In our “Let’s talk iPhone” event rumor roundup, we noted Apple could announce a new Apple TV on stage. Earlier this year, a number of separate reports have suggested Apple was working on a new Apple TV with A5 CPU (the same of iPad 2 and iPhone 4S) to enhance the device’s processing capabilities and allow for full 1080p playback. The current Apple TV model packs and A4 processor (iPad, iPhone 4) and plays back video up to 720p, but as we know the October 4th event didn’t see any Apple TV updates among iPod, iOS 5, iCloud and iPhone 4S announcements. A rumor from July even suggested Apple was working on a new video format called HD+ to launch this fall in the iTunes Store alongside a new Apple TV model.
According to a code string found in iOS 5 by 9to5mac, a new AppleTV3,1 is in the works, and it should be an updated version with upgraded internals such as the aforementioned A5 processor. The existing Apple TV model is referenced as AppleTV2,1 — Apple typically uses this kind of references to prepare iOS for upcoming devices. References in the iOS filesystem are never 100% accurate, but new devices found in the past through code strings have turned out to be real most of the time.
With Apple pushing towards 1080p video content with the new iPhone 4S camera and AirPlay Mirroring made possible by the A5 CPU, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a refreshed Apple TV with faster CPU and more powerful video processing capabilities. As a side note, Apple recently started selling the current-gen Apple TV in more European countries.
The iTunes Store and the current generation Apple TV can currently playback 720p video without issue. 1080p video, however, is the apple in every blu-ray owner’s mind. If Apple doesn’t want to provide customers with high-definition video, then why bother streaming video from Apple to the big screen? Movie-goers may want to hold onto the cash in their pocket before they spring for an alternative just a little while longer. AppleInsider was advised that 1080p video could become the norm beginning this fall with the availability of higher definition content and an updated Apple TV.
A higher resolution format for video, dubbed HD+ for 1080p content, is rumored to be an option alongside SD and HD video. 20th Century Fox as well as other large movie studios are said to be submitting films encoded with with an average bitrate of 10,000 kbps at 1920 x 1080p resolution. An updated Apple TV with an A5 processor would have no problems in playing back high definition content — the rumor would also coincide with an updated iPad 2.
If Apple is going to be attacking the media front with 1080p video this fall, a higher resolution iPad to play that 1080p content on makes some sense. While it’s not a confirmation, Apple could roll out an updated Apple TV alongside an iPad 2 HD to play back HD+ video. The iPad 2 HD would be rumored to have a resolution of 2048 x 1536, well beyond the requirement to playback 1080p at full resolution. With the A5 processor already in place, the iPad 2 HD would need nothing more than a display adjustment in coordination with a new content launch.
Following the increasing speculation about the next-generation iPhone getting an 8-megapixel camera, the iOS 5 beta seeded to developers earlier this week keeps providing interesting details on features that Apple is baking into the OS, but aren’t ready or usable yet as they’re being built for future devices. In addition to iOS 5 enabling playback of 1080p video files scaled down to 720p as Apple hasn’t built a screen with enough resolution to support 1080p, 9to5mac points to more code strings from the developer beta that seem to confirm developers will soon be able to activate video export options at 1080p in their applications. This means Apple’s apps like Camera and iMovie, or other third-party solutions, will be capable of saving 1080p files with the public release of iOS 5. Previously, developers could only export videos to 720p.
Programmers use the AVAsset class to work on a detailed level with timed media assets such as videos and sounds. It lets them examine, create, edit or reencode media files, get input streams from devices, manipulate video clips during realtime capture and playback and more. It is now clear that iOS 5 enables devices such as iPhone 4, iPad 1 and 2 and fourth-generation iPod touch to both decode 1080p videos and encode content in 1080p.
An improved camera/processor in the iPhone 5 could allow the device to go past the iPhone 4′s 720p limitation and also start shooting flicks at 1080p with dedicated export options, though Apple would need to bump up the screen resolution to offer native, true 1080p playback. As far as the camera speculation goes, a new report by Digitimes today also indicates camera lens maker Largan Precision (caught in the Apple rumor mill before) has hinted at increasing orders for 8-megapixel modules from smartphone vendors like Apple and HTC. Reports in the past months suggested Apple’s regular supplier OmniVision would provide the 8 MP camera lens for the iPhone 5, although separate claims pointed out that Largan Precision was selected by Apple.
Last month, development studio Firemint announced they were working on an update to the popular Real Racing 2 HD that, thanks to the iPad 2′s hardware capabilities, would allow users to enjoy the game on their HDTVs with full 1080p TV-out support. The system developed by Firemint, unlike what Apple has demoed so far, enables the game to run in fullscreen without black borders on the TV; this new feature doesn’t rely on scaling content for the HDTV, it simply runs in fullscreen mode at 30 frames per second. While playing Real Racing 2 HD with Apple’s TV adapter connected to the TV, the iPad will turn into a standalone screen displaying extra information like map and race position, yet retaining the gyroscope-based controls and touch functionalities.
The update has been released in the App Store, and Firemint provides detailed instructions about 1080p TV-out in its FAQ section:
Connect the Apple digital AV adapter to your iPad 2 via the 30-pin dock connector. Then, plug one end of the HDMI cable into the adapter and the other into a HDMI port on your HDMI-compatible display. Check that the correct channel or input mode is selected. Finally, turn on your iPad 2 and launch Real Racing 2 HD.
You can download Real Racing 2 HD here, and check out a demo video of fullscreen TV-out in action below.
Development studio Firemint has announced that they’ll be the first ones to support fullscreen 1080p video-out in an upcoming major update of Real Racing 2 HD. The new version, still not available in the App Store, will allow iPad 2 users to connect their device to an HDTV and enjoy the game at 1080p without black borders, in all its fullscreen glory. This sounds like a major breakthrough on the iOS platform, and something we wish more developers will support in the future. Admittedly, being forced to play an iOS game on a television with black borders all around it is not a great experience.
The new feature doesn’t use scaling, it’s full HD being mirrored to the TV. It runs at 30 frames per second and, while playing with the iPad connected via HDMI adaptor, the device’s screen will display a map of the location in real-time.
Check out the demo video below. (more…)
OmniVision, the company behind the current iPhone 4′s camera sensor and among the rumored iPad 2 camera suppliers, has announced a new native 16:9 CMOS image sensor that will provide 1080p HD video recording with simultaneous 10 MP image capturing capabilities. OmniVision is promoting the OV10810 as the “ideal choice for digital still and video camera hybrids and high-end smartphones”, and there’s no doubt such specs would be more than welcome on a future iPhone — perhaps not the iPhone 5 that should come out later this year as that’s likely already been built and it’s in the middle of testing stages.
Still, this new camera sensor from OmniVision sets the bar higher for digital cameras and smartphones, thanks to its 1080p or 720p video recording at 30 fps and the possibility to capture photos at the same time. Sounds a bit like the future of smartphones — no doubt several camera / smartphone makers will adopt this in the next months.
In the meantime, check out the press release below and imagine an iPhone with 1080p videos. [via Engadget] (more…)