It’s recently been suggested that Apple might be readying a new Apple TV player. More specifically and importantly, a cheaper Apple TV device. On the surface this would seem like good news for consumers, and it probably is. However, Apple is not really known as a company that releases cheap products in general, so it remains to be seen just how cheap or how good this rumored Apple TV device might be.
At present, Apple sells its Apple TV player in two main flavors. For those looking for the cheapest option possible, there’s the Apple TV HD, priced at $149. For those currently wanting the best experience possible, there’s the Apple TV 4K, priced at $179. There is also a $199 model which boosts the storage up from 32GB to 64GB. Put simply, Apple’s TV hardware products are anything but cheap.
That may change in the future, considering a reliable Apple analyst has suggested that a new, cheaper model is currently being prepared. To be clear, the details on this new Apple TV player are very scarce, almost non-existent. The suggestion itself came from Ming-Chi Kuo in a Tweet which said that Apple was planning to release a new Apple TV device in 2022. There was also an “improves cost structure” mention as well as a suggestion of helping to “close the gap” with the competition. All of which would naturally seem to suggest a device that might better rival the likes of Amazon and Roku. Both of which sell a variety of streaming players and devices, most of which are considerably cheaper than Apple’s options.
If correct, and Apple is planning to release a cheaper device, then consumers will benefit from having more options to choose from. While this is especially true for those invested in Apple’s ecosystem and on a budget, how cheap it will be is another question entirely. Higher price tags are not specific to Apple TV, as the company tends to price its various hardware category devices at a premium level to reflect their premium selling points. Yes, Apple does sell a cheaper iPhone SE model, and the standard iPad is significantly cheaper than the rest of the iPad lineup, but these are lesser devices in general, and a similar approach could prove problematic with a TV-based device.
Apple is highly unlikely to just offer a cheaper device. If that was the case, it would risk cannibalizing sales of not just the Apple TV HD but also Apple TV 4K. Therefore, the most likely outcome would seem to be a device that only impacts Apple TV HD sales. The best way this could be done is by reducing the size of the device, again possibly as small as an HDMI stick type of device. The smaller device would presumably be cheaper to make and those savings can then be passed to the customer. Irrespective of how much the savings are at the manufacturing and production level, it still seems likely that Apple would price it at a premium compared to competing devices. This would suggest somewhere in the region of $50-100. Although, even a device priced at $129 would still technically be cheaper and ‘closing the gap.’ It would also mean less ports overall.
Where things become more interesting is at the experience level. tvOS is fairly consistent so the actual experience itself won’t vary too much, just like it doesn’t between different iPhone models. Likewise, the Apple TV+ streaming service, which is likely the real reason why Apple wants (read: needs) a cheaper device, will be accessible as well. So, if Apple cannot impose a difference here, it may have to elsewhere. Presumably, by either keeping the cheaper device at 1080p, skipping on HDR10 and Dolby Vision support, and/or equipping it with an older chip, positioning it as a less capable player. The current Apple TV HD is powered by an A8 chip while the current Apple TV 4K runs on a newer A12 chip. Again, if wanting to avoid competing too much with the Apple TV 4K, the likely outcome would be a chip between the A8 and the A12. Adding to the less powerful approach, it could also utilize less RAM and storage to help keeps costs lower.
The remote could also help to save on the cost. The newest version of the Apple TV 4K only primarily differs from the first-generation 4K version through the use of a newer chip and the inclusion of a refreshed Siri remote. It is possible that a cheaper Apple TV player could come with either an older remote or a new, but less capable remote. Possibly even a plastic remote. Then again, maybe it will rely on the iPhone app as a primary way to control the device, completely removing the need to package a physical remote with the device. This would almost certainly lower the cost to Apple, making it possible to lower the cost in general.
For what it’s worth, this might not be the only new Apple TV player that’s in the works. It was previously reported that Apple is working on a completely different Apple TV player, one that apparently bridges the Apple TV and HomePod divide. If that is also the case, and presuming both launch at the same time, then maybe we are looking at a lineup that consists of an Apple TV mini (or SE), the current Apple TV 4K, and an Apple TV 4K Pro (or Max) model, with the prices falling in the $50-$100, $100-200, and $200-300 brackets, respectively.
Regardless of what Apple does decide to launch later this year, it does seem highly likely that a cheaper Apple TV player will result in various compromises. For those that just want a cheap Apple TV device to watch live TV and access streaming services, that might not be a problem. However, even a cheap Apple TV player is unlikely to be cheap in the grand scheme of things. Just cheaper.