Apple today released a large number of public betas across iOS, iPadOS, macOS, and watchOS. But I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t sleep on it. other new beta version released today: it’s for tvOS 17. After installing it, your first impression might be: “Hmmm… is that it?” There are no glaring interface changes or game-changing redesigns.
But the more you explore Apple TV’s latest software release, the clearer it becomes that this is one of the biggest updates Apple’s streaming box has received in many years. Present FaceTime on the big screen. The control center is so much better than before. And there are several new features that demonstrate the unmatched cohesiveness of the Apple ecosystem across all platforms.
If you’re going to risk trying an early beta, the streaming TV box in your living room is a pretty low-cost option for watching what’s new. I’m much more comfortable launching tvOS 17 on my Apple TV 4K than diving into iOS 17 or iPadOS 17 on a mainstream device, at least until a few more releases come out. In the unlikely event that everything goes wrong, you’ll need to contact Apple for customer support. But I’ve never had that level of headache with any beta version of tvOS in the past.
It has very little to do with streaming apps.
Apple seems to be happy with the current position of the Apple TV software for general entertainment purposes. The home screen, as always, remains a grid of apps, and like Roku, the company seems reluctant to stray from such a simple interface. If a content forwarding experience is more your speed, you can always jump into the Apple TV app to access his tail Next spanning different streaming services, catch Apple TV Plus originals, or rent something for a movie night.
tvOS 17 isn’t trying to reinvent any of this. There are now six icons in each row, so you can add another app to your main “dock” at the top of the screen, but that’s just as exciting as the big interface changes. Apple no longer seems concerned with becoming an all-encompassing aggregation hub for streaming entertainment. Netflix refuses to play ball with any effort to create a universal watchlist outside the bounds 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 that put up those walls for their own self-interest.
So instead, Apple is making improvements and tweaking areas of the Apple TV experience that can fully control And it’s starting with one of the first major tricks of the iPhone ecosystem.
FaceTime on Apple TV
Let’s just say the thing: yeah, it absolutely would have been nice to have this, say, two or three years ago, while we were all mired in pandemic lockdown isolation. Better late than never I guess, especially when the execution is so slick.
FaceTime on Apple TV uses your iPhone as a continuum camera (just like it’s possible on a Mac), so you can place it on the base of your TV with the camera pointed at you and you’ll appear on the screen next to whoever you want. you are chatting with. You get the standard assortment of FaceTime tricks like Center Stage and even on-screen effects like hearts or fireworks that can be activated with certain gestures.
And this iPhone-as-a-camera setup goes beyond FaceTime and traditional video chat. You can also use it for karaoke sessions with Apple Music’s Sing feature, which removes vocals from songs and displays lyrics on the screen. You can now enable the Continuity Camera feature to show a video stream of whoever is acting and apply visual filters.
Silly? For some people, sure. But it’s hard for me to imagine something like the underpowered Chromecast with Google TV pulling out some of these features so well. Apple is slowly starting to flex its silicon power and put more distance between its streaming box and anything under $100 from the competition.
Continuity Camera on tvOS is also open to developers, and Zoom and WebEx already plan to release apps on the platform. Again, it seems late, but I’m sure these apps will still come in handy from time to time.
Control Center now lives up to its name
The thing about Control Center on Apple TV is that you’ve always been able to ignore it in most cases. It’s there for those who want it (or if you need to quickly switch user profiles), but it’s no worse if you simply navigate tvOS using the Siri Remote and enjoy the content without having to open the collection of buttons and shortcuts.
This year Apple is making Control Center what I would consider indispensable and much more useful. The design is tighter but more information-dense: AirPods and audio settings are prominently placed, there are plenty of buttons and switches for your smart home devices, and even some “how wasn’t this already there?” conveniences like a sleep timer placed among the other controls. No more falling asleep while your Apple TV stays on all night.
Photo by Chris Welch/The Verge
I will never lose you again, Siri Remote
I frantically searched under my couch for the Apple TV remote one last time. And it feels really good to say that. tvOS 17 finally adds a remote search feature that will allow iPhone owners to track down the small aluminum clicker in less time. It’s not as exact as an AirTag, and I’d certainly prefer that level of precision, but the “warmer, warmer, has to be here somewhere” animation on the iPhone is easy enough to understand and you sure don’t have any help.
Photo by Chris Welch/The Verge
Software-level hard-to-hear dialog fix
If you’re neck-deep in the Apple ecosystem and one of those people who uses second-generation HomePods as speakers for your Apple TV 4K, speech in the shows and movies you watch will be much clearer with tvOS 17. An optional The “Enhance Dialog” setting will better separate what is being said from all the other actions going on and bring it even further up the center channel mix.
Voice enhancement modes are nothing new for sound bars and home theater equipment, but we’re seeing more and more companies trying to solve the “what did they just say?” problem as well. dilemma with software tricks; Amazon’s Prime Video service launched a Dialogue Boost feature for select content in April.
Plus a bunch of little things and more dazzling screensavers
There’s something fascinating about 4K Apple TV screensavers. Before I know it, I’ll find myself staring at them for several minutes at a time in a zen-like state. Apple has said that the final release of tvOS 17 will include “a collection of stunning new locations, including Arizona’s Monument Valley and California’s Coastal Redwoods.” These weren’t present in the initial beta builds, but we expect them to be added soon. You can also make memories from your personal photo library appear as screen savers if you’re tired of panoramic aerial views.
The tvOS 17 update also brings with it a number of minor quality of life improvements. These include support for third-party VPN apps and behind-the-scenes improvements, such as Dolby Vision’s update to version 8.1 to support an even wider network of HDR content.
You can start using tvOS 17 beta today, and the final public version will be released this fall along with the rest of Apple’s major software updates. There are still bigger changes I’d love to see: Apple is falling behind in natively integrating live TV services like YouTube TV or Sling TV into its tvOS software; a live guide somewhere would really help make it all feel less isolated. Amazon, Google, and even Roku are doing better at making live TV a central part of the streaming device experience. Apple is never going to release a Live TV subscription package, so it just needs to bite the bullet and extend an olive branch to those who are already doing well.
But at least, it’s clear that Apple didn’t forget about tvOS this year. Quite the opposite. The Apple TV is becoming much bigger than a Netflix box. If you’re paying more for it than other streaming players, you should do more, and now it’s starting to get there.