WWDC: Apple TV Gets Even Better

Apple Plans Big Improvements to Apple TV

WWDC is a big deal
5,000 developers attended WWDC 2016, because they know Apple's platforms make them money. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images).

Apple’s annual WWDC developer conference always sees the company bless Apple TV with a host of new features consumers can use and developers can extend to create ever more compelling connected TV experiences. So what was new at the company’s most recent WWDC?

Big Update

When the new OS ships in Fall, Apple TV users will enjoy: A better Remote app on iOS devices, Single Sign-On, Siri search for YouTube and many other enhancements to make the system even more compelling.

Smarter Siri

Siri gets much smarter in tvOS 10. Perhaps the best improvement is the ability to use multiple criteria when searching for something – “Find me fantasy movie from the 1980’s,” or “Show me sci-fi movies about cats,” or even, “Find documentaries about architecture”. You can also apply new search criteria to search results. For many Apple TV users, the ability to use Siri to search YouTube will also be compelling. “The future of TV is apps, and Siri on Apple TV has changed the way we interact with our television and these expanded features will continue to deliver viewers what they want to watch even faster,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services in the press release announcing the software.

Music Cleans Up

Apple’s new look Music app is a lot easier to navigate with its user-focused interface refresh. You should find it much easier to read, thanks to the larger font, find it much better laid out and far more visual than before, due to the use of larger artwork.

Apple Music is much, much easier to navigate in this release.

iPhone as Remote Control

Apple has also developed a brilliant new Remote app for the iPhone and iPad. Starting this Fall, the app will support spoken word Siri search queries and will let you see artwork images and more while offering nearly all the functionality of the Siri Apple Remote.

Single Sign On

If you use an Apple TV and a cable channel in the US then you can sometimes gain access to TV station apps via your Apple TV, but only if you sign into those apps and confirm you are cable customers. That’s fine, but it takes time and can become pretty tedious once you’ve entered the same details a few times. This is why Apple is introducing the Single Sign On feature, which lets you save your cable TV username and password so you can automatically log into apps without needing to enter your details each time. You can also ask Siri to go directly to a live channel inside supported apps, such as CBS News or ESPN.

Memories in Photos

Photos app on Apple TV is a great way to share all your best photos with other members of your family, but it gets even better in tvOS 10 when the new Memories feature will learn to create customized galleries consisting of places, people, and events you might have forgotten about.

Switch Control

If you’ve never needed to learn about Switch Control then I’m happy for you, but those who do require it may be pleased to note it’s coming to Apple TV. Switch Control helps those with limited mobility to navigate their device using a single hardware switch.

Set up will be improved so you can enable it even using Switch Control, and you’ll be able to navigate using either an on-screen cursor or using an on-screen representation of a Siri Remote. Apple will also introduce the ability to tint the entire display a certain color for those who happen to be color blind.

HomeKit

Apple TV was already performing some of the functions of a HomeKit hub, but in tvOS 10 you see the introduction of a dedicated HomeKit app on your Apple TV. The app lets you manage all your household’s HomeKit devices from the sofa in your den – you can even tell Siri, “Dim the lights”.

Dark Mode

If you find the existing bright frost white background on your Apple TV 4 too bright, you’ll now be able to reduce the glare on your retinas with the new Dark Mode option in the new OS, which sets it to dark gray theme.

Improvements For Gamers

Apple has lifted the restriction demanding Apple TV games support the Siri Remote. That’s a big change and should mean developers will be able to create titles that require the slightly more sophisticated functionality of a full games controller, which should accelerate games development. Not only this, but Apple TV will also allow up to four controllers to be actively used at once, opening the platform up to multiplayer games. You can also use an iPhone equipped with the new Remote app as a games controller.

Another great feature for gamers, the new Replay Kit framework is something developers can choose to implement when they do, players of their games will be able to easily share gameplay recordings or broadcast live games to other people watching online.

App-related Stuff

Apps that need you to do something (update settings following an update, for example) will display a red symbol on their icons. Another app improvement sees those apps you obtain for other iOS devices that have Apple TV equivalents will download to your device automatically if you want.

Developers, Developers, Developers

Apple also introduced a lengthy collection of new developer tools for tvOS. These should enable developers to build a range of interesting applications, for HomeKit, iTunes, games, Photos, and more.

When Is it Coming And What Will it Cost?

tvOS 10 is free and ships in Fall.