Apple TV report claims universal search, $149 starting price

Apple will likely join every other media streamer in letting users search for content across apps, but the devil’s in the details.

Apple TV
Jared Newman

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Universal search could be a key feature in the next-generation Apple TV, but users will have to pay a premium price to get it.

Citing unnamed sources, BuzzFeed reports that the new Apple TV will start at $149. An earlier report by 9to5Mac claimed that Apple could charge $149 to $199, so perhaps an option for more storage will be available. Either way, the new media streamer will cost quite a bit more than the competing Roku 3 and Amazon Fire TV (both $100), and the current $69 Apple TV.

The new Apple TV will also let users search for content across different apps, which isn’t a huge surprise given that universal search is now table stakes on other platforms such as Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Android TV. And with iOS 9 set to include cross-app search on phones and tablets, it makes sense for Apple to extend those capabilities to its own media streamer.

But perhaps Apple has some secret sauce that could help its version stand out. BuzzFeed claims that Matcha, a recommendations engine that Apple purchased in 2013, could help drive those searches. A report by TechCrunch at the time claimed that Apple was especially interested in Matcha’s proprietary algorithm, which seemed to work better than others at finding things people would actually like. One might imagine saying something like “Siri, find me a good '80s horror flick” and getting cross-app recommendations based on your tastes.

Apple is expected to announce the new Apple TV at a press event on September 9, alongside new iPhones. Other features could include a new remote with gesture and touch controls, a much more powerful A8 processor, and a proper App Store for TV-friendly apps and games, but no 4K support. The product may ship in October.

Why this matters: While universal search is hardly a new feature on connected TV boxes, there’s plenty of room to improve on the concept. They all have some big blind spots (Android TV and Fire TV don’t index Netflix, while Fire TV and Roku can’t see local media servers such as Plex), and their ability to search beyond basic title and crew information is limited. We’ll see if Apple can do any better when it unveils its brand-new set-top box next week.

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