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(Pocket-lint) - Apple's WWDC 2021 keynote was two hours long, so you might've missed it briefly talk about the Apple TV experience and its upcoming tvOS 15 operating system update. Along with the usual bug fixes and performance improvements, tvOS 15 adds several new features. Here's what you need to know.

When will tvOS 15 be available?

  • First beta is now available for developers to test
  • Free "official" update for consumers coming this autumn

Apple will release tvOS 15 as a free download later this year. It will likely launch alongside iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 and maybe even macOS Monterey. Developers can download the tvOS 15 beta now. While the public beta will launch in July, you'll likely want to wait for the official release in autumn 2021.

    Which Apple TVs can run tvOS 15?

    If your Apple TV runs any version of tvOS, it can run tvOS 15. (Apple TV devices from 2014 and earlier run a different Apple TV software.) If you're not sure which Apple TV you own, look for an App Store. If you don't have an App Store, you have an older Apple TV that doesn't support tvOS.

    The following Apple TV devices are compatible with tvOS 15:

    • Apple TV HD
    • Apple TV 4K (2017)
    • Apple TV 4K (2021)


    What's new in tvOS 15?

    Below are the biggest features Apple highlighted during its presentation, though the update likely includes many other, smaller upgrades and bug fixes. (Note: As the software goes through the beta-testing process, some features may be removed or even added.)

    Face ID and Touch ID sign-in

    Apple TV has been pretty good at working alongside your iOS device since it first debuted - you can use your iPhone to type in text such as passwords and now you can do even more. Using Face ID or Touch ID on your iPhone and iPad you can sign into tvOS apps or authorise purchases. This works using iCloud Keychain and it'll choose the right username and password for the app. Apps will need to adapt the feature, which should be fairly straightforward. 

    HomePod mini default speaker

    The original HomePod can double as a default speaker for Apple TV. Now, this feature is coming to HomePod mini, so owners who also have an Apple TV 4K can experience high-quality sound for all their Apple TV apps and games, eliminating the need to bring up Control Center or adjust AirPlay settings.

    HomeKit cameras and accessories

    The biggest change is you can view multiple cameras at once through a new grid view that is accessible directly from Control Center on your TV as well as through a new grid button on the fullscreen camera view. Another cool feature is that, when a HomeKit Secure Video-enabled camera detects motion, a picture-in-picture notification window will appear on top of any active app. You will be able to access a fullscreen view with a click of the Siri Remote.

    Notifications are customisable per camera, and you can specify what types of activity trigger the alert. Finally, HomeKit accessory controls will also be available in tvOS 15 while in a camera view. Ones assigned to the same room as a camera will appear in the bottom right corner of a camera view. Four HomeKit accessories can display, but you will be able to swipe to view more if you have multiple smart devices throughout your home.

    SharePlay and Shared with You

    SharePlay will be available in tvOS 15's Control Center. It allows users to watch movies, TV shows, and listen to music in FaceTime groups - the playback will, of course, syncs up for everyone, which means the feature serves as a watch party-like experience.

    In the Apple TV+ app, a new Shared with You section displays content shared by your contacts through messages and email. Your contacts' pictures even show up underneath their suggestions. 

    A For All of You row also shows selections for all the people in your home - you need to have user profiles set up for each person to do this though.

    Siri media and TV commands

    Siri is gaining the ability to serve up movies and shows on-demand through the HomePod mini. You can say "Hey Siri, watch the latest episode of Ted Lasso" to get the show to appear on your Apple TV. Siri could even automatically turn on your TV and go to the right input If your TV features HDMI-CEC.

    Spatial audio

    Apple said tvOS 15 will support Spatial Audio for select movies and shows (including in the Apple TV app) - creating a private, virtual surround sound-like experience that can determine your position in relation to your TV while you're wearing compatible headphones such as the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max.

    Finally, new screen savers are coming, too.

    Want to know more?

    Here's Pocket-lint's coverage of the Day One WWDC 2021 keynote:

    Writing by Maggie Tillman. Editing by Dan Grabham.