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Posts tagged with "tvOS"

tvOS 13: The MacStories Review

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.

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Apple Launches First Public Betas for iOS 13, iPadOS 13, macOS Catalina, and tvOS 13

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.


tvOS 13: The MacStories Overview

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.

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Apple Releases iOS 12.3 and tvOS 12.3 with New TV App, AirPlay 2 Support on Smart TVs

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.

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tvOS 12: The MacStories Review

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.

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Apple Adds Direct Access to News Sources to its TV App

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.

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.



Installing tvOS Betas Over-the-Air from iOS with iCab and Dropbox

I was trying to update my two Apple TVs (a 4K model and a 4th generation one) to the latest tvOS 11.2.5 beta earlier today to test AirPlay 2 (more on this soon) and, because I remembered there was a way to install tvOS betas without a USB-C cable, I was attempting to download Apple’s tvOS beta configuration profile using Safari on iOS. However, as soon as I tapped the Download button on Apple’s developer website, I got this message instead of a new tab showing the downloaded configuration file:

I don’t know when Apple changed this behavior, but I recalled that Safari wouldn’t try to install tvOS configuration profiles on an iOS device. Without a way to manually fetch the .mobileconfig file and save it to my Dropbox, I was going to unplug my TVs and connect them to my MacBook Pro (which usually sits in the closet until it’s recording day for AppStories or Relay) to finish the process.

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Apple Addresses the Meltdown and Spectre Exploits With Additional Mitigations to Come

In a support article, Apple has acknowledged that the recently-disclosed Meltdown and Spectre exploits, which affect virtually every CPU in computers, mobile devices, and other platforms, also impact every Mac and iOS device. Although there are no known exploits of the vulnerabilities, Apple advises that users proceed with caution and download apps from trusted sources only.

Mitigations to defend against Meltdown have already been shipped by Apple in iOS 11.2, macOS 10.13.2, and tvOS 11.2. watchOS is unaffected by Meltdown. Development of mitigations for both exploits is ongoing and new defenses will be released to each Apple OS as they become available.

The support article published by Apple provides a high-level explanation of how each exploit works. If there’s any good news to be found in the widespread concern caused by these exploits it’s that Apple says the recently-released mitigations have no measurable impact on performance:

Our testing with public benchmarks has shown that the changes in the December 2017 updates resulted in no measurable reduction in the performance of macOS and iOS as measured by the GeekBench 4 benchmark, or in common Web browsing benchmarks such as Speedometer, JetStream, and ARES-6.

Apple’s support document also reveals that Spectre can be exploited in web browsers, including Safari, using JavaScript. Apple is working to address the problem with an update to Safari that will be released in the coming days. Apple says that:

Our current testing indicates that the upcoming Safari mitigations will have no measurable impact on the Speedometer and ARES-6 tests and an impact of less than 2.5% on the JetStream benchmark.

The gravity of the exploits, which affect virtually all computing platforms, cannot be understated, but it’s reassuring that the initial mitigations released and those coming in the days ahead should have little or no impact on performance. It’s also worth noting that this is probably not the last we’ll hear about Meltdown and Spectre. As Apple notes:

We continue to develop and test further mitigations within the operating system for the Spectre techniques, and will release them in upcoming updates of iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS. 

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