Apple announced a lot of new software improvements during yesterday’s WWDC keynote, but time was short and one major platform didn’t receive its own segment: tvOS 14. Apple announced new tvOS features as part of its discussion of the home, but fortunately that doesn’t mean the latest Apple TV software release is light on improvements. In addition to features like HomeKit integration, new controller support, and improved Picture in Picture, tvOS 14 will offer a variety of other important updates when it launches this fall.
Apple today released what are surely its last major point releases of software for the year, iOS, iPadOS, and tvOS 13.3, alongside minor updates for the company’s other platforms. In fitting the trend of an out-of-the-ordinary software release cycle, which was largely caused by a particularly buggy iOS 13.0 release, today’s releases don’t contain the number of features we’ve grown to expect from a point update. iOS and iPadOS 13.3 include only a couple noteworthy improvements: Communication Limits have been added to Screen Time, and Memoji stickers can be removed from the emoji keyboard. On the tvOS side, 13.3 re-introduces the option for the TV app to display your Up Next queue as its Top Shelf behavior rather than auto-playing video instead.
Triode is a new Internet radio app from The Iconfactory for iOS and iPadOS, the Mac, and Apple TV that fills a niche all but abandoned by Apple. Internet radio stations used to claim a more prominent place in iTunes, but in Apple’s new Music app, they have been mostly abandoned in favor of Apple’s own radio stations. A handful of third-party broadcast stations are available in Music, the HomePod can play many more stations, and you can open any station’s stream on a Mac if you know the URL, but that’s it. Triode fills the gap with support for iOS, iPadOS, the Mac, and tvOS, plus CarPlay via the app’s iOS app.
As someone who hasn’t listened to the radio in years, I was a little skeptical of the utility of an Internet radio app at first, but Triode immediately won me over. The app is beautifully-designed, as you’d expect from The Iconfactory, and easy to use. Coupled with Apple’s latest technologies and a set of 31 hand-picked stations, the combination makes for a compelling way to discover new music.
tvOS 13 is a surprising release. For years Apple has been pushing the TV app as the main draw of the Apple TV, then earlier this year it brought the app to Samsung TV sets with the promise of further expansion to Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices, along with a smattering of other TV sets. The proliferation of the TV app made the Apple TV seemingly less important to Apple, but in fact with tvOS 13, available now, Apple has launched the biggest tvOS update ever. Before getting too excited, know that the bar for “biggest ever” is extremely low in the case of tvOS, but nevertheless in a year when the Apple TV felt more marginalized than ever, it’s great to see new life breathed into the device.
On the heels of Apple TV Channels debuting earlier this year, and the new Apple TV+ streaming service launching in a matter of weeks, Apple has given the Apple TV an updated Home screen, multi-user functionality, brilliant new underwater screensavers, Picture in Picture, Apple Arcade aided by PS4 and Xbox One controller support, and even more. While it can’t compare to the behemoth release that was iOS 13, tvOS 13 remains a strong update in its own right.
Today Apple has released its first public beta versions of its forthcoming software updates. iOS 13, iPadOS 13, macOS Catalina, and tvOS 13 are all available as public betas. As in years past, there is no public beta available for the Apple Watch or HomePod.
Users interested in trying out the latest versions of Apple’s software platforms can enroll in the beta program at beta.apple.com. However, this should only be done with appropriate caution and a willingness to endure buggy, unreliable software. These first public beta releases come a mere three weeks following the initial wave of developer betas, which themselves were especially unstable; as such, these releases are likely to be less reliable than even the public beta versions of years past.
If you’re wondering what all is new in these beta releases, you can read our full overviews of iOS 13, iPadOS 13, macOS Catalina, and tvOS 13. We’ll have continuing coverage of all the new features coming to Apple’s software platforms throughout the summer, leading up to their release this fall.
The first half of 2019 has in many ways mitigated the Apple TV’s usefulness. Early in the year we learned that smart TVs would gain support for AirPlay 2 and HomeKit, which were formerly exclusive to Apple’s set-top device. Then more recently, Apple launched a brand new TV app which will also live on both smart TVs and third-party streaming sticks. Following these announcements, it was unclear whether Apple was content to let the Apple TV become even more of a niche product than before, or if the company would put renewed efforts into the product to help differentiate it from new competition. It turns out the latter was true – at least to a degree.
tvOS 13 is perhaps the most substantial update to the Apple TV’s software since the debut of tvOS in 2015. That’s not saying a lot, because past updates have been relatively lackluster, but it does say something about Apple’s commitment to the Apple TV platform. Taken in combination with the redesigned TV app that arrived last month, this latest version of tvOS makes a strong case for Apple finally taking television seriously – particularly as the launch of Apple TV+ draws nearer.
The latest version of tvOS starts with an updated Home screen, which includes a Control Center pane, and most notably adds multi-user functionality, as well as expanded game controller support, plus a few other upgrades.
Today Apple released iOS 12.3 and tvOS 12.3, both of which center around one main user-facing feature: the new and improved TV app. Apple first shared details of the TV app in its March event, and I reported my hands-on impressions last month, but today the app finally arrives for all users, bringing with it a fresh design and the addition of channels and personalized recommendations.
Alongside the new TV app, today’s iOS update also introduces AirPlay 2 support on compatible smart TVs, timed with Samsung’s own announcement of a firmware update for its TVs that includes both the TV app and AirPlay 2.
tvOS 12 is available today, the latest major software version for the Apple TV. tvOS releases are never as significant as those found on Apple’s other platforms, and that remains true this year; however, tvOS 12 does include a handful of new features that have the potential to truly improve the Apple TV experience on a daily basis. Improvements include upgrades to aerial screensavers, Dolby Atmos support, an easier way to enter passwords, and more. Let’s dive in.
Apple has added a dedicated News section to its TV app on the Apple TV and iOS devices. The feature, which was announced at the company’s September 2017 event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, allows users to jump straight into several different news programs.
In the US, the choices include CBS News, CNN, Fox News, Cheddar, CNBC, and Bloomberg, some of which require paid subscriptions. When you select a news source, your Apple TV or iOS device will prompt you to install its app if it isn’t already on your device. On iOS, and at least with CNN on the Apple TV, the app is installed without a trip to the App Store, after which you are taken directly to the app to begin watching the news. The new feature also works with Siri using commands like ‘Watch CNBC.’
If you tap on a news source for which you don’t have the app, you are prompted to install it without having to go to the App Store.
News joins the TV app’s dedicated Sports section, which was announced at the same time as News but was introduced last December. Unlike Sports, which occupies a dedicated tab in the TV app’s interface, News is limited to a single row of icons that appears beneath Up Next, What to Watch, Sports, and a row of featured content.