The Apple TV 4K doesn’t arrive until next week, but Apple is already delivering 4K and HDR content to its customers via the iTunes Store.
As you may recall, I described Apple’s Apple TV 4K announcements this week to be the only unadulterated win from its iPhone X press event. That is, this device will provide 4K and HDR content to a living room device that is (for Apple) reasonably priced. And better still, Apple’s 4K content will not cost extra.
“In the only real surprise at the event, and what I will argue was, in fact, the best news of the day, Apple will not charge extra for purchased 4K/UHD/HDR content,” I wrote. “That is, movies and TV shows in these formats will cost the same as Full HD/1080p videos did before (typically $15 or $20 for a new movie). And better still, if you purchased movies or TV shows from Apple in Full HD before, they will automatically be upgraded to 4K/UHD/HDR as those versions become available. Other service providers charge a lot of money for this kind of thing. For example, Google sells the movie King Kong: Skull Island for $19.99 in Full HD, but the 4K/UHD/HDR version is $29.99. For people who care about home entertainment, Apple’s pricing here is—yes, really—a game changer.”
You can preorder the Apple TV 4K today from Apple.com—the 32 GB version, which I preordered, is $180, and the 64 GB version is $200. Apple says that the first orders will arrive next Friday, September 22, a week from today.
I’m going to make this new Apple TV 4K the center of my home entertainment system in the living room and will write about my experiences in the Paul’s Tech Makeover series for Premium readers. But I’ve been very curious to see how and when 4K and HDR content would begin appearing on Apple’s service.
It’s already begun.
As many have reported, and as I can confirm, when you browse the iTunes Store in iOS 11—say, on an iPhone or iPad—you will see that much of the content is now listed as 4K (instead of HD, as it was before; here’s a partial list). And a very limited number of titles—OK, I’ve only found one, the movie Logan—are also being tagged as “HDR,” for high dynamic range.
On the iPad Pro I’m using—I upgraded to the GM version of iOS 11 the other day—there’s no way to configure the device to download 4K content. The only choices are HD and SD. But you can download HDR content, meaning that HDR is separate from and does not require 4K. So on the iPad Pro, which features a 2732 x 2048 display (which is more than 4,000 pixels but still not technically 4K because of the aspect ratio), I can view HDR but not 4K. I assume once 4K downloads are possible (iOS 11.1, I bet), I can get better quality if I don’t mind killing my storage.
For now, I don’t see any HDR titles in my own library, and I’m not buying Logan just to test this. But I suspect this situation will rapidly improve. And that HDR movies will look amazing on the iPad Pro. And that 4K/UHD and HDR movies will likewise look amazing on Apple TV 4K.
I can’t wait to find out.