At its WWDC 2016 conference, Apple announced a new update to Apple TV’s operating system, known as TVOS. The core of the new Apple TV features aim to improve the TV experience, with added Siri functionality, Single Sign-on and plenty more on top. Here are the best new Apple TV and TVOS features for 2016, and whether you should buy an Apple TV if you’re on the fence.
Why should I buy an Apple TV?
Well, if your TV lacks smart functions like Netflix and iPlayer streaming then Apple TV offers a really good solution to that problem. In addition to that, Apple TV also gives you access to all of your normal iTunes content. And if you’ve got movies, TV shows and music stored in your iCloud library, Apple TV can push them on to your big screen.
Apple TV is also going to be the hub for Apple’s smart home system which is made up of Homekit and an app for iPhone called “Home”, which will arrive with iOS 10. Because Apple TV is “always-on” you can leave it to manage your home’s lightbulbs, heating and possibly things like door locks and air conditioning.
And if you have an iPhone or iPad (we’re assuming you do), then you can enjoy other Apple services like Music and Photos direct on your telly using an Apple TV. This saves you having to cast your mobile device’s screen onto your telly, so you can enjoy your pics and tunes on the big screen with the rest of the fam.
Can Apple TV stream live telly?
Here’s where it gets complicated. You can stream live TV in the US with new services from the likes of Fox and ESPN. However, in the UK nothing specific has been announced. BBC’s iPlayer is supported on the new Apple TV, but only for catch-up; there’s no live stream like there is on other devices.
In France, a new service called Molotov is launching. Molotov is a way of connecting all of the country’s TV channels that offer live streaming, and bundling them up into one simple app. This was mentioned during the Apple keynote as one of the new apps coming to Apple TV with the next TVOS update.
It’s also worth mentioning that you can stream over Airplay to Apple TV too. So if you have an app in your phone that supports this live casting, then you can certainly watch live content on your Apple TV using this method. It is a bit of a hack though, and possibly not what you’re hoping for.
What is Apple’s new Single Sign-on feature for Apple TV?
Thanks for asking. Apple has decided that logging into every individual service on your Apple TV is incredibly tedious and as such is going to offer something called “Single Sign-on”. In its press release, Apple says this will work with all your “Pay TV” video channels, which is rather vague. The feature also will be geared towards US Apple TV owners to begin with, but we’re hoping that it comes to the UK soon.
Because Apple is big on security it’s reasonable to assume that passwords and other sensitive data will all be handled nice and securely.
How has Siri changed on Apple TV?
Apple has added Siri support to YouTube on Apple TV, which means you can now send her off into the underbelly of the internet to track down your favourite cat video.
Siri is also going to be nifty here if you have any Homekit-enabled devices. You can ask her to switch off the lights, turn on the heating or generally assist you in getting the most chilled Netflix experience.
Siri is also getting smarter about how it searches. So for instance, now you can ask her to find films that fit a specific genre. Perhaps you have a hankering for dreadful horror from the 80s? No problem, Apple TV should soon be able to track down Killer Klowns from Outer Space and other forgotten gems. Just ask her for “classic clown horror movies” and hopefully she’ll come back with that masterpiece of cinema.
Is now a good time to buy Apple TV?
Unlike a lot of Apple’s other smart products, Apple TV is still undeniably more useful to US customers. For the most part, Apple is better than Google at rolling things out to a global audience. TV streaming is a complex beast though, mostly down to legal issues. And as it seems like Apple has struggled with some of those deals in the US, the chances of Single Sign-on and other features appearing in the UK are somewhat reduced.
There’s also the slight issue that Apple TV doesn’t yet support 4K or HDR video. That’s probably still a minor concern to most, but it would be great to see UHD content supported by the device, especially as the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Sky gear up to offer more of that sort of thing.
Apple TV remains a good device though, and very worthy of your consideration. If you’ve a hankering to upgrade your pre-smart TV without paying out thousands, it’s ideal. The same is true if you’ve spent hundreds on kids movies on iTunes – then it’s a device to make Saturday mornings just that little less horrifying.