Unlike the current generation model — which has been reduced to a modest $65 at some retailers ahead of the new version — the upcoming version of the set-top box is a callback to the first generation Apple TV in that it has a significant amount of on-board storage. In the fist generation Apple TV, the storage was meant to accommodate movie and TV show downloads from the iTunes store; this time around, the storage is meant to accommodate a number of apps expected to be offered in the first-ever app store for Apple TV.
The new Apple TV comes in two storage flavors: 32GB at $149 and 64GB at $199. The biggest difference between the two will likely be how many apps you can store on the device before you reach your limit and which kinds of apps you intend to use.
Apple has a few plans in place to keep users from having to constantly delete old apps in order to make room for new ones. New technology found within Apple’s television operating system will automatically pick certain apps apart, downloading only the parts of an app a user needs most at any given time and keeping other parts of the app in the cloud. The bits of the app that are immediately downloaded are known as on demand resources, and the idea is that it downloads app content faster while saving space on the device.
Even though Apple’s not forcing developers to use on demand resources (it’s turned on by default), it is requiring developers limit their apps to 200 MB in size. And while Apple TV does allow apps to download as much as 2 GB of data in order to unbundle and run an app, there’s no “persistent storage” on the device — meaning Apple TV tosses any unused, cached data back into the cloud when a user closes an app in order to free up space on the device.
All of that means the base-model 32 GB Apple TV should be more than enough for most people. Given the size limitation on Apple TV apps, a person could download well over 100 apps and still have some room to spare.
So why is Apple also selling a version with a larger amount of storage?
Aside from users who may want to download movies, TV shows and music from the iTunes store (it isn’t even clear if Apple is allowing this, since downloading iTunes content hasn’t been a thing since the first generation Apple TV), it’s possible that Apple intends to allow developers to create larger-sized apps sometime in the near future. The new Apple TV is not just a home theater system, it’s also a gaming device, and the slickest games sometimes demand a little more finesse that only an increase in storage space can provide.
Games were cited as the reason behind Apple’s recent decision to allow developers to submit apps as large as 4GB to the iOS (iPhone and iPad) App store, where previously the file size was limited to half of that. And since Apple TV will have killer hardware for games, it stands to reason that, as time goes on, Apple may do the same thing for Apple TV depending on developer feedback.
So the bottom line is this: If you only plan on using Apple TV as a home theater device (think Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO and maybe a handful of others), you’re probably fine investing in the base 32 GB model. But if you can see yourself using Apple TV as a gaming device — or you want to make sure you’re ready for potentially-larger apps in the future — spend the extra $50 for the bigger memory.