It’s no secret Apple really, really wants to reinvent the TV. On his deathbed, Steve Jobs expressed great interest in fixing the crummy TV watching experience, telling his biographer Walter Isaacson that he had “finally cracked it.”
Jobs said he wanted to create an “integrated television set that is completely easy to use” and “would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud.”
In 2014, leakers and analysts repeatedly said Apple would release its own TV set, which many speculated could have been powered by Siri. No such Apple-branded TV was ever released and many believe Apple shelved it.
But now it’s surfaced again. Photos posted to China’s Weibo, and shared by gadget leaker Benjamin Geskin, who has been leaking details on the iPhone 8, show an alleged 60-inch Apple OLED TV being tested in what appears to be an anechoic chamber.
While an Apple flatscreen would be pretty cool and add to the company’s lineup of sleek hardware, it doesn’t make sense for Apple to make one.
Right off the bat, the images are super suspect. They’re beyond blurry and could easily be fakes. Geskin says the TV set has a metal body and thin bezels. But of course it would … all nice TVs (especially ones with OLED displays) from Samsung and LG are metal and have ultra-thin bezels.
The testing chamber gives the purported Apple TV a technical setting, but again it could be any ol’ facility and the location can’t be verified.
Geskin told Mashable there’s a good chance the images could be fake. Someone could have put an Apple sticker or photoshopped the logo onto a generic TV and passed it around. There’s just no way to know.
Even if we’re to take the display for what it claims to be, it’s more likely that it could be a prototype for Apple’s Pro Display that might launch with the redesigned Mac Pro next year. Apple used to sell its own screens, but they discontinued the last one, the Thunderbolt Display, in 2016.
When you look at Apple’s ambitious moves into TV with its Apple TV set-top box, tvOS, and original content like Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke, it makes total sense for them to make and sell the TV itself. Like why wouldn’t they sell the single piece of hardware that would deliver its content (which it has reportedly set aside $1 billion for)?
There are many reasons why Apple would be stupid to sell a TV screen. Mashable Chief Correspondent Lance Ulanoff laid them all out in 2015 after the TV didn’t materialize.
His analysis still holds up true today, and here’s why.
The TV biz isn’t booming
Being in the TV-making industry actually kind of sucks. Profit margins are extremely low, especially when you’re trying to sell an affordable TV set. Forrester Research estimates TV makers only make 10 to 15 percent profit per TV, and that percentage has dropped as inexpensive Chinese TVs have stolen marketshare from Korean and Japanese TV makers like Samsung, LG and Sony.
People hang onto their TVs often
One of the reasons why the TV industry is contracting is because people just don’t upgrade their TVs often. They hang onto them for years or even decades. If you’ve already spent good money on a large, high-end HDTV or 4K TV, there’s really no point in getting a new one until it either breaks or some breakthrough technology makes a new one necessary.
Apple doesn’t make screens
Screens are also hard to source. If Apple’s TV were to come with an OLED display, it’d have to tap somebody like Samsung or LG to get the panels. While Samsung has made parts (i.e. memory) used in iPhones and MacBooks, lining the company’s pockets with even more money is not something Apple would wanna do.
TV habits have changed
People don’t watch TV like they used to with the whole family gathering around the tube in the living room. It’s 2017, and TV obeys us. More people than ever before watch TV on their phones, tablets, laptops, and computers. Good luck getting a teenager to watch Game of Thrones with you on the big screen. They’re glued to their phones, which means it’s not gonna happen. It’s telling when YouTube TV is mobile-first and doesn’t even have an app for streaming media boxes.
Set-top boxes are cheaper
Let’s be real: An Apple OLED TV would not be cheap. Apple doesn’t make cheap products and you can bet good money that a TV would carry a premium over similar TVs in its class. A premium Samsung 65-inch 4K QLED TV costs around $3,500 or more and a LG 65-inch 4K OLED TV costs $3,000 or more. You could find them at lower or higher prices depending on the model year and features, but the $2500-$3500 range is what you’d have to pay for a nice 4K TV today.
The “Apple tax” that an Apple TV would come with could be as much 50 percent more than a Samsung or LG if MacBooks are anything to go by.
So, how big would the market be for people looking to spend $4,000-5,000 on an Apple TV? Not very large: adults and the rich. Young millennials just aren’t buying TVs. They buy Yeezys and iPhones, not a TV that requires having a sizable living room for it sit in. In the gadget world, TVs are basically like cars.
In comparison, the Apple TV and set-top boxes like Roku or NVIDIA Shield are only a few hundred bucks. A Chromecast is even cheaper at $35 or $70 for the 4K model. Cheap set-top boxes are also easily replaceable once their hardware becomes outdated and software updates slow everything down.
I know this all too well. The 46-inch Sony Bravia HDTV I purchased in 2012 came with cutting-edge smart TV software at the time, but now it’s worthless. The built-in Netflix app is no longer supported and apps like Amazon Videos and YouTube are so slow, I’m better off loading them up on my phone and Chromecasting them to the TV. The TV’s still great, which is why I’m not replacing it with a 4K one anytime soon, but the smart TV software might as well not exist.
Maybe I’m wrong and an Apple TV will come out in the future, but we just don’t see it happening soon. Apple’s TV set-top box is affordable and with tvOS getting better and better, Apple just doesn’t need to sell a TV.