This year’s World Wide Developers Conference was the most anticipated in quite some time. With the majority of excitement leading up to this week focusing on iOS on the iPad, Marzipan (now Project Catalyst) and the debut of a new modular Mac Pro, understandably tvOS became a side note for many.
The first half of the year saw many wrongfully predict the death-knell for the Apple TV. In January CES saw the shock announcement of iTunes content along with HomeKit and AirPlay compatibility coming to a handful of smart TV’s, running everything from webOS to Android and Tizen. Then in March, during Apple’s unveiling of their Apple TV+ service, Apple announced that their TV app would be coming to Roku and Amazons’ fire tv – mitigating Apple TVs’ usefulness.
Just a few minutes into Monday’s keynote, Apple CEO Tim Cook alleviated any lingering doubt about the company’s commitment to it’s Apple TV hardware, with the announcement of tvOS 13. The new update – expected this Autumn – is a significantly substantial one compared to previous years. Combined with last months TV app refresh and the launch of Apple TV+ month’s away, tvOS 13 is the clearest indication yet of Apples’ continued commitment, ambition and renewed vision for its streaming hardware.
The newest update to tvOS includes a refined focus on content discovery along with some notable additions, including; a updated Home screen, a familiar looking control centre, multi-user support, expanded audio features, better game controller compatibility and much more.
Updated Home Screen
At first glance, the new Home screen isn’t a radical departure from whats come before but there are a few meaningful changes. While the rows of 16:9 app icon’s continue to make up the bulk of the Home screen, the top-row of app’s now rest on a floating panel referred to by Apple as a dock. Apps placed in the dock can continue to utilise top shelf privileges, which have been enhanced by the arrival of content previews.
Content previews work much like the movie browsing experience within the TV app. After 5 seconds an app’s static poster image will transition to a video preview. Via the top of the Home screen, users are then prompted to swipe upwards for full screen. Thankfully, where the top-shelf and the TV app differ is in the playback of audio, with audio starting only once users have initiated full screen. Within full screen users can swipe left or right between video previews with one tap bringing up content meta-data and viewing options – all still within the Home screen. Removing barriers to entry and adding some joy to content discovery.
Joining the new dock and top-shelf features is a system wide Control Centre which is accessed by holding down the Home button on your Apple TV remote. Sliding in from the right, Control Centre offers familiarity to iOS users – serving as a home to many common user functions including; date and time, Sleep, Now Playing, AirPlay, Search and the inclusion of multi-user support.
Side Note: Following the announcement of HomeKit Secure Video for connected cameras the bare bottom third of Control Center would be the perfect place for quick access to your live camera streams.
Top of many wish-list’s – including my own – has been the addition of multi-user support. Finally, tvOS 13 enables Apple TV users a personalised experience, including access to their own Up Next queue within the TV app as well as access to their personal music collection via Apple Music. Now, Peppa Pig need never appear in your recommendations again!
Additionally, the TV apps’ channels have a distinct benefit when paired with family-sharing, allowing family members to access their favourite channels through one subscription. Lastly, developers will soon be able to take advantage of tvOS user profiles within their own apps, thanks to the system wide Control Centre in tvOS 13.