While iOS 13 was the main highlight of today’s WWDC Keynote, Apple actually kicked off the event with the announcement of the next version of tvOS for its Apple TV set-top box, and unlike last year’s relatively meagre tvOS 12 update, it looks like the new version is going to include a few interesting new features and design changes. While Apple CEO Tim Cook covered the new operating system pretty quickly, it definitely looks exciting.
Redesigned Home Screen
The Apple TV home screen has traditionally been a fairly dull grid of app icons, but it looks like with tvOS 13 Apple is going to liven it up by offering a dock-like menu that will display live video previews behind it.
It’s unclear exactly what will be shown here, such as whether you’ll actually be able to watch an actual show with the menu overlaid on top, or whether it’s just animated backgrounds.
As a family device, an Apple TV naturally has multiple users, but as Apple continues to customize its services like Apple Music and its upcoming Apple TV+ service, this becomes a problem. Whose library are you using when you’re calling up Apple Music, for example?
tvOS 13 will address this with multi-user support. It looks like there will be a new iOS-style Control Centre that slides in from the right side of the screen, allowing you to quickly and easily select a specific family member. Things like Watch Now in the TV app, and Apple Music tastes and listening histories will be switched out for whichever family member is selected.
The Apple TV has supported Bluetooth game controllers since the app-enabled tvOS came along back in 2015, but it’s been limited to game controllers made specifically for the Apple TV. While there are some decent controllers available, users of traditional consoles naturally have their own preferences.
With Apple Arcade coming this fall, Apple has recognized this, and tvOS 13 is going to add support for Microsoft Xbox One and Playstation 4 Dual Shock controllers to be used naively with the Apple TV. This will save users the hassle of buying another controller, while also allowing them to use the controller that they know and love. It’s also an obvious way for Apple to draw more people into its new game subscription service.
Apple Music Lyrics in Sync
Apple Music users can already pull up lyrics on the Apple TV, but they only show as a static, scrollable list. Now, karaoke fans can applaud the fact that you’ll be able to see synced lyrics highlighted on your screen as you’re listening to your favourite tracks on Apple Music.
It seems like this will be a feature exclusive to Apple Music. Users with their own tracks in iCloud Music Library will likely still get the older lyrics view.
Apple’s aerial and spatial screensavers are stunning, and this year the company has partnered with the BBC natural History unit for a new collection of 4K HDR footage.
New screensavers in tvOS 13 will include some fairly stunning under-the-sea views that go well beyond the classic aquarium look. It’s unknown whether these will simply be extra footage in the existing aerial screensaver, or whether Apple is adding a new category for them.