The Apple TV has been through numerous software iterations since it was introduced in 2007, more frequently changing its user interface than any other Apple platform. This week, the fourth beta release of Apple TV Software 7.0 appeared, introducing a refreshed interface based upon the “flat” theme developed for iOS 7 and 8. Icons, fonts, and other changes to the Apple TV interface are apparent in the latest beta, so users will have a pretty good idea of what to expect when the final version appears later this year.
Software 7.0 does away with the blue highlighting and reflections found in prior versions of the Apple TV user interface. App icons and text now appear against a jet black backdrop, with a rounded white box indicating the currently selected icon.
Reflections are sill apparent in the artwork found at the top of the screen, at least for now.
In addition to removing reflections from icons, Apple has thinned the font used to label the icons, and what used to be only 3.75 rows of simultaneously viewable icons has expanded to 4.1 rows. Fonts across the entire interface are thinner wherever possible, a change that’s particularly noticeable with very large text.
The glowing blue highlight bar found at the top of the screen has shifted to a white outline, similar to the classic storage capacity badges found on iPods, iPhones, and iPads. Apple has also done away with perspective-angled iTunes Store banners in favor of flat sliding banners.
Small tweaks to icons, such as the phrase “iTunes Extras Preview” appearing instead of “Preview iTunes Extras,” differentiate versions 6 and 7 of the Apple TV Software.
Recently added iTunes Extras for certain HD movies now look somewhat more consistent with the new Apple TV interface.
Most of the version 7 UI looks similar to what has been seen in version 6, though some of the UI changes — including large top-of-screen graphics for some movies and TV shows in the iTunes Store — were quietly rolled out on Apple’s servers in the middle of version 6’s run.
The replacement of blue text boxes and selection indicators with white may be less colorful than before, but it definitely increases your ability to see both types of elements from a distance.
Third-party app UIs all incorporate the changes automatically, as shown in Netflix’s app.
Skeuomorphic elements eliminated from iOS, such as textured picture frames, are still evident in Apple TV 7.0’s screensavers. Since this is a beta version of the software, it’s possible that Apple will continue to whitewash the textures out before 7.0 makes its official public debut.
Family Sharing has been added to version 7.0, continuing support for the iTunes Store account-bundling feature that links multiple iTunes accounts together to share movies, TV shows, music, and more.
Selecting the Family Sharing text will bring up separate accounts of family members, media from which can be individually selected and browsed through.
Apple has also made some further changes to the video playback UI, removing the old translucent scrubber pane in favor of a simpler set of bars, floating play/rewind/fast forward icons, and text.
In addition to the changes found above, Apple has added support for the updated iCloud Photos photo sharing feature to software version 7.0, and is also incorporating yet-to-be-discussed compatibility with upcoming HomeKit home automation accessories. Speculation suggests that the Apple TV might serve as a hub for managing or monitoring HomeKit devices, though iPads and other iOS devices could do so, as well.
For the time being, the updated Apple TV beta software is only available for recent 1080p resolution versions of the Apple TV hardware; a version with support for earlier 720p devices is not yet available. This may well change before the software is released.
We’ll continue to monitor the new Apple TV beta releases as the official debut of version 7.0 comes closer, and update this article if anything significant changes between now and then.