HomePod firmware hints at upcoming Apple TV with 4K support

Last week, Apple accidentally released a firmware for the HomePod. This file is filled with references to unreleased Apple devices. According to strings in a library file spotted by Guilherme Rambo, the next Apple TV is going to support 4K videos as well as Dolby Vision, HDR10 and Hybrid Log-Gamma.

An Apple TV that supports higher resolution videos isn’t really a surprise as Apple is late to the game. Amazon released a 4K Fire TV back in 2015. Google released a Chromecast with 4K support last year. Roku started adding 4K devices to its lineup in 2015.

More interestingly, the new Apple TV is going to support high-dynamic-range videos. HDR is a bit harder to explain — it’s not just more pixels on a screen. If you have an HDR-compatible TV, you can display videos and play video games with better contrast, more brightness levels and generally a wider range of colors.

Many devices support HDR, such as the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One S, the most recent Roku, etc. But it’s still hard to find movies and TV shows with HDR support.

There are competing standards for HDR, such as HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG, HDR10+ and SL-HDR1. Apple could be adding support for three of the most common standards. That should be enough to be compatible with most TVs out there, but you’ll have to be careful the next time you buy a TV.

Some iTunes Store users also noticed that they could browse past purchases and see references to 4K movies with HDR support. If you combine that with the HomePod leak, it seems clear that the 4K Apple TV is going to land sooner rather than later. Apple last updated the Apple TV two years ago, and it would be a great gift for the holiday season.