Is This the New Apple TV?

Published FCC Patent Suggests Retail, VR in Apple TV Future

Artur Debat Guy experiencing the new technology of virtual reality headsets the future of social communication and entertainment.
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Apple develops generations of products concurrently, so when Apple TV 4 shipped it’s certain the company was already putting together Apple TV 5. A recently published Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filing (originally seen by Consomac) may shed a little light on what to expect.

What’s New?

The FCC only regulates wireless communications in technology, the filing says nothing more about the product other than it has both Bluetooth and NFC (Wi-Fi isn’t mentioned). Apple doesn’t use NFC on Apple TV, though other entertainment boxes can provide NFC support. Common implementations let device owners pair speakers, handsets and/or make in-game purchases using NFC.

The filing may be nothing to do with a new Apple TV, particularly in light of recent claims Apple is developing a Siri speaker system to rival Amazon Echo.

If the Apple Amazon Echo claims are correct the connected product will let you listen to music and ask Siri for help, so you’ll be able to dictate a shopping list or ask for music to play while working in the kitchen. It doesn’t seem impossible for Apple to make such a device look like a miniature Apple TV, using the larger box as a hub. If the filing does turn out to be for an Apple TV then here are some ways NFC makes sense:

Fast Device Pairing

Apple already has a superb device pairing system for the Apple Siri Remote. When you start both items up you should see an on-screen notification saying “Remote Paired”, or “Pairing Remote” with an instruction to move closer to the TV. NFC support should make it much easier to pair devices with your TV, from handsets to iPhones to speaker systems and anything else.

The Smart Home

Fast device pairing may also have implications on Apple’s plans for the future of home automation with Apple TV as a hub for smart devices. The plan could be to create a system in which all you need to do with your new smart device is pair it to the Apple TV using NFC for it to be securely paired across your entire network.

TV Channels

Apple is developing Single Sign-In, a new solution that should let you sign into all your cable and satellite app feeds once. This will be great because you’ll be able to access TV channels easily, but with NFC you could conceivably access your channels on someone else’s TV, so long as your NFC-approved account-related device (iPhone) remains in the room. This could also add an extra outlet to any pay-per-view TV operators through the Apple platform.

The Retail Opportunity

Enabling NFC could also enable easy payments from control devices using Apple TV. You might use this to pay for new channels (which you already do through iTunes), or (and this may be more likely as Apple seeks to proliferate Apple Pay) to purchase physical and digital products you find on TV. This could have interesting applications for ads-supported channels, apps (particularly the AirBnB or OpenTable), it even creates opportunity to relaunch the Disney Infinity series on Apple’s platform, or for fashion labels to sell clothing direct to the consumer.

VR Plans Too?

Naturally an easily deployed and authorized virtual reality system on a powerful streaming media device may have future implications across any of Apple’s plans for virtual reality, though those plans aren’t yet clear.

What Else Do We Expect in Apple TV 5?

We don’t know if or when Apple intends upgrading Apple TV. We do know Apple has wanted to create complete channels of apps for cord cutters seeking to terminate their cable or satellite deals. We also think it is likely Apple hopes to introduce 4K support on the device. There have been some whispers Apple and Amazon have reached a deal to put Amazon Prime content on the TV, though while we wait there is this workaround, and third party developers continue to add new features through new, and innovative, Apple TV apps.