tvOS 17 isn’t trying to reinvent any of this. There are now six icons in each row, so you can add yet another app to your main “dock” at the top of the screen, but that’s about as exciting as the big interface changes get. Apple no longer seems preoccupied with becoming some all-encompassing aggregation hub for streaming entertainment, and there are good reasons for this. The company’s pipe dream of streaming content from popular third-party subscription services directly from the Apple TV app quickly fell apart. Netflix refuses to play ball with any effort to create a universal watchlist outside of the confines of its own app — whether it’s from Apple, Google, or anyone else — so what’s the point? Things are now more fragmented than I’d like, but it’s the content owners and streaming services putting those walls up for their own self-interest.
So instead, Apple is making improvements and touching up areas of the Apple TV experience that it can fully control. And it’s starting with one of the iPhone’s first major ecosystem tricks.
Chris put together a great list of changes coming to tvOS this year, most of them revolving around the ecosystem advantage Apple has compared to their competitors in this field. Rather than trying to beat Google and Amazon on price, Apple is finally leaning into the unique feature they have: iPhone owners who also have an Apple TV.
My favorite change coming in tvOS 17, however, is something that will allow me to stop using my iPhone when watching TV: VPN apps.
For years I’ve been forced to watch HBO content1 with a fake US account by starting playback on the iPhone and AirPlaying the video stream to my Apple TV. Later this year, I’ll be able to install a VPN app directly on the Apple TV and stream content on it without having to worry about my iPhone and AirPlay. Good riddance.