Apple has taken the wraps off of its latest version of tvOS for the Apple TV at WWDC 2021. In addition to the usual bug fixes and performance improvements, Apple is introducing several new features designed to enhance tvOS navigation, audio, sharing, and HomeKit controls this year. Here's everything new coming to your TV later this fall.
Apple occasionally offers updates to iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, tvOS, and macOS as closed developer previews or public betas (opens in new tab). While the betas contain new features, they also contain pre-release bugs that can prevent the normal use of your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, or Mac, and are not intended for everyday use on a primary device. That's why we strongly recommend staying away from developer previews unless you need them for software development, and using the public betas with caution. If you depend on your devices, wait for the final release.
HomePod mini default audio
One of the best features of the original HomePod — the ability to act as the default speaker for Apple TV, is coming to HomePod mini this fall. By setting the HomePod mini as a default speaker, owners of the Apple TV4K will be able to enjoy high-quality sound for all Apple TV apps and games without having to dive into Control Center or AirPlay settings each time.
Sticking with audio, tvOS 15 will support Spatial Audio for select movies and shows. Spatial Audio creates a private, virtual surround sound-like experience that considers your position in relation to your TV while wearing compatible headphones.
SharePlay and Shared with You
One of WWDC 2021's main themes was enhancing social experiences across various apps, and the Apple TV is also getting in on the action in tvOS 15. Found in tvOS 15's Control Center, SharePlay allows users to watch movies, tv shows, and listen to music in FaceTime groups with playback syncing up for everyone.
Over in the Apple TV+ app, a new Shared with You section incorporates content shared by your favorite contacts through messages, email, and more. In addition to being a convenient way to see everything shared in one place, the Apple TV puts your contacts picture right underneath the suggestion so you can continue the conversation once you check out the latest show or movie.
Siri media commands
Siri is also getting a significant upgrade in tvOS 15 with a new ability to summon movies and shows on-demand through the HomePod mini. Phrases such as "Hey Siri — watch the latest episode of Ted Lasso" will beam the video right on the Apple TV, potentially turning on your TV and setting it to the correct input automatically on sets equipped with HDMI-CEC.
Like in last year's tvOS 14, HomeKit cameras are getting some love again in tvOS 15. The most significant change is the ability to view multiple cameras at once in a handy grid view. You can access the new camera overview directly from Control Center on your TV as well as through a new grid button displayed on the fullscreen camera view.
HomeKit Secure Video-enabled cameras also get the ability to send activity alerts right on the big screen like HomeKit video doorbells in tvOS 14. When a HomeKit camera detects motion, a picture-in-picture notification window will appear on top of any active app, and you can access a fullscreen view with a click of the Siri Remote.
Notifications are customizable per camera, and as with the Home app on iOS, you can specify what types of activity trigger the alert. Customization means that you can filter out notifications for pets or vehicles, monitor for deliveries with Package Detection, or you can turn them off entirely if desired.
Finally, HomeKit accessory controls will also be available in tvOS 15 while in a camera view. Nearby HomeKit devices — those assigned to the same room as the camera will appear in the bottom right corner of a camera view. Four HomeKit devices display initially, but you can swipe to reveal more if you have many smart devices in your home.
Remote and screen savers
While not explicitly mentioned during the WWDC Keynote, tvOS 15 will continue the yearly tradition of adding new Aerial screen savers to the Apple TV. The brief appearance of new screen savers came at the end of the Home portion of the Keynote in an overview slide but unfortunately didn't include any specific examples of what to expect.
Over on iOS, a revamped Apple TV remote app is available in Control Center that includes new buttons and tweaks to make navigation easier. New remote buttons include standard TV functions like changing channels, toggling power, menu, and mute. The Apple TVs Siri button moves over to the iPhone's hardware side buttons, and a back button replaces Menu, matching the recent change found on the new Siri Remote.
Apple TV devices from 2014 and earlier run Apple TV Software which uses a channel-style content installation system instead of apps. If you're not sure which Apple TV you own, look for an App Store. If you don't have an App Store, you have an older Apple TV that doesn't support tvOS.
tvOS 15 will be available as a free download this fall alongside iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey. Developers can download the tvOS 15 beta now, and a public beta will launch in July.
Questions on tvOS 15?
As you can see, there's a lot to love in tvOS 15. Do you have any questions about tvOS 15? Notice anything that we missed? Let us know in the comments below!
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Christopher spends most of his time writing and dreaming about all things HomeKit and the Home app. Whether it is installing smart light switches, testing the latest door locks, or automating his households daily routines, Christopher has done it all.
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