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Definition: Apple TV

(1) A TV set from Apple that was only a rumor.

(2) The hardware is "Apple TV" (definition #3 below). The video streaming service is "Apple TV+." The media hub hardware had been available for more than a decade before the service was introduced. See Apple TV+.

(3) A digital media hub that turns a TV into an Internet-connected smart TV. Introduced in 2007 and upgraded considerably for content over the years, Apple TV includes the Apple TV+ streaming service as well as the capability of downloading apps for a huge variety of free and premium channels. News, sports and entertainment outlets such as Netflix and Hulu are offered. See Apple TV+.

Apple TV also enables music, movies and photos to be streamed from a user's iTunes library in a Mac or PC over a home network to the TV.

Apple TV and AirPlay let people mirror content from their Apple mobile devices to their TV. In addition, photos stored in iCloud can be streamed to the Apple TV. See AirPlay and iTunes.

4K in Fifth Generation
In 2017, support for 4K video content and HDR was added to Apple TV, and if available, iTunes purchases are automatically upgraded to 4K. A 2K resolution model (Apple TV HD) is also offered. See 4K TV and HDR.

Games and Apps in Fourth Generation
The 2015 update of Apple TV added downloadable games and apps with up to 64GB of flash memory to store them. Siri voice commands for searching and playback as well as a trackpad were added to the remote control (see below). The optical output was dropped, and based on iOS 9, the Apple TV OS was rebranded as "tvOS."

From DVR to Streaming to 1080p
In 2007, the first Apple TV had analog and digital outputs as well as a DVR. The second model in 2010 added AirPlay but dropped the DVR and analog port, supporting only HDMI. In 2012, the third model boosted an earlier 720p resolution to 1080p. See smart TV, digital media hub, Internet TV and TOSLINK.

Rather Innocuous
The 10-ounce box lying on top of this CD changer is a second-generation Apple TV. With rumors that Apple was building its own TV set, many thought it absurd the company would want to ship 30-pound TVs when this small device makes any TV a smart TV.

Fourth-Generation Apple TV
Although thicker than the previous model, the 4G Apple TV (right) is still rather small. To speak to Siri, a microphone button on the remote is pressed and held. The previous click wheel was replaced with a touchpad, and the 4G model is available along with the 5G Apple TV 4K.

1st and 2nd-Generation Siri Remotes
When Siri was added in 2015, the mic button was placed below the Menu button (left). In 2021, the highly praised new remote (right) moved Siri activation to its upper right side and changed the trackpad to a clickpad, reminiscent of the first iPod. The 2nd-gen remote has mute and on/off buttons for the first time.

USB Type C in the 4G Model
In the fourth-generation Apple TV, a USB Type C port (red arrow) was added to connect to a Mac for developer testing and screen recording. However, in the next generation, Type C was eliminated, opting for wireless instead.