Apple TV is a set-top box that allows a television to become a display screen for Internet content.
Once connected, Apple TV allows end users to display digital data from their own iOS devices, as well as from a number of partner sources. Some partner sources are free and some, like Netflix and Hulu, require a monthly subscription fee. Apple TV competes in the marketplace with Roku, Google Chromecast and Amazon FireTV.
Apple TV requires the end user to have an iTunes account and Internet access. The box itself is about the size of a hockey puck and connects to a TV with a High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) cable. Apple TV is controlled externally either through the infrared remote control device that comes with the product or through a free Wi-Fi mobile app, called Remote, that is available from the iTunes store. The fourth-generation Apple TV also provides voice control capabilities though integration with Siri, Apple’s digital assistant.
Because Apple TV provides many of the same viewing choices that cable TV providers offer, it is sometimes referred to as a cord cutting device. Parental controls can be used to limit access to specific television Web apps and individual services can be turned off and re-arranged to customize the Apple TV landing screen. The AirPlay feature allows end users to extend the screen on their iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to a TV screen. This capability has allowed Apple TV to become a popular substitute for stand-alone digital projectors and their accompanying projection screens in business environments.
In October, 2015, Apple announced that Apple TV 4 would have its own operating system (tvOS) and a dedicated Apple TV App Store. The new tvOS is compatible with HomeKit, an Apple Internet of Things (IoT) app which will allow compatible smart devices such as lights, locks and thermostats to be controlled with an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch running iOS 8.1 or later. Other new features include universal search for partner apps, a touch-sensitive remote control capable of motion control and Bluetooth 4.0 support for third-party game controllers.