Apple TV has steadily been updated with new features since tvOS and the current hardware were introduced in late 2015, and we’re expecting to see even more this summer with tvOS 11 at WWDC.
Updates to tvOS 9 focused a lot on feature parity with the previous Apple TV and recent iOS updates, and tvOS 10 updates introduced the new TV app and single sign-on feature. Here’s what we’re hoping to see this year from tvOS 11 at Apple’s developer conference in June.
Apple launched its new TV app last December through tvOS 10.1, but it’s still limited to the United States. The TV app does a decent job of presenting shows you watch in one interface instead of digging around for something to watch in multiple apps. The top request for the TV app this year is introducing it to more countries.
Next on our list has to be true Netflix support. Some features work sort of by accident, but you can’t use the TV app to its full potential with Netflix like you can with officially supported services. Netflix was a big missing partner to start, and hopefully tvOS 11 offers something to resolve that.
Finally, the TV app could benefit from a focus on presenting live content when available. You can already use Siri to jump to live content on specific channels with a feature called Live Tune In, but there’s really no visual user interface for this. The TV app would be the natural location for such an interface.
I would also love to see Apple promote single sign-on apps more prominently on the tvOS App Store. They’re currently highlighted with an app tile that goes to the collection, but I wouldn’t mind seeing this promoted to a top-level navigation item.
We’re probably years away from this actually happening (who knows!), but the dream is talking to Siri on one device and having Siri do something on another device. For example, you could ask Siri on your iPhone to play Finding Dory on the family room Apple TV.
You can already get part of the way there with the Remote app for iPhone and iPad. It lets you control Siri on the Apple TV from your iPhone, but the goal is having one Siri that you can activate in an instant versus a secondary Siri located within an app.
Another example of something that Siri could someday pull off is asking Siri to play a specific song on Apple Music on multiple Apple TVs. In general, Siri on Apple TV has opportunities to come to feature parity with Siri on other devices before next level features are considered.
Apple CEO Tim Cook loves, loves, loves AR. He called the idea of augmented reality something he considers ‘as a big idea like the smartphone’ recently, and he talks about the promise of AR any chance he gets.
iPhone 8 AR concept
One thing that isn’t clear yet is what Apple has planned for AR features within its ecosystem. The iPhone is the obvious platform for AR features with its portable display and sensors including multiple cameras. At least one unverified report has claimed Apple plans to use AirPlay between the iPhone and Apple TV to create an augmented reality experience as well.
Smart Dark Mode
tvOS 10 introduced something we all really want on iOS: dark mode. The old Apple TV software always used a dark theme, and tvOS 9 was introduced with vibrant theme that made it pop in comparison. Apple heard our requests for the return of a dark theme, however, and added a toggle in Settings that can also be controlled with Siri.
With tvOS 11, we would love to see the ability to automatically switch between light mode and dark mode based on either time of day or sunset/sunrise. Light mode during the day, dark mode during the night. Apple TV can already detect local sunrise and sunset times as a trigger for HomeKit automation so the box knows when the specific event occurs locally.
If you want to go a step further, tvOS 11 could introduce Night Shift like we see on the Mac, iPhone, and iPad, although color shifting on third-party displays over video content might not be a great idea in practice.
Home App & Video
When I wrote about tvOS 10 wish list items a year ago, my modest list included something that Apple delivered: HomeKit support for smart accessory control and automation. It makes perfect sense to tell Siri on the Apple TV to set your Movie Scene which dims the lights before you watch a film in the living room.
This year I hope Apple goes a step further and introduces a Home app for Apple TV with tvOS 11. The Home app with iOS 10 is very useful on the iPhone and iPad, and you can already interact with HomeKit through Siri. Creating a Home app on Apple TV could create a dashboard that guests can easily access and control.
HomeKit also gained the ability to work with video cameras last year, and video is ideal for Apple TV. You can already use the Apple TV to watch live video feeds from non-HomeKit cameras like Canary, but if there’s a way to view my HomeKit video camera feed on my Apple TV, I haven’t discovered it.
Apple News & Video
Speaking of video (and something we don’t expect to happen but would appreciate), Apple News could be a useful app on Apple TV and tvOS. Apple News is already popular with readers on iPhone and iPad (and we hear from a lot of readers who say they want a Mac version).
Apple News on Apple TV could focus solely on video similar to how Twitter and Facebook have approached their own tvOS apps. You could even have a Watch It Later feature on the iOS app that lets you make a queue of videos to watch on your Apple TV through Apple News.
Apple’s News team could also curate video content for Apple TV and feature a video tab in the Apple News app for iOS.
Other major changes to tvOS could come with new hardware to include more sensors like always-on mics, built-in or add-on cameras, and more. Apple TV already works with dedicated gaming controllers, but consoles also support other add-ons that Apple TV could follow.
Apple TV’s Remote app has improved greatly over the past year with new features and an iPad version, but there are two more opportunities that I see as possible in the near future.
First is Control Center access from iPhone and iPad. I keep the Apple TV Remote app on my first Home screen since I use it frequently, but I would really love Control Center access as a dedicated tile or an app shortcut next to or in place of Timer and Calculator.
Second is the Remote app for Apple Watch. It works as a basic navigation controller, but it hasn’t adopted the features of the new Apple TV since it was first introduced and hasn’t changed. Siri and Dictation support would also go a long way. These are changes that could be included in iOS 11 and watchOS 4 but benefit tvOS 11 and Apple TV.
Have your own thoughts about what tvOS 11 could bring and what Apple TV still needs? Let us know in the comments!