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.
I refuse to call it “Max” now. Sometimes I wonder how some companies can even come up with some names. ↩︎
8BitDo, a popular maker of game controllers, announced today that six of its products now officially support Apple hardware:
8BitDo Ultimate Controller 2.4g
8BitDo Pro 2
8BitDo SN30 Pro +
8BitDo SN30 Pro for Android
8Bitdo Lite SE
The controller firmware update, which can be applied using the company’s Upgrade Tool, will allow gamers to use 8BitDo’s supported controllers wirelessly with any iOS, iPadOS, macOS, or tvOS game that has adopted Apple’s game controller APIs. Playing wired is also supported on iPads and Macs with USB-C ports.
According to 8BitDo, up to four controllers can be connected at once for games with multiplayer support, but rumble and motion control are not supported “for the moment,” suggesting that a future update may support those features. Links to detailed directions and illustrations of how to connect 8BitDo’s controllers are available by hovering over the images of the controllers on the company’s dedicated Apple device webpage.
I have a bunch of the controllers for which Apple device support was announced, and I can’t wait to try them. A couple of the controllers I have already have some basic support for Apple devices, thanks to compatibility with Sony and Microsoft controllers. However, the firmware update should extend the functionality of the controllers to the full set of features that Apple now supports.
Betas of iOS, iPadOS, tvOS, and watchOS are out today with some interesting features. Last week on World Privacy Day, Apple announced that App Tracking Transparency is coming in the spring, so it’s no surprise that iOS and iPadOS 14.5 include the feature. However, there are several other features coming in the next round of OS releases, as summarized by Rene Ritchie in this tweet:
iOS 14.5 developer beta:
⌚️ Unlock iPhone with Face ID + Apple Watch if you’re wearing a mask. Haptic notification + ability to re-lock
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.