tvOS is the operating system software platform that runs on the fourth-gen Apple TV. It’s the Apple TV’s equivalent of iOS on the iPhone or macOS on the Mac; it manages the apps you can install on the device and offers various features of its own.
Just as iOS and macOS receive regular free updates, patching bugs, tweaking the interface and unlocking new features, tvOS has just had its first major update: tvOS 10. (tvOS 9 was given that name because it’s heavily based on iOS 9 – there was no tvOS 8 or earlier.) It was unveiled by Apple at WWDC 2016 on 13 June. In this article, we discuss the new features that have been added to tvOS and when the update is coming to your Apple TV.
Read next: iOS 10 preview | macOS Sierra preview | watchOS 3 new features
Updated, 5 September 2016, to explain how to watch Apple’s 7 September press event, where we expect the final announcement of tvOS 10’s launch. And previous on 26 August 2016, to discuss the tweaks and new features in the six betas of tvOS 10.
New tvOS 10 update release date & new features: What’s new in tvOS 10?
As we’ve already mentioned, tvOS got a fair bit of love at WWDC 2016 on 13 June during Apple’s keynote for press and developers (some would say a little too much love, given the number of important upgrades in iOS 10 and macOS Sierra that Apple didn’t have time to mention). Introducing the new operating system for the Apple TV, Eddy Cue revealed that developers have created 6,000 native apps in the seven months since the Apple TV got an App Store.
But what’s new from Apple? Here are the new features coming to your (fourth-gen) Apple TV when tvOS 10 launches in autumn.
Siri has some big improvements in the new update. It can now search your Apple TV’s movie and TV database with more complex and more natural-language-based queries. The example Apple gave was “high-school comedies from the 80s” – although it should be pointed out that this didn’t work perfectly in the demo.
Siri can also search YouTube, too, and any live streaming channels can be launched by saying “watch” and then whatever the channel is. ESPN, for example. And it can be used to control HomeKit-compatible smart-home appliances, with phrases such as “set thermostat to 72”.
Read next: How to fix the most common Siri problems
Dark Mode for Apple TV went down rather well. You can activate it to turn the background black instead of the bright white we’re used to. Good for those situations when you’re settling down with your popcorn to watch a movie in a dark room.
If you’re wondering about the Dark Mode we were expecting in iOS 10, fear not: we’re fairly sure that’s on its way soon.
Another bit of big news is the redesigned Apple TV remote app, which brings all of the Siri remote features to the app. It can be used for Siri queries using the built-in mic, but you can also input text thanks to the keyboard.
That’s not all either, as Apple also claimed that the Remote app would use the iPhone’s built-in sensors to be used as a gamepad, allowing users to play two-player games without having to fork out for another Siri remote.
Read next: New Apple TV Remote iPhone app review
Single Sign-on lets you sign in once to authenticate all apps, and any Apple TV-compatible app you download on iOS will automatically show up on your Apple TV.
This feature is more useful than it looks, as it allows a quick access to your apps, without having to download them on your Apple TV. We see this as one of the major steps forward in the newer revision of tvOS.
Like iOS 10 and macOS Sierra, tvOS brings the new features of Photos to the Apple TV. The most appealing of these is Memories.
Memories is designed to build digital albums for you automatically. It will recognise faces and places, and combine this data with the time and location where images and videos were taken to combine them intelligently into themed groupings – even selecting the best bits of video clips to use. Apple promises that these albums will be easily customisable (you can pick a different preset ‘tone’, for instance, and the accompanying music will change) and they looked decent in the (obviously pre-prepared) demo version, but we’ll need to test its performance in everyday use.
Like Photos, Apple Music has had a revamp, and this affects the Apple TV just as it does the iPhone, iPad and Mac. This means you can enjoy the cleaner, simpler new look of Apple Music in tvOS. (And presumably the new onscreen lyrics feature? Logically that ought to be part of the package, but Apple hasn’t specifically told us that tvOS will get this feature.)
Automatic app downloads
This is a small thing, but if you download a Universal app to your iPhone it will automatically be installed on your Apple TV. We assume this feature will be optional.
One thing Apple didn’t mention, but has since come to light in Apple support documents, is that the requirement for Siri Remote compatibility for Apple TV games has been removed. That means they can focus on MFi game controllers, which are much more game-friendly than the Siri remote and provide a more comfortable and enjoyable gaming experience on the Apple TV. Read more: Best Apple TV game controllers
New features in beta 3 and beta 4 of tvOS 10
On 15 August 2016 Apple released beta 6 of tvOS 10 to developers who’ve joined the beta testing programme – at time of writing that’s the most up-to-date version of tvOS that anyone outside Apple has tried. The six betas released thus far have added a range of tweaks, bug fixes and (usually minor) new features, but the closer we get to final launch day, the more Apple shifts to bug fixing: significant changes to the feature set would be a surprise at this point.
Beta 6, for instance, doesn’t add any new features – like most late-stage betas it focuses on fixing bugs. There are some known issues related to the way keyboards are presented in light and dark graphical modes: “An already presented system keyboard now correctly responds to system appearance changes between light and dark,” Apple says, while an issue that causes the appearance of dark text on a dark background in search keyboards is identified but is still to be addressed.
For more information, check Apple’s release notes for tvOS 10 beta 6.
Beta 5 was similarly focused on bug fixes. One issue had sometimes caused artwork for recently added tracks not to appear in the Music app, but this has been addressed.
For more information check Apple’s release notes for tvOS 10 beta 5.
Beta 4: tvOS 10 Beta 4 adds a number of mostly relatively small fixes. The most important changes in this update concern Live Photos (“Live Photos now function,” as Apple’s release notes laconically note), while Podcasts gets closed captioning and a common complaint with game controllers has been addressed: “After pairing a Game Controller, an ‘App Not Installed’ dialog no longer appears.”
Beta 3: Beta 3 saw some significant changes to Music. Our favourite may be that Siri can now be used to like or dislike a track (“Like this song” appears to be the preferred phrasing). But you can also add songs played on Beats 1 to existing playlists, and there are two significant fixes: “Song playback now functions when accessing songs from Go to Album” and “Go to Artist pages now load”.
Beta 3 also included a few linguistic updates. Norwegian, Dutch and Swedish are now all supported for sport queries through Siri.
WWDC 2016: Podcast – WWDC report
The UK Tech Weekly Podcast dissect the announcements of WWDC, including the updates to tvOS, in its 19th episode. We’ve embedded the audio below in case you’d like to hear what the team have to say. The WWDC section starts at the 26:30 point.
A new episode of the UK Tech Weekly Podcast comes out every Friday. Follow them on Twitter for links to the latest episodes.
New tvOS 10 update release date & new features: When will tvOS 10 come out?
The new tvOS 10 update is coming in autumn. That probably means it’ll come out at the same time as iOS 10 and macOS Sierra, which in turn are usually released at around the same time as new iPhones: the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, presumably. At time of writing (5 August), Apple has released 4 beta versions of tvOS, and appears to be on track for a September release date for the public version, but we’ll bring you more information about the new features and its release date when it’s announced.
tvOS 9.0 was announced alongside the fourth-gen Apple TV in September 2015, and came pre-loaded on that device when it went on sale the following month.
We’ve seen a number of what we call ‘point’ upgrades – tvOS 9.2 is the newest at time of writing – but the convention with operating systems is that major features are saved for full-number updates. (Mind you, a couple of features in iOS 9.3 pushed that principle to its limits, and some believe that Apple is heading towards a system where it release features steadily throughout the year.)
tvOS 10 release date & new features: How to watch 7 September launch event, and live blog
Apple has sent out invitations to a press event on 7 September, starting at 6pm UK time. This event is a nailed-on certainty to include the iPhone 7 in some form or another, but there’s a good chance that Apple will also take the opportunity to officially announce the release – or at least the release date – of the final public version of tvOS 10.
If you want to hear about the announcements as they happen, along with expert analysis of what they mean for you, then this page should be your first stop – bookmark it now! Come here on Wednesday night (7 September) at 6pm – or preferably shortly before – to read our liveblog, embedded below, which will be feverishly updated throughout the night with all the announcements and our independent analysis of their significance.
You can also watch the iPhone 7 and tvOS 10 announcements (and those related to any other products that pop up, such as the Apple Watch 2 or new MacBook Pro) via Apple’s official live video stream, which will appear on Apple’s events page in due course.
Based on previous events, the live stream is likely to use Apple’s HLS (HTTP Live Streaming) technology, which requires either an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch with Safari running iOS 7 or later, or a Mac with Safari 6.0.5 or later running OS X 10.8.5 or later. Those with an Apple TV (second/third/fourth generation) can also stream the video via the dedicated Apple Events app. Windows users should be able to stream via Windows using Microsoft Edge on Windows 10.
Return to this page on 7 September from around 5pm UK time for all the latest news and announcements from the launch event in our liveblog, embedded below.
New tvOS 10 update release date & new features: Which Apple TV models can run tvOS 10?
The fourth-generation Apple TV, and the unannounced fifth-gen Apple TV if it’s launched alongside the new software.
Apple cannot extend support back to previous generations: they’re simply not equipped to run apps and a full iOS-esque OS, which means that Apple TV gen 1, 2 and 3 users are out of luck.
New tvOS 10 update release date & new features: How to update your Apple TV to tvOS 10
When it comes out, tvOS 10 will be a free update that, as we explained above, will work with all fourth-gen Apple TV models. Updating your Apple TV to tvOS 10 will be easy.
Head to the Settings app, then select System and go to the Maintenance submenu. Click ‘Software updates’, then ‘Update Software’. Once the installation file has been downloaded, you’ll see an update prompt; select the option ‘Download and Install’. When the update is finished, the Apple TV will restart.
If you’d like to read about the process in more depth, take a look at How to update Apple TV software.
New tvOS 10 update release date & new features: WWDC 2016 wrapup show
Our colleagues at Macworld US have put together a post-conference wrapup show, in which they discuss tvOS and a host of other announcements from WWDC 2016. Take a look.That’s everything we know about tvOS 10 so far, but we can think of a few desirable features and design changes that are missing. Turn to the next page to read our tvOS wishlist: the features we’d still like to see in the next update.