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RIP Apple TV HD: Apple went all-in on 4K yesterday

The now-discontinued Apple TV HD.
Enlarge / The now-discontinued Apple TV HD.

The Apple TV HD (also called the fourth-generation Apple TV) is no longer available in Apple’s US store after the addition of an updated Apple TV 4K yesterday.

The Apple TV HD debuted in 2015, and it was the first Apple TV to run tvOS, with its own App Store. Up until its discontinuation this week, it included a now-aging A8 chip (the one from the iPhone 6). By contrast, the new Apple TV 4K has the A15 chip found in the iPhone 13; it’s dramatically faster. The 2015 model was also the first to introduce Apple’s controversial touch-based remote, which was radically redesigned in response to user feedback in recent years.

Apple introduced the first iteration of the Apple TV 4K in 2017, but the company continued to offer the Apple TV HD alongside it in its store as a cheaper option compared to the 4K model, which currently starts at $129—still much more expensive than the dongles and set-top boxes most people use to stream to their TVs.

At present, you can’t even find the Apple TV HD in Apple’s refurbished store, so this appears to mark the end-of-life for the non-4K Apple TV. It’s not too surprising, though; 4K TVs have been a hit. More than half of United States households had a 4K TV as of last summer, and the percentage has been growing substantially year over year.

While that leaves a lot of households still on HD televisions, we’d venture a guess that most of those are not in Apple’s target market at this point. Apple devices are expensive and popular in high-income households and among early adopters, exactly the sort you’d expect to have already made the jump to 4K.

4K or not, the Apple TV is not one of Apple’s more popular products (that would be iPhones and AirPods). The company has invested heavily in a TV strategy over the past couple of years, but it has seemingly put just as much effort into putting its TV services on third-party devices like smart TVs and game consoles as it has on pushing its own hardware. Still, the Apple TV offers some benefits for users who are immersed in Apple’s overall ecosystem, like direct control with the iPhone and Spatial Audio with AirPods.

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