Following the launch of the first HomeKit devices yesterday, Apple has published an official page with a list of compatible products and a support document detailing the setup process for HomeKit.
In that document, Apple confirmed the long-rumored “hub” feature of Apple TV:
If you have an Apple TV (3rd generation or later) with software version 7.0 or later, you can control your HomeKit-enabled accessories when you're away from home using your iOS device.
Sign in with the same Apple ID on your iOS device and Apple TV, and you'll be able to use Siri commands to remotely control your accessories.
Earlier today, The New York Times reported that Apple won't announce any new Apple TV hardware at its upcoming WWDC. Considering that HomeKit (which is rumored to get some stage time next week) can already work on the current-gen Apple TV, it's no surprise Apple may prefer to sell the current model and wait to get the next generation just right. It'll be interesting to see Apple's plans for the Apple TV as a connected home hub unfold over the next few months.
In the spring of 2014 — months before HBO would announce its plans to sell the pay-TV channel as a standalone subscription service — HBO CEO Richard Plepler had already reached out, via an intermediary, to Apple media boss Eddy Cue: Would Apple want to sell HBO’s service on the Web?
Of course Apple would. So the basic agreement for HBO Now came together quickly, according to people familiar with the deal.
Peter Kafka at Re/code has more detail about the deal that made Apple the exclusive launch partner of HBO Now, the new service that will allow anyone in the US to get HBO's full library of back catalog and currently airing shows without a cable subscription. Significantly, the deal gives Apple a three month exclusivity window. That's long enough to mean that anyone wanting to watch the new seasons of Game of Thrones, VEEP or Silicon Valley (they all start April 12) will either need to have a cable subscription with HBO, or use HBO Now on the Apple TV, iPhone or iPad.
The Apple TV yesterday received four more channels, with UFC, The Scene, Fusion and Dailymotion joining the dozens of other channels available on the device. The above image is an update to our original article that visualizes the addition of Apple TV channels since the Apple TV 2 launched (the original black puck version).
The Apple TV also got an update to the long-standing YouTube channel, featuring a new design and new features. The highlights of this update includes predictive search, personalized recommendations and the ability to subscribe to channels. It probably wouldn't be considered a 'feature', but the updated YouTube channel now also supports advertisements before videos. You can watch a brief promotional video from Google that talks about the update below.
The Apple TV has today received an update which brings a fresh new design that removes skeuomorphic flourishes, adds more vibrant colors and more closely matches the style of iOS 7/8 and OS X Yosemite. Besides the visual refresh, the update also adds support for peer-to-peer AirPlay and the new Family Sharing features in iOS 8.
Supported Apple TV Models
Today's update is unfortunately only available for the 3rd generation of Apple TVs, which is the 1080p model currently on sale. If you're not sure which model you have, have a look on the bottom of your Apple TV and if it says Model A1427 or A1469, then you have 3rd generation Apple TV which is eligible. Apple TVs with model number A1378 are unfortunately the 2nd generation models with the older A4 processor and aren't eligible for the update.
Apple TV (3rd generation) users should be prompted to update their Apple TV when they next turn it on, but you can also manually update by going to Settings > General > Software Updates > Update Software.
Earlier today the Apple TV was updated to add channels for ABC News (US only), PBS Kids (US Only), AOL On (US, Canada and UK only) and Willow TV (US and Canada only). It is now the 19th occasion on which Apple has updated the Apple to add new channels, pushing the total number of third party channels to 37 for those in the US. Also updated was the existing Flickr channel, which received a redesign.
Back in April, when we originally posted the above visualization, I wrote:
Even more interesting is the fact that in the last 12 months Apple has rapidly increased their pace of adding new channels, with 26 being added in that time period.
With today's additions, it takes it to 30 third-party channels being added to the US Apple TV in the last 12 months. If you want to see what channels are available in your region, Apple has a helpful knowledge base article.
The Apple TV is a curious product. It has been called a hobby product by Apple; rumors constantly suggest a 'groundbreaking' new Apple TV is imminent, and Apple has chosen to add features to it on a more frequent, but irregular, schedule than their other products. What I mean by this last point is that unlike other products and services such as iOS, iCloud and even Apple Maps, Apple has not seen the need to wait for a keynote to update the Apple TV with new services.
In fact, since the Apple TV (second generation) was released in 2010, Apple has added new 'channels' to the Apple TV on 18 seperate occasions. Excluding Apple's own channels, the Apple TV now has 33 third party channels in the US, with a handful of other channels only available in countries outside the US. Even more interesting is the fact that in the last 12 months Apple has rapidly increased their pace of adding new channels, with 26 being added in that time period.
I did this research after noticing a more frequent and steady stream of news about new channels being added to the Apple TV. I don't have any explanations or theories for this recent acceleration of channel additions, but am curious as to where the next few months will take us. Will the pace continue, will Apple slow down, or will they eventually open the Apple TV up with an App Store? Of course, the even bigger question is whether the Apple TV will ever really become more than an accessory to your TV or iOS device and become a so-called "revolutionary" device that challenges 'the status quo'. Only time will tell.
It's a fairly hidden feature that not many people seem to know about, but the Apple TV has some pretty great options for customizing its screen saver. There are a few default sources of photos you can choose from, including National Geographic (probably what you are using now), Animals, Flowers, Trailers (which shows movie posters of films on the iTunes Trailers website) and iCloud Photos (Photostream and iCloud albums).
But more interesting is the option to use Flickr. That may sound odd, but the reason I say it is because when you combine it with the awesome power of IFTTT, you can create some really unique screen saver options. For example, for the last few months I've been using a combination of Flickr, IFTTT and Instagram to create an Apple TV screen saver that cycles through images that I have liked on Instagram and it is far better than seeing the same old National Geographic photos (as great as they are) over and over again.
Amazon introduced its Fire TV yesterday, and one of the features the company touts is “voice search.” Using a tiny microphone in the device’s remote, you will be able to speak when searching for content, instead of pecking out letters by moving a cursor around on your TV screen. For example, you might want to look for a specific movie to watch, so you will simply say its name into the remote to have its text typed in a search field.
But you can already do this with the Apple TV; not with its own remote, but with the iOS Remote app.
Nice tip by Kirk McElhearn – this doesn't exactly replicate the experience of having a remote with a microphone built-in, but it's close. Plus, the Remote app for iOS 7 is pretty good.
Written by TidBITS managing editor Josh Centers, the ebook walks new owners through setup, and then dives into explaining how to best control the Apple TV with the included remote, Apple’s Remote app, or another TV remote. You’ll learn to customize the icon grid on the main screen, enable parental controls, and make your screen saver look awesome. Josh also covers uses of AirPlay, the Apple technology that lets you beam audio and video from an iPhone, iPad, or Mac to the Apple TV, and lets the Apple TV send audio to compatible speakers anywhere in your home.
Last December, I decided to connect my second-generation Apple TV to my television again because I wanted to check out the progress Apple had made with channels and the user interface. I ended up “using” the Apple TV a lot with Plex and Infuse, both set up to stream videos over AirPlay. Each weekend, my girlfriend and I watch a couple of movies on the big screen with our Apple TV, and I'm constantly impressed by the simplicity and reliability of AirPlay.
However, the Apple TV's interface can be clunky and there are a variety of settings that aren't immediately clear. That's why I wish I had a copy of Josh Centers' new book three months ago: from first setup to advanced tips such as installing PlexConnect, Josh covers every aspect of the Apple TV to get the most out of the device, AirPlay streaming, compatible iOS apps, and more. The book's layout is easy to parse and navigate, there are handy illustrations and tooltips, and, in general, it has the usual degree of quality and care that you can expect from the Take Control eBooks.
A must-have for Apple TV owners interested in knowing everything about it, and well worth $10.