How Apple might bring the fight to the Living Room

Follow me on a flight of fancy into the end of 2009. Apple have launched new iPhone hardware which contains double the polygon rendering performance of the current model, a more fully featured video out facility via a Mini DisplayPort and the ability to play back iTunes Store HD films and TV shows.

At a rough guess this would put the new iPhone on a similar polygon performance level to the PS2 or original XBOX. It would make the new iPhone almost as capable as the Apple TV as a video playback device and as an added bonus double as a fast and furious way of browsing web pages on your new large HD TV.

If the next iPhone could perform all these tasks what would be the point of a dedicated home gaming console such as the Wii, PS3 or XBOX 360? We already know that the 3.0 update will bring seamless multi-player support, painless syncing to 3rd party hardware such as gaming controllers and wireless bluetooth headphones, dance mats, Guitar Hero hardware, etc.

It doesn’t take too much imagination to begin to see how the iPhone (and iPod Touch) could mount a serious challenge to all other Living Room entertainment hardware.

Imagine this scenario.

Transformers 2 has just been released for rental in 720p HD on the iTunes Store. At work you initiate the rental on your new iPhone. Whilst you’re working your iPhone (connected to your work WiFi) is busy performing a background download of the video file. Just before you are due to leave for home you read about the brand new Transformers 2 iPhone and iPod Touch game. You begin the download and prepare for some iPhone gaming on the train home. During your hour long commute you complete the first two levels of the Transformers 2 game that has the look of a top flight PS2 game. On arriving home you plug your iPhone into your large LCD TV via the Mini DisplayPort to HMDI cable and watch Transformers 2 in glorious HD with all your family. After the movie is over you go back to the game, but this time you engage in some multi-player action with a friend who lives 2000 miles away and your son who is upstairs on his iPod Touch.

If you can do all this using just one device that fits in your pocket why would you fork out another £300 for a PS3 or £200 for an XBOX 360?

The iPhone solution means no continual buying of credits, no trips to the local game store, no car journeys to Blockbuster to pick up a Blu-Ray disc, no wasted space under your TV, no annoying fan noise, no scratched discs, no XBOX Live membership fees, no clumsy interface navigation, no trawling through game mags and websites looking for game reviews, no power cables, internet connection cables and controller cables, no positioning of Wii sensor bars, no replacing batteries in your controllers… the list goes on and on.

And what would you sacrifice? The jaw dropping graphical detail of both the XBOX 360 and PS3 and that’s really about it. Of course you could argue that you would miss some the best 5 star games available, but something tells me that if the iPhone did receive such a boost in polygon performance then the high profile 5 star games would not be too far behind.

The most stunning thing about this flight of fancy is that only thing standing between it and reality is hardware. Unlike every other manufacturer that comes to mind, Apple already have all the software components in place; from Quicktime to the App Store, from Mobile OS X to the amazing developer tools, Apple is ready. Only a huge foul-up of epic proportions will stop this from happening with the next 18 months.

Getting the correct software in place is a far larger undertaking than putting the appropriate hardware in place, just ask Microsoft, Nokia, LG and Samsung. For Apple the heavy lifting is already done!

  • Brian Jones

    Here is why this won’t work:

    Dad has to work late at the office and can’t bring the iPhone home. Now Jimmy has nothing to play Call of Duty on. I guess you could say, well, why doesn’t Dad by Jimmy an iPod Touch? Well, if he did, he just forked over another $300 for a video game system.

    What doesn’t make sense in this picture is that you would be paying more for cheaper hardware (the iphone) when compared to purchasing an XBOX.


  • Nikolay Andreev

    The iPhone will never turn into a portable download manager. To even consider that Apple will allow download of HD content on the iPhone is indeed a fancy idea. How senless it is to download a HD movie on an iPhone, wasting battery and not been able to watch it and hooking up your iPhone when you can watch HD content instantly at home?
    Apple will never kill it’s Apple TV with the iPhone.

    The iPhone will not kill the game consoles by replacing them. It will just redefine how and where people play games. This will certainly will not involve the home TV and it will certainly not involve cables.

    What will happen is the ability to stream and watch the movies instantly on any Apple device either by WiFi or 3.5G. The iPhone

  • t0mat0

    Nikolay – it’s already a portable download manager. I use it regularly in wifi to download podcasts in downtime. With the next versino getting 802.11n – it’s likely to have the option to download films itself, and make wireless syncing a more feasible possibility. We don’t know where Apple’s going with the ATV – it’s still a “hobby” currently, even with higher sales. With the reports of the AV cable being updated, there are hints there will be a shift in the environment to accomodate more features for the iPhone.

    Apple’s seeing beyond the living room. The commuter on the tube/bus. The kid in his room, or classroom. The friend bringing over his rented movie, to plug into the new date’s tv…

  • James Burland

    Brian: I do see your point. Perhaps I should be been clearer in my reasoning. The thrust of my argument wasn’t that the next iPhone (or iPod) could save you money, but rather that is might make what is currently available (PS3, XBOX 360) redundant.

  • Matt Radford

    I would definitely recommend you read this article from, which talks about a change to the AV cable that will be available with the new iPhone later this summer:

    …consumers will be able to store HD shows on their devices directly. However, considering the limits of flash storage, this is a time consuming process. Enter Bonjour. Apple will also provide the ability for users to plug their iPhone into their HDTV, and gateway onto a user’s Wi-Fi network, and access their entire iTunes library on their HDTV.

    I’m inclined to take this with a grain of salt, as with all rumours, but if it’s for real… wow. Buy an iPod/iPhone, get a way to access all your iTunes library wirelessly as well.

  • James Burland

    Nikolay: I totally agree that *streaming* HD movies will be the ultimate solution, but in the meantime I see no reason why the iPhone could not act as a portable download manager. As I said in my post, the software is in place, it’s really just a matter of hardware.

    64GB, 128GB and even 256GB iPhones are probably no more than 2 years away. Combine that with a updated Airport Express (and/or dock) that includes HDMI and you’ve got a pretty amazing solution I’d say.

    I’m not saying that it will be the *only* solution. I happen to believe that Apple TV will be updated pretty soon, and of course there is always the possibility of a multi-touch tablet. (^_-)

  • James Burland

    t0mat0 and Matt: It’s looking more and more as if the iPhone/iPod is at the centre of Apple’s plans for the next 10 years or more.

    There are already plenty of LCD TV’s that include an iPod dock. Just imagine how many more there would be if the next iPod/iPhone hardware supported HD video, gaming and web browsing though the standard dock!

  • Matt Radford


    I agree. Funny how such a huge hit as the iPhone is also starting to look like a very stealthy play in the living room as well. The sneaky buggers!

  • James Burland

    And all the while it’s a Mac in a very small box and a multi-touch interface. Stealth within stealth!

  • Tom

    I think the play for the living room, den etc – it’s really a play for hearts and minds (to steal a phrase). It’s to make a play for the user’s hand space. The phone gets special privileges, amongst tech devices – it’s one a person usually has on them a lot of the time, gets to go most places with the user, and gets priority charging. It’s like a 2IC, or personal aide.

    With the talk of the dock – Apple’s been pretty quiet on this front – they’ve talked about opening it up – and to be honest, I think they might have some people ready on that front come WWDC, and then release more info about interacting over BT/wifi / dock connector.

    In the living room – the iPhone can take the mantle of universal remote, personal console, and also downloaded movie store, or controller for gaming –
    They’ll be adding cardinal direction – we’ve mostly talked about this in terms of augmented reality, and map usage – but if it’s fine enough, this as a gyroscope equivalent, alongside 3D position, accelerometer information – it’s a darn sensitive controller to game with – the iPhone relays the info to a Mac mini/ other, which is hooked up to the TV –

    The iPhone could sync the app to the Mac mini, then use the iPhone as a slaved controller, leaving the grunt work of running the graphics etc to the Mac, but taking charge of relaying info to the handset.
    Will Apple have been in cahoots with a TV maker to get integration in. Hmmm isn’t Apple getting orders from LG for screens? Likely it’s a decent enough relatinoship to push integration of communication via a dock/interface?