Why is the old Apple TV HD still so expensive?

Apple refreshed its Apple TV 4K streaming box today with upgraded specs and, perhaps most importantly, a redesigned, simpler Siri remote. When the new device ships in late May, it’ll cost the same price as before: $179 for a 32GB unit or $199 for 64GB. (Sidenote: I’ve yet to meet anyone who has needed the higher storage option on any Apple TV.)

But along with the new Apple TV 4K and improved remote — you can buy it standalone — it turns out Apple is keeping the ancient 2015 Apple TV HD around. And for some reason, it still costs the same $149. I just… I don’t get it.

How was this not the moment to slash the price to something more reasonable? Something closer to competitive?

The price discrepancy between Apple TV 4K and 4K streamers from Roku, Amazon, and Google is already something that hurts Apple’s market share in the living room. But at least there’s a case to be made with the new hardware. It’s got a faster chip (albeit still not Apple’s latest and greatest), covers the whole gamut of 4K / HDR / Dolby Atmos functionality you could want, and now includes Wi-Fi 6 and that flashy new screen calibration feature that works in conjunction with iPhones. And a lot of people appreciate Apple’s stance on privacy and are willing to chip in a bit extra for that cause.

But asking a dollar shy of $150 for a device with an aging processor that’s limited to HD playback in 2021 feels many steps past bewildering. The Apple TV has HDMI 1.4. It’s got Bluetooth 4, which means the new remote has fresher technology than the box itself. Sure, it can serve as a HomeKit hub, but so can the $99 HomePod mini. AirPlay 2? Yep, but many TVs and even Rokus can do that now.

Who wouldn’t just spend the extra $30 for the more future-proof Apple TV 4K? How many more tvOS updates are really in store for this thing? What are you getting here over a Roku Express or Fire TV Stick that is worth such a premium?

Yes, the new remote is clearly an improvement; I don’t even need to hold it to know that much. But Roku’s and Amazon’s remotes fall under “good enough” territory — especially when they come packaged with such affordable players. The Apple TV HD continues to live in a price bracket several rungs above streaming products from Amazon, Roku, and Google that can simply do more.

Just look at how out of place it is in this price roundup:

  • $199.99 Nvidia Shield TV Pro (4K HDR)
  • $179 Apple TV 4K (4K HDR)
  • $149.99 Nvidia Shield TV (4K HDR)
  • $149 Apple TV HD (1080p HD)
  • $99.99 Amazon Fire TV Cube (4K HDR)
  • $99.99 Roku Ultra (4K HDR)
  • $49.99 Chromecast with Google TV (4K HDR)
  • $49.99 Fire TV Stick 4K (4K HDR)
  • $39.99 Fire TV Stick (1080p HD)
  • $39.99 Roku Express 4K Plus (4K HDR)
  • $29.99 Fire TV Stick Lite (1080p HD)
  • $29.99 Roku Express (1080p HD)

It’d be one thing if Apple were just selling through remaining inventory. But the fact that the company is bothering to bundle the new Siri remote with the Apple TV HD suggests that it still has plenty of these boxes lying around and it isn’t on the way out in the immediate future.

I don’t follow Apple’s thinking on the Apple TV HD still demanding such a high price, and it’s come to the point where I really can’t recommend this product to anyone. It’s an almost six-year-old device priced as if it were a modern top-spec streamer. Apple should either cut the price or just cut it loose.