For the first time ever, the tvOS portion of the WWDC keynote featured major new enhancements to tvOS. That sounds like a stupid sentence but it’s true. We have been all too accustomed to the TV announcements being about upcoming content partnerships and not much else. This year is different.
Announcing multiple user support for tvOS is a huge deal. I am really looking forward to Apple TV+ and the extent to which I will enjoy the service is inextricably linked to the TV app on Apple TV itself. The current status quo is one shared Up Next and Watch Now recommendations for everyone that uses the Apple TV in the living room. tvOS 13 adds a Control Centre-esque sidebar that lets you quickly switch between user profiles. Now, everyone will be able to have their own independent bucket of TV shows, music and movies. There is an API for third-party apps to respond to changes to the current user profile too so Netflix or Plex could match up the Apple TV’s system user profiles with the user accounts of their own services.
Karaoke-style synchronised lyrics is a fantastic addition to the Apple Music experience. The UI looks great on iOS and tvOS alike; it’s clearly a direct result of Apple’s acquisition of Shazam. tvOS 13 also transforms the home screen into a canvas for video previews based on the currently-highlighted app icon. You can see full-screen film trailers and music videos when hovering over the TV app and Music app respectively. Mirroring the UI vocabulary of the recently-updated TV app, users can swipe up to take the previews full-screen and reveal extra information. Developers can create these new rich Top Shelf Carousels as well. An app can show multiple items at once in a carousel; each item can feature descriptive labels and an action button to open the app straight to that particular piece of content. tvOS arguably received a more significant home screen redesign than the iPad did.
Finally, Apple announced that the Apple TV (as well as iPhone and iPad) will support PlayStation and Xbox controllers as input methods. This is clearly driven by the impending launch of Apple Arcade and I don’t think we would have seen Apple make such a partnership if it wasn’t motivated by Services revenue opportunities. It’s sort of the gaming equivalent to putting the TV app on Samsung smart TVs. Even if you don’t subscribe to Arcade, you can now pair standard console controllers to your iPhone, iPad or Apple TV and enjoy playing existing App Store games that much more.