during the presentation was “a massive upgrade to your TV.” The company said it is encouraging “leading providers around the globe” to stream in HDR and HFR.
For the many Apple TV users who’ve complained about the current TV 4K’s remote, there’s now hope: a revamped device that also can turn off the TV and other attached devices.
The black-and-white aluminum-clad device will retain some of the functions of its most recent predecessor, like a touchpad and Siri voice control. But it will also harken back a couple of generations with a round, five-way directional button that enables a new jog-wheel gesture, to make it easier to scrub through video.
At prices of $179 and $199 for the two models, the Apple TV 4K remains far more expensive than most of its competitors, but the presentation pitched as a device capable of immersive gaming, high-quality presentations, cutting-edge video streaming and more.
That may move the dial a bit for price-conscious consumers, but the Apple alternative has always been a premium experience, bolstered by the device’s role in a much bigger ecosystem of hardware, software and content.
The update was definitely overdue, however, providing a bit more glitter to a device that could use it in a hugely competitive market dominated by cheap Roku and Amazon Fire TV sticks and pucks and in-TV interfaces.
Apple also spent a relatively large amount of time talking about its TV+ service, which largely has been an afterthought in presentations over the past 13 months. After CEO Tim Cook rattled off some of the service’s most popular programs, he announced that its biggest hit, Ted Lasso, will return July 23 for a second season.
Given the show’s success, a re-up was widely expected. The company has already given second seasons for several of its shows, including For All Mankind and Servant, as it continues to build out its highly-rated but slender portfolio of shows.
Of the 90 YouTube videos Apple TV’s uploaded in the last 90 days, just 13 were official trailers or teasers, according to Tubular Labs. However, many of those made up its most-viewed videos (including all of the top five).
Ted Lasso, in fact, was a gotta-do in terms of renewal. It broke through on pop culture radar screens, and even garnered star and co-creator Jason Sudeikis Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards for his fish-out-of-water portrayal of a homespun American football coach hired to run an underachieving English soccer team.
The Apple TV and TV+ news were folded into the middle of a briskly conveyed blizzard of product announcements from the world’s most valuable company at its “Spring Loaded” event this morning.
It’s an approach Apple has been perfecting during 13 months of pandemic virtual presentations. As with predecessors, it zipped through most announcements in just a few minutes, interrupting proceedings for an occasional drone flight across the Apple campus, a commercial or trailer, and even, this time, 60-something CEO Tim Cook going Tom Cruise to break into Mac laptop labs to extract an M1 CPU and insert it into an iPad.
The Mission: Impossible references were amusing, but wildly unnecessary (beefy ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish did a similar bit during that company’s investor event a couple of months, and ViacomCBS’ Paramount Pictures actually makes the Mission: Impossible movies).
And of course, Tim Cook doesn’t need to break into his own company. But it lent a bit of high-production-value drama to an hour-long marketing presentation.
One notable unveiling was a ground-up redesign of Apple’s iMacs, featuring those heist-worthy M1 Apple Silicon CPUs and seven candy-coated colors, with matching keyboards, mice and track pads.
The colors are an homage to the original iMacs of a quarter century ago, but are slim to the point of gaunt compared to rotund ancestors, whose success helped rescue the company after it nearly collapsed in the mid-1990s.
The new iMacs resemble very large, very thin iPads, with an even thinner, color-coordinated aluminum base. They have bigger screens on nearly the same footprint, 24 inches across diagonally compared to the low-end 21.4-inch screens of the last generation.
In a nod to users with high-speed storage and high-resolution external monitors, they’ll have up to two Thunderbolt connectors among USB-C ports, and ability to drive 6K-resolution screens. That’ll come in handy for graphics and video-editing professionals.
Work-from-home professionals will appreciate better on-board cameras, speakers and microphones, for the Zoom meetings that still seem likely to continue. The cameras will be capable of sending 1080P-resolution video streams, enhanced by the computational photography technologies that dress up images on the newest iPhones.
The company also announced two new iPad Pros, with the same M1 chips driving much better cameras, microphones and speakers. The front-facing cameras now include an ultrawide front-facing lens that will be a boon to video journalists and vloggers.
It will pair with a new CenterScreen technology that pans and refocuses as a subject moves or other people join the conversation, helped by lidar scanners that will improve low-light focusing and more accurate augmented-reality experiences.
The iPad Pros also will have an option for the same 5G capability, including high-end millimeter-wave tech found in the latest generation of iPhones. The lone USB-C port will add Thunderbolt connectivity also.
Other announcements included:
- A revamped Apple Podcasts app will give creators more ways to make money, with subscriptions to individual streams, additional content, ad-free listening, early access and other tactics that have become standard-issue moneymakers elsewhere in the burgeoning sector.
- AirTags, whose expected debut has been repeatedly delayed, finally arrived. They can be attached to devices such as luggage and keys and used with Apple’s Find My app to track down lost items.
- An expanded Apple Card program that will allow families, down to kids at least 13 years old, to jointly get approvals, have cards and build credit ratings.
- A new color for iPhone 12 models, purple.