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Posts tagged with "tv"

Hands On with iOS 12.2’s HomeKit Support for Smart TVs

As I noted yesterday, the launch of the developer beta of iOS 12.2 has brought the necessary underlying APIs for manufacturers of smart TVs seeking to integrate their television sets with HomeKit. Originally announced at CES 2019, the initiative encompasses both the HomeKit and AirPlay 2 technologies, which the likes of Samsung, LG, Vizio, and Sony will roll out (albeit to varying degrees) in their upcoming smart TVs over the course of 2019. Thanks to the HomeKit Accessory Protocol and the work of enterprising third-party developers, however, it is already possible to get an idea of what the HomeKit part of these integrations will be like by installing unofficial plugins that add HomeKit compatibility to existing TV sets via software.

Thanks to developer (and homebridge contributor) Khaos Tian, I've been able to test native HomeKit integration with my 2017 LG TV running webOS, which does not currently support HomeKit out of the box and which, according to LG, will not receive an official software update for HomeKit support in iOS and tvOS 12.2. In this post, I'm going to share my first impressions of HomeKit's new TV features in the iOS 12.2 beta, describe how it all works in practice, and share some suggestions for changes I'd like Apple to implement by the final release of iOS 12.2.

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Developer Demos HomeKit’s New Integration with Smart TVs

Benjamin Mayo, writing for 9to5Mac:

Developer Khaos Tian hacked the HomeKit protocol to simulate adding a smart TV accessory to the Home app. He shared some screenshots and videos of these features ‘in action’ …

By essentially faking the existence of a HomeKit-compatible Smart TV accessory on his network, he was able to add a television tile into his Home app.

This reveals new interfaces for controlling the TV. You can tap on the tile to turn it on or off and access the Details menu to change input.

Tian has posted a series of examples of this new HomeKit integration on his Twitter account, including one where he was able to control his LG TV running webOS from the iPhone's Home app.

Interestingly, Tian has already contributed an update to homebridge – the third-party plugin to add all kinds of different accessories and platforms to HomeKit – with support for HomeKit's new TV control APIs. Here's where this gets really interesting for me: despite the launch of an online petition, LG has only confirmed that their latest 2019 TV sets will receive official HomeKit support. Thanks to homebridge, however, it should be possible to add native HomeKit integration to older LG televisions (such as my 2017 model) with plugins that bridge the webOS API to HomeKit's new endpoints. This is precisely what Tian is doing for his demo.

Now, as someone who's been running homebridge and the homebridge-webos-tv plugin for the past few months (and I promise I will write about this eventually), I'm excited about the idea of having a native interface for controlling my TV from the Home app (and, ideally, Siri too). As you can see, the plugin I'm currently using can only "fake" controls in the Home app by adding switches. It can get...confusing:

Configuring homebridge plugins (left) requires working with a JSON document.

Configuring homebridge plugins (left) requires working with a JSON document.

But it works. I've been running homebridge and this plugin without issues for months now, and I've gotten so used to asking Siri to change inputs on my TV, I can't imagine not having these integrations anymore. A recent update to homebridge-webos-tv even added support for individual channel input and more remote control buttons. For this reason, assuming that the folks at LG don't change their mind and ship a HomeKit software update for older TV sets, I think I'm going to experiment with a dual setup for webOS TV support in HomeKit: some controls based on the official HomeKit API, and others provided as custom switches – both based on homebridge plugins. But that's a story for another time.

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Apple Updates AirPlay 2 Page with Upcoming TV Features Including Siri Control

On the heels of the announcement that Samsung Smart TVs are gaining an iTunes Movie and TV Shows app and AirPlay 2 support, Apple has updated its AirPlay 2 page to highlight additional features that are coming to AirPlay 2.

AirPlay 2-Enabled TVs: Samsung may have been the first to announce support for AirPlay 2, but Apple's webpage indicates that the feature is coming to 'leading manufacturers,' so expect more announcements at CES and beyond. In addition to using AirPlay 2 to send video from an iOS device or Mac to a compatible TV, consumers will be able to play music on their TVs and sync it with other AirPlay 2-compatible devices in their homes.

Control Your TV with Siri: Perhaps the most interesting feature is the ability to use Siri on your iPhone to send video to your TV. Because the new feature works in tandem with HomeKit, if you have multiple AirPlay 2 TVs, you'll be able to specify the room in which you want the video to play.

Remote Control: Apple also indicates that remote control features are coming soon:

Convenient built-in controls appear in apps, on the Lock screen, and in Control Center. So you can easily play, pause, fast-forward, rewind, and adjust the volume on your TV.

Controlling the volume of a TV via AirPlay 2 would be new, and perhaps there's something coming related to Apple's reference to "built-in controls... in apps,' but playback controls on the Lock screen and in Control Center already exist.

Apple is clearly using the days leading up to CES to implement the first moves in its video strategy. Observers have long wondered how Apple planned to extend the reach of a video service beyond the relatively small number of Apple TV owners. By cutting deals with TV manufacturers, Apple is moving down a path that is similar to the one Google has taken with the Chromecast and will be able to reach many more consumers. I wouldn't be surprised if we see these new AirPlay 2 features begin to appear when Apple ships its first iOS 12.2 betas.


Samsung Announces iTunes Movies and TV Shows App and AirPlay 2 Support for Its Smart TVs

In a first among TV manufacturers, Samsung has announced that its 2019 TVs will ship with an iTunes Movies and TV Shows app in over 100 countries as well as AirPlay 2 support in 190 countries. 2018 models will receive the same support via a firmware update.

With the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas just around the corner, Samsung's US newsroom site issued a press release stating:

With the new iTunes Movies and TV Shows app on Samsung Smart TVs, Samsung customers can access their existing iTunes library and browse the iTunes Store to buy or rent from a selection of hundreds of thousands of movies and TV episodes — including the largest selection of 4K HDR movies. iTunes Movies and TV Shows will work seamlessly with Samsung’s Smart TV Services, such as Universal Guide, the New Bixby and Search, to create a consistent experience across Samsung’s platform.

With AirPlay 2 support, Samsung customers will be able to effortlessly play videos, photos, music, podcasts and more from Apple devices directly to Samsung Smart TVs, including QLED 4K and 8K TVs, The Frame and Serif lifestyle TVs, as well as other Samsung UHD and HD models.

The press release also reports Apple's Eddy Cue as saying:

We look forward to bringing the iTunes and AirPlay 2 experience to even more customers around the world through Samsung Smart TVs, so iPhone, iPad and Mac users have yet another way to enjoy all their favorite content on the biggest screen in their home.

Apple's partnership with Samsung, one of the largest global TV manufacturers, is particularly notable given Apple's efforts to amass a stable of original content for a long-rumored video streaming service. By making existing and future content available directly within Samsung's Smart TV system and providing a means for iOS device and Mac owners to easily play content on Samsung TVs, Apple greatly expands the potential viewership for the content it offers.


Hands-On: Belkin’s USB-C to HDMI Adapter for the 2018 iPad Pro

As I mentioned earlier this week, I have been looking forward to Belkin's USB-C to HDMI adapter for the new iPad Pro since I discovered the accessory was announced on the same day of Apple's Brooklyn event. The unique proposition of this adapter is support for 4K @ 60Hz video-out with HDR and HDCP 2.2, which, as I noted in yesterday's iPad Diaries column as well, I haven't been able to find in other USB-C adapters so far. I just spent 30 minutes playing with the iPad Pro connected to my 4K TV through this adapter, which arrived this morning, and I'm happy with the purchase, even though there is one significant drawback.

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Sofa Review: A Simple Tool for Tracking Movies, TV Shows, Books, and Podcasts

We live in a time when media options are growing at a fast pace. It's a golden age for television, with great shows debuting all the time; the film industry is being transformed by the infusion of new competition from streaming giants like Netflix; podcasts are becoming more mainstream by the day; and despite books not being in a similar growth phase, new titles are still being written constantly. In this crowded media landscape, it's hard to keep track of all the great content waiting to be enjoyed.

In the past I've kept notes in Apple Notes containing lists of TV shows, movies, podcasts, and books to check out. Lately, however, I've been using an app called Sofa.

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Apple Is Building a Media Platform Like Never Before

Have you ever watched the construction of a new building while knowing nothing about what the finished product would be? You track its progress a piece at a time, clueless about the end goal until finally there comes a point when, in a single moment, suddenly it all makes sense.

Apple's media ambitions have been like that for me.

In recent years, Apple has taken a variety of actions in the media space that seemed mostly disconnected, but over time they've added up to something that can't be ignored.

  • 2015: Apple Music and Apple News launched.
  • 2016: Apple Music redesigned; TV app debuted.
  • 2017: App Store revamped with dedicated games section; Apple Podcasts redesigned; TV app adds sports and news.
  • 2018: Apple acquires Texture; iBooks redesigned and rebranded Apple Books.
  • 2019: Apple's video streaming service launches?

Apple already has control of the hardware that media is consumed on, with its ever-expanding iPhone business and suite of complementary products. It has invested significant effort into building the apps media is consumed in, as evidenced above. And finally, it's also building the paid services media is consumed through.

And the company is doing these things at a scale that is unprecedented. Once not long ago, Apple's primary media platform was iTunes. Now, hundreds of millions of users consume media every day through Apple's suite of spiritual successors to iTunes:

  • Apple Music
  • Apple TV (the app)
  • Apple Podcasts
  • Apple Books
  • Apple News
  • And the App Store

Apple has one unified goal, I believe, driving all its media efforts: it aspires to utilize hardware, software, and services to provide the entirety of a user's media experience. If you consume media, Apple wants to provide the full stack of that consumption, from media delivery to media discovery. My aim in this story is to share an overview of how that goal is being fulfilled today.

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What Is Apple’s Video Strategy?

Pavan Rajam shares a broad look at Apple's video-related efforts, evaluating the company's current position and its potential for greater impact in the fast-shifting market.

Today, there is no meaningful exclusive video content on Apple platforms. Apple, thus far, has relied on its design and engineering prowess to differentiate its video offerings.

It’s clear this strategy isn’t working.

The iTunes Store is arguably the best transactional video storefront, but that alone is not enough to stop consumers from adopting subscription services. The TV app has a great UI and cross app integration, but that does not justify the $150 price to get it on your TV. Apple TV is the best designed, most capable streaming video box on the market, but that isn’t enough to justify its premium pricing when the same streaming services are available on every other platform with a significantly lower cost of entry.

Rajam's overview makes clear the significant challenges Apple faces in this market. Though the company is making heavy investment in developing original content, it's unknown what the plan for distributing that content will be: will it be widely available across all platforms, or exclusive to Apple hardware? Both approaches have clear benefits and drawbacks, so the question goes back to what the bigger goal is.

Apple ultimately has to decide what is more important: Apple TV as a premium hardware product line or a streaming video service that runs across all of its platforms.

I expect that by the end of this year, whether Apple's video content is released by then or not, we will at least have the answer to that question.

Currently, a big reason video services like Netflix thrive is that they're available to a huge number of customers – regardless of what TV, phone, or computer you own, you can get Netflix. It would be against industry practice for Apple to create a video streaming service that's exclusive to its hardware. Hollywood likely wouldn't appreciate that either, as creators want their work shared as widely as possible. For those reasons, I have a hard time seeing Apple launch a service that isn't, at the very least, available to users on some other platforms.

If Apple did make its service available on select other platforms, such as Android and the web, it could still position Apple TV as the only way to watch its shows on the big screen. Non-Apple users would still have access to the service, but if Apple does its job and creates truly compelling new shows that people love, many of those users may then be willing to splurge for a premium set-top box. Asking anyone to pay $150 for access to a streaming service is a hard sell, but if you can first hook people on shows they love, they'll eventually want to watch those shows in a way that's most comfortable: on their TV.

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Carpool Karaoke: The Series Now Available on Apple Music

Last night Apple launched the premiere of its second original television series, Carpool Karaoke. Like Planet of the Apps before it, Carpool Karaoke will release new episodes every Tuesday for Apple Music subscribers. It can be accessed from the ‘TV & Movies’ section of the Apple Music app’s ‘Browse’ tab. Alternately, you can also find it in Apple’s standalone TV app, which Apple Music has a direct integration with.

The premiere episode of Carpool Karaoke is twenty minutes and features James Corden and Will Smith. The concept for the series comes from the popular segment on “The Late Late Show” where Corden rides around with a celebrity singing songs and exploring the city. Based on previews for the series, Corden will only appear in one other episode of Apple’s spinoff this season, while other episodes will contain a host of other celebrity groupings.

You can see a six-minute clip of the series’ first episode below, followed by an extended preview of the upcoming season.