A future Apple TV could include a camera

Apple TV with a camera is the rumor that will never die

For years, Apple has reportedly been considering the addition of a camera to the Apple TV set-top box — and the rumors about it have fired again.

There are very few devices in Apple’s catalog of computing devices that doesn’t have a built-in camera. Alongside desktop Macs like the Mac mini and the Mac Studio, the other main exception is the Apple TV.

While it does not have its own, the Apple TV does have the capability to employ cameras. With the introduction of tvOS 17, Apple introduced Continuity Camera, which enabled a second-generation Apple TV to run FaceTime by taking advantage of an iPhone or iPad’s camera systems.

Previously, users could also get a similar effect of putting FaceTime on the big screen by using AirPlay with an iPhone or iPad to the Apple TV. But this technique relied solely on the features of the connected device for the call, with the Apple TV just mirroring a display.

If rumors over the years are to be believed, Apple may well bring out a version of the Apple TV that houses a camera at some point. Here’s what has been said about the potential device.

Early camera on Apple TV rumors

In March 2021, there were rumors Apple creating a HomeHub that fused together an iPad and a HomePod into a single smart screen device. The report also said that Apple had been working on many different home devices in various form factors, specifically employing displays and cameras.

At first blush, this sounds more like a smart speaker with a display, similar to FaceBook’s Portal system. However, in April, Apple reportedly had firmed up its new product selections, and had decided that an Apple TV set-top box with a HomePod speaker was the best approach.

The device would theoretically offer multiple smart home functions within a single box. As a HomePod, it would play music, but it would also be able to be hooked up to a television, like an Apple TV.

That box would also include a camera, which would let it be used for video calls, as well as acting as a Home Hub for smart home management.

An artist's rendition of a HomePod with a display

An artist’s rendition of a HomePod with a display

This device was also being worked alongside the already-explored smart speaker with display concept.

Both were apparently in the early stages of design and production at the time, and could easily have had features added or removed, or be killed off entirely.

A lull then references

Rumors about the supposed Apple TV died down for a while. Still, reports about the standalone HomePod with Display persisted.

In October 2023, there were alleged rumors about code references in a developer beta of tvOS 17.2, which mentioned some unusual devices. Alongside the HomePod range, there were some listings for unannounced Apple TV models, as well as an oddity.

There was apparently support files in the firmware that allowed the software to work on an iPad mini 6. This unusual inclusion could’ve potentially allowed tvOS to run on a specially-configured iPad mini, which opened the door to the display-clad HomePod idea once again.

There were also drivers for the iPad mini in the tvOS 17 frameworks for audio calibration, which could signify audio capture capabilities were being tested in some way.

Heading into 2024, more beta references turned up in February, apparently pointing towards a HomePod with a built-in display. The device, “Z314,” was apparently capable of running tvOS, which is effectively the software that HomePod runs except that the speaker doesn’t include a user interface.

The code indicated the device was running an A15 Bionic chip, which was thought to mean it could be a device in a late stage of development.

Apple TV with camera rumor resurrection

The newsletters of Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman have been a source of numerous rumors, including those surrounding the Apple TV and screen-equipped HomePod. This has amped up in 2024.

In a February newsletter, Gurman wrote that, while the products are currently in the investigative and engineering phases of production, a release in 2024 was very unlikely.

FaceTime on Apple TV is possible, but requires iPhone assistance

FaceTime on Apple TV is possible, but requires iPhone assistance

More recently, in an April discussion of Apple’s future smart home plans, there were mentions of multiple devices being planned, including a lightweight “smart display” meant to connect to home devices.

The HomePod with a connected screen once again appeared, as well as the potential shift into robotics.

The article included a brief mention about Apple “offering a revamped Apple TV set-top box with a built-in camera for FaceTime videoconferencing and gesture-based controls.”

Gurman didn’t go into detail about the Apple TV, but if true, it means Apple’s sparingly-rumored set-top hardware improvement could still be on the way.

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