A new report claims that Apple is working on a Siri-based competitor to Amazon’s Echo, but suggests that the solution will come in the form of a refreshed Apple TV set-top box, rather than the standalone speaker reported earlier this week. A source has told VentureBeat that the plan is to build on the Apple TV to “solve problems with the existing box and remote control,” noting that Apple wants the “Apple TV to be just the hub of everything.” Apple is said to have considered several options, and a standalone speaker was indeed under consideration at one point — however, that option was dropped due to the amount of money Apple has spent on the development of the new Apple TV.
Apple has released a whole slew of updates this afternoon, as iOS 9.3.2, watchOS 2.2.1, tvOS 9.2.1, and iTunes 12.4 have all been launched to the general public. The updates are mostly made of bug fixes and minor enhancements, but as alluded to last week, a few design and navigation tweaks have been made to iTunes. Also, the iOS update fixes a Bluetooth audio quality issue with the iPhone SE. The updates are currently available. We’ll add to this piece this afternoon if there are any other major findings.
Apple has released the fourth developer betas for iOS 9.3.2 and tvOS 9.2.1. As with prior betas, the sparse release notes and minor version numbers suggest that the betas are primarily focused on bug fixes and performance improvements and do not likely include any new user-facing features. The much smaller number of “Known Issues” in the release notes as compared to prior betas suggest that both versions may be nearing final release.
The new betas are available to registered developers from Apple’s Developer Site; those developers who installed the necessary beta configuration profiles for the prior beta cycle should also automatically see the new betas appear as an over-the-air update.
Apple has released the second developer betas for iOS 9.3.2 and watchOS 2.2.1. As with the prior beta, the sparse release notes and minor version numbers suggest that the betas are primarily focused on bug fixes and performance improvements and do not likely include any new user-facing features. The new betas are available to registered developers from Apple’s Developer Site; those developers who installed the necessary beta configuration profiles for the prior beta cycle should also automatically see the new betas appear as an over-the-air update.
Apple has started making preview pages for some Apple TV apps viewable in iTunes from a web browser, finally making it easier to share links to interesting apps with friends, or on social media. While iOS and Mac apps have been visible in iTunes web previews for years, this is a new development for tvOS — it should solve a big problem for developers trying to link to their apps from their own websites or social media pages. First spotted by Twitter user Jeff Scott, the new iTunes previews don’t feature an ability to buy or download the apps since that would need to be done on the Apple TV itself.
Sources who visited Apple’s “iTunes Lounge” at the Sundance Film Festival said the company is courting “triple A-list” talent for original TV series to be launched on an “exclusives” app for Apple TV and sold on iTunes, Fast Company reports. The stealthy conversations at Sundance led to meetings in Los Angeles where Apple executives heard pitches for original TV shows from producers who kept things so quiet they were reportedly referring to Apple as the United Fruit Company. Five different sources who have spoken directly to Apple executives or have been briefed on Apple’s plans said the company is still “disorganized” in its approach and hasn’t yet presented a unified strategy for its original programming.
Apple has begun promoting a new tvOS 9.2 feature on the new fourth-generation Apple TV called “Live Tune-In,” which allows users to initiate live playback in compatible apps by using a Siri voice command. While the option did not appear with the release of tvOS 9.2 last month, users in the U.S. who select Settings, System, What’s New can now see the feature has been added to the list of tvOS 9.2 features, highlighting the ability to issue Siri commands such as “Watch CBS” or “Watch ESPN live.” Thus far, Apple only lists CBS, ESPN, and Disney XD as examples of the feature, and it’s unclear whether third-party app developers have to explicitly add support for this feature going forward and which other apps may already include these capabilities. Apple’s tvOS Developer Documentation presently includes no obvious reference to hooks or APIs that would be used to enable this, suggesting that this feature may currently only be available to specific apps hand picked by Apple.
Apple has released a new round of developer betas for iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. The release notes for the new versions are relatively sparse, and the very minor version numbers — 9.3.2, 2.2.1, and 9.2.1, respectively — would suggest that these are primarily maintenance releases and do not likely include any new features worth noting. The new betas are available to registered developers from Apple’s Developer Site; those developers who installed the necessary beta configuration profiles for the prior beta cycle should also automatically see the new betas appear as an over-the-air update.
STARZ has launched the STARZ Play app for iOS devices and Apple TV, offering a standalone subscription to cord cutters for $9 a month and free access to existing cable subscribers. The app allows up to four users to watch simultaneously, supports universal search through the Siri remote and is the first premium cable app to allow full download rights “for most titles.” Which titles are exempted isn’t clearly specified.
Apple has officially announced the availability of tvOS 9.2, a new feature update for the company’s fourth-generation Apple TV. First released to developers in January, tvOS 9.2 adds several new features for Apple TV users, including support for using Siri for dictation into text fields — including speaking or spelling out passwords — as well as for searching the tvOS App Store. The update also adds the ability to organize apps into home screen folders, similar to the folder implementation on iOS devices, support for Live Photos taken on the iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and new iPhone SE, and the ability to access a user’s entire iCloud Photo Library from the set-top box. tvOS 9.2 is expected to be available later today.
In advance of Monday’s event, Apple has released its Apple Events channel as a standalone tvOS app for the new fourth-generation Apple TV. While the app doesn’t yet appear to be prominently featured on the tvOS App Store, it can be located via search, and provides functionality similar to the built-in app that automatically appeared on prior-generation Apple TVs.
With the new App Store model, Apple will presumably no longer be “pushing” the Apple Events app to the fourth-generationApple TV home screen — users will have to go and download it specifically if they want to watch Apple events live. Notably, prior generation Apple TV models do not appear to have the Apple Events channel available as of yet; it’s unclear whether Apple intends to exclude these devices from the stream, or whether the channel is simply yet to appear at some point before Monday’s event.
The NCAA has announced that Apple TV users will have the exclusive ability to watch two March Madness games at once through the March Madness Live app. While the app is available on competing platforms like Roku and Amazon Fire TV, the split screen feature is only open to Apple TV owners. Users will be able to download the app from the App Store starting March 10 and begin watching coverage on March 13, the day dubbed Selection Sunday, when teams are chosen to participate in the tournament. The app will allow a temporary preview period giving free access to live streaming, but viewers will need a valid cable subscription login to watch through the app after that brief free period expires.
Apple does not plan on bidding for the digital streaming rights to the NFL Thursday Night Football package, Re/code reports. The NFL sent out a requests for proposal (RFP) to several major digital media players back in December, offering non-exclusive rights to stream the entire Thursday Night Football package online. While earlier reports suggested Apple was planning to put in a bid, it now appears that Apple has decided to bow out of the bidding process on the basis that the sports package would not be enough to set the Apple TV or any future streaming media service apart from the competition. Other companies, including Facebook, Amazon, Verizon, and Yahoo, are reportedly still interested and will likely submit bids. No information or even speculation is available on what the digital rights package will sell for, however the report notes that NBC and CBS each paid $225 million to air the Thursday Night games on their television networks, a deal that also gives them the rights to stream those games on their own online platforms.
Apple has now published the session videos from its Apple TV Tech Talks, a series of events the company held in various cities over the past few months to help aspiring developers build and design apps for the new fourth-generation Apple TV. The talks opened in Toronto on Dec. 7, 2015 and ran through eight more cities before finishing up in Sydney earlier this month. The sessions covered tvOS, the capabilities of the new Apple TV, general app and user interface development and a deeper dive into graphics, gaming, and media streaming applications. The complete set of eleven session videos can be streamed or downloaded from the Apple TV Tech Talks Videos page, along with transcripts of the sessions, related documentation, sample code, and other resources.
Apple has released three of its latest betas to developers today with iOS 9.3 beta 4, tvOS 9.2 beta 4, and watchOS 2.2 beta 4. The public version of iOS 9.3 beta 4 will likely also be released later this week. We’ll update our iOS and tvOS “Inside the betas” article later on with any relevant information, although changes thus far appear to be minimal, with a cosmetic change to the Night Shift icon in iOS 9.3 beta 4, and new firmware for the Siri Remote.
Apple has made it possible for Apple TV users to watch previews of the apps available for their device and has encouraged developers to upload app preview videos in a message sent out today. The 15 to 30 second videos are intended to showcase the features, functionality and user interface of an app or game and can be watched by selecting the “preview” button on an app’s product page. Since the feature was just opened to developers, we haven’t spotted any apps that feature a preview yet — not even Apple’s in-house products. Guidelines for recording and submitting previews are available on Apple’s developer site.
Apple has released three of its latest betas to developers today with iOS 9.3 beta 3, tvOS 9.2 beta 3, and watchOS 2.2 beta 3. The public version of iOS 9.3 beta 3 should be released later this week. We’ll update our iOS and tvOS “Inside the betas” article later on with any relevant information.
Apple may be looking in a new direction in efforts to get its television streaming service off the ground. A new report from The Street reveals that the company has been in talks with Hollywood’s creative community since late last year about producing original TV shows that could be offered exclusively to iTunes customers. While Apple has yet to sign any agreements, two people with knowledge of the matter have suggested that Apple is ideally trying to get deals in place for September so it can announce exclusive content with the unveiling of the iPhone 7. The discussions are reportedly being led by Apple Senior Vice President Eddy Cue, who is effectively the force behind Apple’s entertainment initiatives, with Robert Kondrk, VP of iTunes content, also involved in the talks, according to sources. An Apple spokesperson naturally declined to comment on the matter. It was first reported in September that Apple had interest in creating original programming.
Apple has released a software update to Apple TV with tvOS 9.1.1. The update includes Apple’s Podcasts app for Apple TV, which is placed up top and center once tvOS 9.1.1 has been installed. Other changes within the update likely include minor improvements and bug fixes. While the upcoming tvOS 9.2 update will be a more substantial update, the Podcasts app featured in the 9.2 beta has already made its debut, perhaps earlier than expected. tvOS 9.1.1 is available for download now in Apple TV’s Settings > System > Software Updates.
It’s still very unclear when Apple’s much-discussed TV service will make its debut on Apple TV, and ESPN president John Skipper mentioned the company’s frustrations in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. Skipper said ESPN has “had discussions with Apple” about a streaming TV service. When asked if Apple had a “path to being a player in the TV industry,” Skipper was relatively upbeat, saying the company is “creating a significantly advantageous operating system and a great television experience,” but he also noted that Apple has “been frustrated by their ability to construct something which works for them with programmers.”
While Apple has long been working on its own TV subscription service, the company wasn’t able to ready the service for the debut of the fourth-generation Apple TV last year, and it’s unclear at this point just when such a service may debut. Judging by Skipper’s recent comments — and bolstered by past reports and whispers — it doesn’t appear the service will be ready anytime soon. Apple has recently been linked to both the NFL and Time Warner, but it’s unknown how much interest — if any — Apple has in getting involved with either entity as related to its TV service.