5 things ‘Apple TV 3,2’ could be

iTV on wall mockup

A firmware release is always a nice starting point to hunt for code strings referencing yet-to-be-released hardware. Apple today released iOS 6.1 and an accompanying Apple TV 5.2 software, adding more LTE carriers and improving upon Siri (iPhones, iPads and iPods) while introducing enhanced iCloud features and bringing support for Bluetooth keyboards to the Apple TV.

Watchful hackers immediately spotted references to ‘AppleTV 3,2’. As the current third-generation 1080p Apple TV hardware is designated as ‘AppleTV 3,1’, the newly discovered string might mean a minor Apple TV update could be in the works.

How minor? That remains to be seen and we can only speculate until Apple shows its card. Here, my top five picks as to what ‘Apple TV 3,2’ might represent (and, please, do feel free to add your own)…

By the way, you can download the new software for this mysterious ‘Apple TV 3,2’ model right here.

This is all pure speculation, but here’s what we think ‘AppleTV 3,2’ could feature.

• Minor CPU/GPU refresh – The A6 chip debuted on the iPhone 5 and an improved A6X version made its way into the iPad 4. The current-generation Apple TV runs on Apple’s 32nm single-core A5 chip (actually, a dual-core A5 with one core disabled) that supports 1080p content from iTunes and Netflix. Perhaps ‘AppleTV 3,2″ is an A6 Apple TV with twice the RAM and double the storage? In that case, refreshed CPU/GPU could also mean Apple TV apps and games.

apple tv

• Apple TV with coax and DVR support– Brightcove CEO is among those who see a bright future for the Apple television project and he thinks a brand new $149 device is in the works with front-facing sensors and camera for gesture control and voice chats, in addition to DVR capabilities and the included co-ax dongle, meaning such a device could finally and fully replace your existing cable set-top box.

Apple TV companion

• Ultra HD Apple TV – In Apple talk, that would equal a Retina Apple TV. Ultra HD aka 4K aka 2160p packs in four times the pixels of 1080p. We now have the codec to support 4K along with the new chips from the likes of Qualcomm and Broadcom. I have no idea whether A6X (or eventually an improved variant) is theoretically capable of driving 4K displays, but now may not be the time to make a jump to Ultra HD because content is lacking.

Samsung 100 inch Ultra HD TV (CES 2013)
Companies like Samsung, Qualcomm and Broadcom at CES unveiled Ultra HD tv sets and supporting chips. The problem is, 4K content is lacking. 

The iTunes Store last year started upgrading 720p movies and television shows to 1080p and we doubt Apple would make a move until content owners embrace digital downloads in Ultra HD resolution.

• Standalone TV set – Picture a 46 to 55-inch television set with the shiny Apple logo beneath, built-in Apple TV functionality, apps, games, gestures, Siri, FaceTime and what not and you have a good idea what the mythical iTV could be.

iTV under Christmas tree

• An intelligent remote – Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes thinks an intelligent Apple remote will be Apple’s next big thing in terms of TV efforts. The existing Remote iOS app is nice, but limited and the analyst thinks that a nicer implementation along with NFC, the rumored Home button-integrated fingerprint sensor and iCloud integration could increase the disruptive potential of the set-top box.

TouchPad Remote

Another analyst, Gene Munster, forecast a much improved Apple remote in 2013. Finally, Apple owns a bunch of related patents, from the universal touchscreen remote and self-programming TV one to the ‘magical’ remote and entire NFC iDevice-controlled homes.

These are just a few most obvious venues Apple could take off the top of my head.

And your $0.02?

We’re down in the comments.