Apple watchers have been talking about an Apple Television for years, but we've still yet to see one. Dubbed iTV, the television is thought to have been a project of late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who told his biographer that he had "cracked it" before he died in 2011. So when is the Apple Television coming out? Here's the iTV release date rumours and feature speculation all in one place.
Secondly, it's worth highlighting that the Apple Television is a completely unannounced product that may never end up making it into Apple Stores. But, there's lots of evidence to suggest that it's coming, so you can use this article and our expert opinions to help you decide whether or not you think an Apple Television is on its way.
See also: Apple's plans for 2014 (Macworld UK)
iTV rumours: What Apple has said about TV
In his biography of Steve Jobs Walter Isaacson wrote that Jobs claimed he had figured out how to solve the problem of an integrated television – an Apple TV that would revolutionise another media industry.
“I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use,” Jobs told Isaacson. “It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.”
That’s a pretty strong hint that an Apple TV is in the works. When Steve Jobs admits something, that's about as good a bet as an Apple press release – certainly better than most of the guff currently surrounding all we know about the Apple Television.
There is a growing group of analysts and commentators questing whether Steve Jobs was referring to a full Apple TV set or just a super-content-filled version of its Apple TV set-top box. "Asking people to spend $100 on a little black box with TV superpowers that gets upgraded every year is much easier than asking them to spend $2000 on a TV set they keep for five," points out Gizmodo.
So what if Apple iTV isn't a TV at all, but a bigger, better Apple TV? Former head of Apple's advanced product development and worldwide marketing Jean-Louis Gassée prefers the idea of an Apple set-top box:
"I believe Apple TV's magic will be performed by a separate box, a descendant of today's £99 Apple TV black puck, perhaps in combination with a new version of Time Capsule. This will enable the no-longer-a-hobby Apple TV to bring its magic to the millions of HDTVs already in homes all over the world – and to be replaced with better/faster hardware without drama."
Only time will tell.
Jony Ive, Apple's quietly mega-successful lead designer, says that Apple's currently working on is the biggest thing Apple has ever done (source: The Telegraph): “What we’re working on now feels like the most important and the best work we’ve done, and so it would be what we’re working on right now, which of course I can’t tell you about.”
Is Ive talking about the iTV?
And Steve's successor as Apple CEO Tim Cook also made a broad hint about a forthcoming Apple TV, during a February 2012 keynote at Goldman Sachs: "I wouldn't want to go into detail about future stuff, obviously … Apple doesn't do hobbies, as a general rule. We believe in focus and only working on a few things. With Apple TV, however, despite the barriers in that market, for those of us who use it, we've always thought there was something there.
"And that if we kept following our intuition and kept pulling the string, then we might find something that was larger. For those people that have it right now, the customer satisfaction is off the charts. But we need something that could go more main market for it to be a serious category."
That was a long time ago now, though, and we've still not seen an Apple Television. In fact, even the Apple TV hasn't been updated since the beginning of 2013, and that was just a minor update.
At an All Things Digital conference at the end of May 2012 Apple CEO Tim Cook said technology for televisions was of "intense interest" but calmed the heat of rumour and expectation by saying that the company's efforts would unfold gradually rather than Apple suddenly reveal its revolutionary iTV.
"This is an area of intense interest for us," Cook said, referring to Apple's existing television set-top box Apple TV. We're going to keep pulling this string and see where it takes us."
As of April 2014, Apple had sold almost 20 million Apple TV boxes cumulatively, which highlights the potential of Apple's impact on the industry, whether it sticks to just the set-top box or goes for the fully-fledged television.
"Here's the way we would look at that, not just at this area but other areas, and ask can we control the key technology?" Cook said in 2012 in response to a question about how Apple thinks about improving the TV experience for consumers.
"Can we make a significant contribution, far beyond what others have done in this area? Can we make a product that we would want?"
The company has a good relationship with content owners and doesn't see the need to own a content business, Cook said, adding he has met with several people in that business recently.
Many years ago Jobs famously pooh-poohed the whole television thing, saying “TV turns your brain off, PCs turn your brain on.” He was responding to the then-trendy notion of “conversion” where PCs would do TV, TVs would do PC stuff, and radios would continue to not do much at all. He even joked about a TV that makes toast. Watch the Steve Jobs on Television video, it's pretty funny.
But apart from Steve’s change of mind and joy at Apple’s ability to take over another industry what do we know about the forthcoming Apple Television?
This is where the facts end and rumours begin – where unnamed sources come out of the woodwork, and speculation enters the mix.
iTV rumours: What will the Apple Television look like?
Jeff Robbin, the engineer who helped create the iPod and iTunes, is apparently in charge of Apple iTV design. There's no solid evidence to suggest what the Apple Television will look like, but there sure is a lot of speculation.
There’s even photos of Apple’s iTV – ok, pictures of what someone adept at Photoshop thinks the iTV will/might/could look like.
Patent-watching website Patently Apple spied a new patent application from Apple lodged with the European Patent Office in August 2013 that describes a fused glass process for device housings. Jonathan Ive is listed as one of the inventors, and the patent illustrates the double-sided glass construction design on a television encased in glass using a fused-glass process.
According to Australian site UnderCurrent, which supposedly overheard a discussion in a pub, Apple and Sharp are co-producting two iTVs – 42-inch and 50-inch. Both will apparently use Sharp's Full HD Quattron technology. One (major) flaw in this report suggested that the iTV would be announced in October or November of 2013, so perhaps we shouldn't trust it…
Images of the Apple Television
Cult of Mac has some “exclusive” pictures of an Apple Display showing a movie, with some current Apple technologies pasted on top (above).
The “well-placed” source, which unsurprisingly has “asked to remain anonymous”, says the Apple HDTV looks like Apple’s current lineup of LED-backlit Cinema Displays but is “much bigger.”
The pictures, it turns out, weren’t snapped by a courageous undercover reporter in a top-secret Foxconn factory (obviously). They were Photoshopped together by a designer called (wait for it) Dan Draper.
Draper hasn’t strayed too far from the too-obvious-to-be-true: “Obviously it’s very visually similar to the Thunderbolt or Cinema display, but trying to put myself in the shoes of Jony Ive I’ve made the stand shorter, wider to make the user more trusting that it can support the weight, and less angled. I figured users don’t care about the distance from a wall required by a monitor stand.”
The Motley Fool website also got a designer to dream up what an Apple TV would look like.
But our favourite iTV pictures so far come from designer Martin Hajek, who has come up with a couple of different concept images including the one at the very top of this article, and also the image below.
iTV rumours: What features will the Apple Television have?
Apparently the iTV will have a built-in iSight camera for making free FaceTime video calls; AirPlay; and Siri, the voice-activated virtual assistant that first arrived with the iPhone 4S.
It's also thought that the Apple Television will have a 4K or UltraHD display.
Following a trip to Computex in Taipei and meetings with unnamed tech supply chain sources, Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White offered a few insights about the forthcoming Apple-branded television set.
The device will feature motion-detection technology like the Xbox Kinect (Apple has purchased Primesense, which is the company behind the original Kinect, so this is certainly possible), and a touch-screen remote, he said.
"The data points during our trip indicate Apple will use a special type of motion detection technology on future full blown Apple TV," said White.
"Also, our contacts indicate a unique remote control with a touch panel form factor that looks similar to the iPad would be used to control the device. The bezel is expected to be a plastic composition, rather than the aluminium unibody exterior that surrounds the MacBook Air."
A 2013 patent describes "a sound system that could be launched as part of its iTV. The intelligent system could determine where a user is in a room, and if he or she was not within the optimum range, the processor could modify the audio output, says the application. It could also adjust based on which way the user is facing, and the environment that the user is in."
There's little doubt that Apple TV will use some version of iOS as its operating system, and employ the power of an A7 processor. It will interact seemlessly with Apple's other iOS products, iPhone and iPad, naturally – or maybe even supernaturally.
And, like those products, it will have apps – millions of them, operated by the remote or the iPhone/iPad. And a hell of a lot of those apps will be games, for sure – pushing out the likes of Sony's PlayStation, Nintendo's Wii and, Steve Jobs laughs manically from his grave, Microsoft's Xbox that stole Halo from the Mac.
Content producers will create apps to distribute content, bypassing cable and satellite providers, like Sky or Virgin in the UK.
No one has been brave enough to come and out and predict that the Apple iTV will be 3D.
Steve Jobs' other company Pixar is converting its old movies, such as Finding Nemo, into 3D, and released Toy Story 3 in 3D without doing the obvious and calling it Toy Story 3D.
So why not a 3D Apple iTV? But surely not one that will require Apple 3D TV glasses...
Apple TV screen size is anyone's guess (as is pretty much everything else above). Some say between 35 and 55 inches, but this decision is likely to be made much closer to the television's release date.
And Apple could well be the company to make the first best-selling 4K TV, featuring a 3,840-x-2,160 display – possibly manufactured by LG, according to DigiTimes: "Apple is banking on LG Display to be able to mass produce Ultra HD TV panels by the second half of the year. If LG is successful and has ample supply of the technology, Apple may try to release the TV by the end of 2013 but is more likely to do so towards the beginning of 2014."
Another obvious feature for the Apple TV is AirPlay wireless mirroring, which could mean a giant screen for your Mac or iOS device right in your living room – also boasting the famous Apple icon.
In mid August 2013 Apple acquired second-screen TV and video app Matcha.tv.
Matcha.tv is an iOS app that provides an overview of everything that’s available to watch via cable TV providers (Comcast), streaming video services (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime), and digital video stores (iTunes, Amazon). Users could also manage what they watched from a universal queue, get video recommendations, and connect with social networks to see what their friends were watching/liking.
iTV release date: When's the Apple Television coming out?
Really - no one knows when the Apple Television might come out. Analysts and industry experts have been predicting the announcement of such device for several years, but we've still yet so see one. Many analysts were convinced last year that Apple would unveil a television at WWDC 2013, but were left disappointed when the event ended and no iTV had been announced.
There's one analyst who has been particularly vocal about the Apple Television. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster has remained a firm believer that Apple will launch a television since back in 2009. In fact, he's predicted an Apple Television every year since 2011.
However, this year has been slightly different. In a note to clients in April 2014, Munster said: "Each month that passes without credible feedback from the supply chain reduces our confidence."
If Munster is beginning to doubt that an Apple Television is coming, we are too.
Jefferies analyst Peter Misek believed that the Apple Television would launch in 2013 after he spotted "prototypes floating around" in Apple's supply chain (apparently). But, when no Apple Television arrived last year, Misek said that it was probably delayed due to the high cost of a 4K/Ultra HD display.
"We had thought that Apple's software and ecosystem would be enough to drive demand but our checks indicate that Apple wants the hardware to also stand out. We believe Apple wants a display that looks like 4K/Ultra HD but without the super-premium cost."
We're beginning to think that either Apple's given up on the idea of an Apple Television, or it's decided to hold off a little. One report that emerged in November 2013 seems to suggest that the latter is more likely. NPD DisplaySearch thinks that Apple is pushing back the launch of its Apple Television to 2015 or 2016 while it focuses on the iWatch for 2014.
Who will make the Apple TV?
Apple factory partner Foxconn boss Terry Gou, reportedly confirmed that Apple is working on a HD television set.
According to China Daily, Gou has said that Apple manufacturer Foxconn is working with Sharp in Japan to prepare for production of the highly anticipated Apple television set.
"Gou said Foxconn is making preparations for iTV, Apple Inc's rumoured upcoming high-definition television, although development or manufacturing has yet to begin," says the report.
Predictably Foxconn and Gou quickly denied that he’d said anything of the sort.
Apple’s favoured Chinese manufacturer Foxconn has invested 133 billion yen (US$1.6 billion) in Sharp’s TV and Display unit, which can efficiently make large size panels up to 60-inches.
It was reported in June that Foxconn is in talks with Sharp about increasing its stake as it bets on the Japanese firm's leading edge technology to give it a boost in the display panel business, says the Eastern Morning Herald. Foxconn agreed in March to buy new shares in Sharp worth $844 million as part of a tie-up in liquid crystal display production. All this, insiders believe, makes the possibility of an Apple TV much more likely as Foxconn is Apple's biggest supplier.
"I'm proud to say the cooperation with Sharp will let us beat Samsung in terms of clearness - high resolution," Foxconn chairman Terry Gou told shareholders.
Apple has apparently switched from Samsung to Sharp for its iPad and iPhone screens.
Around the same time came the rumour that Apple is planning to buy Loewe (pronounced “Lur-ver”), a German TV manufacturer that specializes in the sort of premium television sets that we’d expect Apple to produce, so it could be the company that ends up making the iTV.
Interestingly Japan's Sharp (see earlier) holds 28.8 percent of Loewe's shares.
Within a few hours Loewe denied the story, although it rubbed its hands in glee as its share price went through the roof.
A spokesman for Loewe said that management at the moment “has no indication or information that Apple wants to participate in Loewe”. Obviously, Apple declined to comment.
There are also rumours that Corning could make Gorilla Glass for the iTV screen. A look at Corning's website shows that the company is involved in TV: "By supporting the sleek, ultra-thin seamless designs that are a popular trend in today's LCD TV industry, Corning Gorilla Glass is literally changing the face of LCD TV," it says.
Apple TV price
One thing we know for sure is that Apple iTV, or whatever it gets called, will be much more expensive than the LCD TVs you can buy right now at your local superstore. So expect it to cost more than £1,500, probably even more than £2,000.
Research from the Strategy Analytics Connected Home Devices (CHD) advisory service suggests that nearly half of existing iPhone users would be "very" or "somewhat likely" to buy an Apple iTV soon after its launch.
The report, "Apple's Smart TV: Assessing Purchase Intention and Willingness to Pay," surveyed 6,000 consumers across the US, France, Germany, Italy and the UK (March 2012).
"The success of an Apple iTV hinges on Apple’s ability to match innovation with appropriate price points," said Jia Wu, Director and report author.
While 35 percent of surveyed US consumers indicate willingness to pay $1,000 or more for an Apple-branded TV, only 14 percent would be willing to pay any more than $1,600.
"Samsung, Sony, LG and other major TV manufacturers are most threatened by the prospect of an Apple iTV launch," noted analyst Kantideep Thota.
"More than a quarter of non-Apple TV owners could potentially migrate to an Apple-branded TV in a fairly short period of time."
Overall, whatever the Apple iTV release date and price, there'll be probably be a shockingly long queue outside Apple Stores the world over as soon as it's available (and likely a few weeks beforehand).
For even more Apple Television rumours, visit Macworld's iTV rumour round-up.