Comment: Apple TV needs its HomePod mini moment

Apple TV is far from being a new product. In fact, it was introduced on the same day as the first iPhone in 2007. In the last 14 years, Apple’s set-top box has gone through major changes, but it has never become a hit like iPad or even Apple Watch. Maybe it’s time for Apple TV to have its HomePod mini moment.

The current state of Apple TV

Apple has never known exactly what the company wants for Apple TV. At first, it was basically an external drive with iTunes that could be connected to a TV. As streaming platforms like Netflix became widely popular, Apple had to completely rethink the product in its second generation, which became a true streaming device.

The fourth-generation Apple TV was probably the most significant update since then, as it added the App Store and support for third-party apps. It felt like a new beginning for Apple TV, but not much has actually changed since then. Earlier this year, the company introduced the sixth-generation Apple TV, which is basically another refreshed model with a faster processor, better HDR support, and the new Siri remote.

Of course, a lot has changed in the TV market since 2007 (or even since 2015), but Apple’s strategy for its set-top box remains uncertain — if there is one. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman recently pointed out that Apple TV has “become pointless” amidst the competition, and that even Apple engineers have told him that they are not optimistic about the product’s future.

What’s wrong with Apple TV?

There’s nothing wrong with Apple TV when we consider just the device. It’s a great product with outstanding hardware and software. The thing is, Apple TV doesn’t seem to make sense for most people these days.

In the past, people usually bought an Apple TV because most TVs lacked smart features or offered a poor user experience. But now pretty much every Smart TV comes with multiple apps and features, including Apple TV+, Apple Music, and even AirPlay and HomeKit integration.

You may argue that the Apple TV experience is still better — and I agree. But some people just want to have their favorite streaming apps on TV and aren’t exactly concerned about having fancy animations or Apple Arcade games. The situation becomes even more complicated when we look at the Apple TV price.

Apple sells three different versions of Apple TV, ranging from an older model with 32GB of storage for $149 to the latest version with 64GB of storage for $199. If we consider the $199 price point, that’s half the price of an entry-level 4K TV that comes with apps and even Apple features.

At the same time, you can get devices like Roku and Amazon Fire TV that will give you access to the same streaming apps for less than $50. Although they lack integration with Apple’s ecosystem, they work well for most people and it’s simply hard to argue in favor of Apple TV price for someone who only needs a device with streaming apps.

Apple TV still exists only because it still has to exist. Apple needs a product to be the hub of your home and TV, and I’m sure most people who still buy Apple TV do so because of the Apple ecosystem. But it’s clear at this point that Apple TV is far from being considered a huge success, and Apple could change that if it wants to.

Apple TV needs its HomePod mini moment

This makes me think about what happened with the HomePod. Apple had ambitious plans for its super premium smart speaker, but it never had appeal with the public. Very few people were willing to pay a high price for a device that didn’t do much, no matter how good it was.

But Apple needed the HomePod to push people to use Siri, Apple Music, and HomeKit, so it replaced the HomePod with the HomePod mini. HomePod mini is far from being as good as its discontinued bigger brother, but it has almost the same features and costs much less. For most people, that’s what matters.

I would really like to see something similar with Apple TV. I’m sure that many people would consider buying one if Apple offered a smaller and cheaper model focused on regular apps and the HomeKit stuff. Apple TV was once sold for $99, and that’s a price tag that the company should really reconsider.

There are people who argue that Apple TV could also be upgraded with even better hardware, which would add value to the current price point. Apple itself says that the product is more than just a streaming device.

Unfortunately, Apple treats Apple TV like a mobile device. You don’t see triple-A games available in the App Store, and anyone who has ever tried to develop for tvOS knows that there are multiple annoying limitations. Someone really interested in gaming will likely prefer to spend $100 more on an Xbox Series S.

To me, what Apple TV really needs right now is a “mini,” less-expensive model. That, however, doesn’t seem to be in the company’s plans in the short term. What do you think about this? Let me know in the comments section below.

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