Apple TV channel The Beatles (image 001)

Mark Gurman of 9to5Mac did a nice job discovering some hidden references to an unreleased Apple TV hardware in the iOS 7 code. Specifically, the strings mention ‘Apple TV 4,1’, which indicates a major refresh to the Apple TV hardware. By comparison, the current third-generation Apple TV has a designation of ‘Apple TV 3,1’.

This is yet another indication that Apple could refresh the Apple TV box later this year, as some rumors have predicted. The current $99 set-top box was last updated 705 days ago…

Gurman writes:

The reference is inside of an Apple TV framework related to the device’s AirPlay functionality. The mention of the next Apple TV is the highlighted “AppleTV4,1.” The current Apple TV is “AppleTV3,2″ while “3,1″ is the 1080P model introduced in March 2012, and 2,1 is the first iOS model introduced in September 2010.

The reference to the next-generation Apple TV actually first appeared in iOS 7.0 back in September 2013, but hasn’t been discovered until now.

The ‘Apple TV 4,1’ nomenclature not only confirms there’s a new hardware in the works, it also indicates that the device will see “notable changes” in terms of internal components, Gurman postulates.

appletv4

Conveniently, these code hooks have also been discovered in the iOS 7′s new Game Controller framework, suggesting that the next Apple TV may indeed support game controllers, as suspected.

The rumor-mill has also called for a built-in AirPort Express router and TV tuner.

And if games for the set-top box are in the works, it’s fairly safe to assume there will be an SDK for third-party developers and an Apple TV App Store of sorts.

Earlier this morning, Apple deployed a new Apple TV channel celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Beatles on the 1964 Ed Sullivan Show.