The Apple TV 4K is missing three key features (and two are on the new remote)

The new Apple TV 4K looks good, but there are some missing features I really don't understand

Apple TV 4K Siri Remote
(Image credit: Apple)

In some ways, the new Apple TV 4K (2021) was always going to be an easy upgrade for the company: it barely needed to change anything, as long as it brought a replacement for the much-maligned Siri Remote.

And that's pretty much what we got: the same design for the box, no change in price, but with extra processing power and high-framerate HDR support, plus some useful internal tweaks to improved Wi-Fi and smart home connectivity. And an all-new Siri Remote, importantly.

While I think the price is hard to fully justify for most people in a world where Chromecast with Google TV and Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K are a fraction of the price, the Apple TV does offer more features than either of those products, so if you want them, it'll be a good buy still.

But there are three features for it that should've been a slam dunk, but are all missing. Well, one is barely a feature, but I still find it inexplicable.

First, is Spatial Audio support. This is a feature for AirPods Pro and AirPods Max, when used with an iPhone or iPad. It basically means that if you're watching a video with surround-sound audio, the headphones create a 3D sound effect, as if you were in a room where your phone is the TV, and you had physical speakers around you. If you turn your head, the sound doesn't stay static right in your ears – sounds that were in front of you now seem like they're coming from the side.

It's a very nice feature, but it's always felt like its real value would be on Apple TV, where it would mean you could have convincing surround sound while watching your big TV, even without any speakers (and without waking up anyone else if you want turn a move right up).

And here we are, with new Apple TV 4K hardware, and no mention of Spatial Audio. I dunno what to tell you.

Remote chances

The new Siri Remote looks good to me overall, and I'm happy with the control changes Apple has made, but there's one element it's missing that seems so obvious when you consider that AirTag was launched at the same event… why doesn't it have AirTag location tech built in?

The existing Siri Remote is a nightmare for slipping down any available crevice, thanks to its very slim frame and smooth surfaces. The new version looks chunkier, but still very likely to accidentally hide overall. What a killer feature it would be if Apple had announced the world's first unlose-able remote control! Using the technology they just announced that literally points you towards what you're looking for!

And my last complaint isn't technically a feature, but again, when I look at the rest of Apple's line-up I can't wondering… why doesn't the remote come in different colours? We've got gorgeous pastel colours for the iMac 24-inch (2021), iPad Air (2020) and iPhone 12, all made of aluminium just like the Siri Remote. 

The Apple TV unit can stay black – can't go wrong with that for AV equipment – but people would love to have a pretty colour for the bit that has to stay visible (except when it's lost). And Apple's light colours would still give a strong contrast for the button.

I'm always wary of criticising a new product for not offering a feature that a company's never shown any interest in – I'll never say a given Mac should have a touchscreen, for example, because Apple has been clear that it doesn't think that's the right approach. 

But here, I'm just talking about features Apple actually has in other products that all seem tailor-made for its TV box. And the biggest disappointment is that if they're not here now, will we have to wait another four years for a new version that includes them, if ever?

Matthew Bolton

Matt is T3's former AV and Smart Home Editor (UK), master of all things audiovisual, overseeing our TV, speakers and headphones coverage. He also covered smart home products and large appliances, as well as our toys and games articles. He's can explain both what Dolby Vision IQ is and why the Lego you're building doesn't fit together the way the instructions say, so is truly invaluable. Matt has worked for tech publications for over 10 years, in print and online, including running T3's print magazine and launching its most recent redesign. He's also contributed to a huge number of tech and gaming titles over the years. Say hello if you see him roaming the halls at CES, IFA or Toy Fair. Matt now works for our sister title TechRadar.