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Apple TV 4K wish list: 4 things I want to see in a 2020 refresh

The next Apple event gives the company another opportunity to breathe new life into its venerable streaming box.

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This story is part of Apple Event, our full coverage of the latest news from Apple headquarters.

With Apple's next event now officially less than a week away, rumors are circulating about what new hardware may join the hotly anticipated new crop of iPhones. One candidate that has been long due for an upgrade is the Apple TV 4K

The streaming box launched over three years ago, in September 2017, and that's an eternity in the fast-paced world of streaming. In the meantime Apple has concentrated its updates on services, rolling out Apple TV Plus, overhauling the Apple TV app to include iTunes, developing an all-new gaming platform in Apple Arcade and combining a bunch of its offerings into the Apple One bundle. But its flagship TV box has remained unchanged while competing platforms such as Roku, Amazon's Fire TV and Google power an increasing number of new TV devices, the latest being the excellent Chromecast with Google TV.

As usual with Apple, rumors of a refresh are always bubbling up, but the company hasn't announced anything official yet. Here are a few things I would like to see in the 2020 update as well as some hopeful, if not terribly optimistic, wishes. 

1. Faster processor

Apple iPad Pro 2018 chip

First introduced in 2018 in new iPad Pros, the A12X is a much more powerful chip than the current A10X.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As a faster processor is nearly a given in any refresh of Apple's hardware, the latest rumors have Apple bumping the current box's A10X chip up to a more capable A12X or even an A14

While potentially not as powerful as the A13 Bionic processor found in the iPhone 11 line and the iPhone SE, the A12X is the same type of processor Apple used in the 2018 iPad Pros. Considering that Apple touted the chip as being capable of providing graphics that rivaled the Xbox One S when it introduced that iPad Pro, this could be a big boost for developers looking to push their Arcade games onto a bigger screen.  

Apple's newest chip, the A14 Bionic, meanwhile, is in the forthcoming iPad Air and is also the processor class that is expected to be inside the new iPhones. It showing up in a new update would do a lot to show that Apple is really serious about the Apple TV as a hardware platform. 

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2. Better remote

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A new remote would be great on an updated Apple TV. 

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The Apple TV's remote is ultrasleek and modern, with a premium look that fits the $180 starting price the Apple TV 4K still commands. While I don't mind the Lightning cable charging (though USB-C would be great) and the remote is one of the few places where I appreciate Siri, the touchpad drives me nuts. 

I often find the remote lags or overshoots where I want it to go regardless of whether I'm entering text, scrolling through apps or playing a game. I just wish for a simple directional pad like Amazon's Fire TV or Roku's boxes or, yes, the now-discontinued third-generation Apple TV. Rumors suggest a new remote is in the works, but what that looks like remains unknown. 

While we're at it, adding IR support in addition to CEC for controlling AV equipment would be useful. Roku and Fire TV remotes can control just about any TV's volume and power using infrared commands, allowing you to ditch your TV remote entirely. Apple needs to do the same thing.

Read more: The best Apple TV remote cases for less than $10

3. UWB support for finding lost remotes 

ultra-wideband

Apple touting the benefits of its ultra wideband chip for AirDrop.

Apple

Apple added what it calls a U1 chip to the iPhone 11 line last year, though it has yet to fully detail the chip's capabilities. Taking advantage of what is known as Ultra Wide Band technology, the chip is designed to help with spatial awareness for tracking lost items. The technology is rumored to be key to Apple's long-expected Tile-like Apple Tag trackers, which could finally appear next week. 

Apple describes the tech on its iPhone 11 page as "GPS at the scale of your living room" so why not add the functionality into the Apple TV and its new remote to help you find the inevitable lost remote in your living room? At the very least it gives Apple an answer to Roku, which has had a less flashy but still practical remote finder -- the clicker emits a sound until you unearth it from the couch cushions -- on its premium Ultra boxes for years. 

4. A cheaper Apple TV streaming stick

Given how long it takes Apple to come out with new streaming hardware, one refresh in 2020 would already be a long-overdue win, and asking for two would be pushing it. But since this is a wish list, here goes.

When it comes to streaming, cheap sticks from Roku and Amazon, as well as Chromecasts from Google, have been incredibly popular with people looking to boost the capabilities of their nonsmart TVs. A less expensive, perhaps slimmed-down version of the Apple TV would give Apple a new way to get people into its ecosystem, providing another avenue not just for streaming Apple TV Plus shows (since Apple's streaming service is already on Roku and Amazon's respective platforms) but also a way into Arcade, Apple Music and Fitness Plus, which Apple is hoping will help drive people toward its Apple One bundle

Add in AirPlay, which Apple already has expanded to support the latest TVs from Samsung, LG, Vizio and Sony, and you could have a compelling way to expand the walled garden that is Apple's ecosystem for people who aren't interested in buying a new TV. And $50 sounds like a good price to me.

That AirPlay will soon be coming to Roku TVs and 4K streaming players makes it even more important for Apple to add a cheaper Apple TV option if wants to seriously compete in this space.

That's my wish list. If there's anything you'd like to see in a new Apple TV device, let me know in the comments.