Bit by bit, we’ve seen companies moving towards 4K and HDR technologies. Progress has been slow and fitful on the PC side of things, owing to extreme DRM requirements and a protected ‘path’ across the entire OS ecosystem. Apple, to date, hasn’t shared much information on how it might approach this space, but iTunes and Apple TV apparently now show that certain movies are 4K and HDR-capable when you view your own history.
As reported first by MacRumors, Apple is retroactively stating that certain films are available with modern features like 4K and HDR.
Image by MacRumors
Now, with that said, actually buying movies that are listed as 4K doesn’t appear to get you a 4K option. MacRumors did some testing of their own and discovered that while a film might look 4K, when you test it, it’s still actually in 720p. This move wouldn’t be without precedent; earlier this year Bloomberg reported that Apple was working on a fifth generation Apple TV, and that it would have higher color reproduction and 4K capabilities.
The Apple TV, even now, has been little more than a hobby for Apple — think a set-top box you can run iPhone apps on, but nothing much more than that. Looking back at the original Bloomberg article on the topic, it reports that Apple’s market share was slipping year-over-year, on stiff competition from Roku and other companies that make boxes that do more and cost much less.
A new Apple TV with features like 4K and HDR, plus a proven backend hook to the iTunes Store, would be a formidable way for Apple to hit reset on its own ambitions in this space. The TV market remains an essential component of how many people experience movies and various “Smart TV” online services. That may explain why Apple’s kept its hand in the market, and who knows — maybe it’s finally interested in bringing those features to the Apple TV itself.
The current-generation Apple TV doesn’t support HDR or 4K output, but Apple’s CPUs and custom GPUs are likely power enough to drive both capabilities. If the Cupertino company can lock down distribution agreements that give its own platform early access to films before other companies’ can deploy it — and Apple has often loved these sorts of arrangements — it could help them increase the perceived value of the hardware without having to spend more on the devices themselves.