Apple is reportedly staying out of the 4K video chicken-and-egg problem with the next Apple TV set-top box.
Citing unnamed sources “in a position to know,” BuzzFeed’s John Paczkowski reports that the next Apple TV won’t support 4K video streaming. Apple is rumored to launch its new set-top this summer, with a faster processor, more storage, and an overhauled version of iOS that allows for Siri voice commands and HomeKit controls. A long-awaited TV version of the App Store may also be part of Apple’s plans.
4K, or UltraHD, refers to video with a minimum resolution of 3840-by-2160, which is four times the number of pixels in 1080p video. The first 4K televisions started showing up in 2013, and prices have steadily fallen to the point that they’re just a few hundred dollars more costly than 1080p sets.
But streaming in native 4K requires more than just a supported television and set-top box. You also need 4K content, of which there isn’t currently a lot available. While Netflix and Amazon have been releasing some of their original series in 4K, traditional TV networks have been slow to adopt the new standard. Even cable and satellite TV providers that support 4K still require special receivers to watch the limited amount of content available.
This all creates a state of gridlock, as people don’t feel compelled to invest in 4K TVs and set-top boxes. And without a speedy Internet connection—Netflix recommends at least 25Mbps—the benefits of streaming in 4K would be minimal anyway.
Why this matters: In theory, Apple could give the entire 4K ecosystem a boost by throwing its weight behind the standard. But packing in new technology simply for the sake of future-proofing isn’t really Apple’s style, and the company may not want to advertise 4K without clear benefits for users. If Apple can get its rumored TV service off the ground, perhaps a marriage of 4K streaming and hardware will follow.