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tvOS 17 arrives today: FaceTime, shared Spatial Audio, VPN & more new features

18 Sep 2023 | Rasmus Larsen |

Apple will today release tvOS 17 for Apple TV. It is a big update with a fresh look and new features. It also lays the groundwork for camera integration.
Update 20.9.2023: Apple has confirmed more new features in tvOS 17. Apple TV can now be restored with an iPhone (support document here). Siri on Apple TV can answer general questions such as "Where was Mozart born?" (only some Siri languages) and "Siri" replaces "Hey Siri" (English only) as the wakeword when controlling Apple TV va AirPods or HomePods. Siri adds Thai language support. The Siri Remote now supports enhanced scrolling with the clickpad ring for up/down or left/right in lists. It has been clarified that FaceTime is only supported on Apple TV 4K (2nd and 3rd Gen) while Apple Music Sing's camera features only work on Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen).
Apple usually releases new major software updates around 10am PST / 1pm ET / 7pm CET, so look out for tvOS 17 around that time today September 18 alongside iOS 17. The first thing you will notice on Apple TV is that the tvOS homescreen now has 6 app icons per row instead of 5.
Six app icons per row and the redesigned Control Center in tvOS 17
The control center has been overhauled with dynamic tabs that adapt to your situation and connected devices as well as new features such as a 'Sleep Timer' and 'Do Not Disturb' to silence notifications. It is also easier to control connected AirPods and HomeKit devices. This is on top of the new Siri interface that arrived with tvOS 16.1 last year.

New features in tvOS 17

One of the biggest new features is FaceTime support on Apple TV 4K (only 2nd and 3rd Gen). It currently requires a continuity iPhone camera but it is most likely a precursor to Apple TV / HomePod getting a built-in camera, as rumored.

tvOS 17

Facetime on Apple TV is coming with tvOS 17

Other new features include Memories as screensavers, a feature to locate the Siri Remote, Enhance Dialogue (with HomePod), VPN support (apps not released yet), Apple Fitness+, Dolby Vision 8.1 support, new AirPods Pro features, 802.1X networking support, and new screensavers. Also read: Apple finally embraces the AV1 video format As previously reported by FlatpanelsHD, another new feature not highlighted by Apple is Shared Spatial Audio to let you enjoy spatial audio (up to Dolby Atmos) in two pairs of AirPods at the same time. The only limitations that it is not possible to enable dynamic head tracking when two pairs of AirPods are connected. There is still no support for Hi-Res Lossless in Apple Music on Apple TV. tvOS 17 is available for both Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K (all versions) but several of the new features are limited to the latter. Here is everything that FlatpanelsHD has discovered in tvOS 17:

tvOS 17 for Apple TV – new features

Redesigned Control Center The new Control Center on Apple TV makes it easier for users to access key settings and information. Control Center now displays system status, including the time and active profile, and expands with other helpful details based on a user’s activity.

tvOS 17 control center

Photo: Apple

FaceTime on Apple TV Apple TV 4K users can take advantage of the new FaceTime app on Apple TV and initiate calls directly from Apple TV, or start calls on iPhone or iPad, and hand them off to Apple TV. FaceTime on Apple TV takes advantage of Continuity Camera support to wirelessly connect to the user’s iPhone or iPad, and leverages the device’s camera and microphone to bring participants together on the TV. Center Stage keeps everyone in the room perfectly framed on the screen, even as they move around, while new gesture-based reactions allow callers to use their hands to generate onscreen effects, such as hearts or fireworks, and add even more fun to the conversation. The introduction of Split View for Apple TV lets users enjoy watching shows or movies with their loved ones during a SharePlay session while also seeing everyone on the FaceTime call. Later this year, video conferencing apps like Webex by Cisco and Zoom will launch on tvOS. Only Apple TV 4K (2nd Gen) and Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen). Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K (1st Gen) do not support FaceTime.

Facetime Apple TV

Facetime on Apple TV 4K. Photo: Apple

Apple Music Sing camera Apple Music Sing — a feature that lets users sing along to their favorite tracks — will also integrate Continuity Camera so users can see themselves onscreen and add entertaining filters. Supported only on Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen). Find Siri Remote tvOS 17 strengthens the seamless integration of Apple TV and iPhone with the ability to locate the Siri Remote. Users can launch the Apple TV remote inside Control Center on iPhone to find their Siri Remote (2nd generation or later). As users get closer to the remote, an onscreen circle grows in size to guide their movement.

tvOS 17 control center

The find Siri Remote feature works well but only with the 2021 and 2022 Siri Remotes. Photo: FlatpanelsHD

Shared Spatial Audio To let you enjoy spatial audio (up to Dolby Atmos) in two pairs of AirPods at the same time. Dynamic head tracking when using two pairs of AirPods is not supported.

Spatial audio tvOS 17

2 pairs of AirPods sharing spatial audio. Debug menu confirms Dolby Atmos. Don't mind the low video bitrate as the stream just hasn't reached the high tier yet. Photo: FlatpanelsHD

AirPods Pro - adaptive mode - Adaptive Audio, a new listening mode that dynamically blends Transparency mode and Active Noise Cancellation together based on the conditions of a user’s environment to deliver the best experience in the moment. - Conversation Awareness will lower the volume and enhance the voices in front of the user, all while reducing background noise. Both are supported on Apple TV with tvOS 17. Enhance Dialogue Lets users more clearly hear what is being said over the effects, action, and music in a movie or TV show on Apple TV 4K paired with HomePod (2nd generation) by separating the dialogue from the background noise and bringing it forward to the center channel. Dolby Vision 8.1 support Dolby Vision with dynamic metadata over a broader range of movies and TV shows. Apple Fitness+ Including Custom Plans, a new way for Fitness+ users to receive a custom workout or meditation schedule based on day, duration, workout type, and more; Stacks, which allows users to select multiple workouts and meditations to seamlessly do back to back; and Audio Focus, which gives users the ability to prioritize the volume of the music or the trainers’ voices. Third-party VPN support Enables developers to create VPN apps for Apple TV. This can benefit enterprise and education users wanting to access content on their private networks, allowing Apple TV to be a great office and conference room solution in even more places. Automatic profile switching When using the remote on iPhone to wake up and control Apple TV, users will be automatically switched to their profile, ensuring they have access to their recently watched shows and personalized recommendations. Additional settings and preferences are now saved for each user profile, including their system language and paired AirPods, delivering an even more personalized experience New screensavers The widely popular aerial screen savers will feature a collection of stunning new locations, including Arizona’s Monument Valley and California’s coastal redwoods. Memories as screensavers Screen saver enhancements provide a more beautiful and even more customized experience on Apple TV, as users can now enjoy curated Memories from their personal library, shared library, or both on the big screen. Smart AirPlay suggestions AirPlay will get more intelligent with iOS and tvOS 17 to adapt to your personal preferences and habits. It will now automatically on iPhone or iPad suggest AirPlay devices that you use a lot such as Apple TV 802.1X networking support Apple devices now support connection to 802.1X networks using EAP-TLS with TLS 1.3 (EAP-TLS 1.3). EAP-TLS 1.3 further improves security and privacy by always providing forward secrecy, never disclosing the peer identity, and by mandating use of revocation checking when compared to EAP-TLS with earlier versions of TLS.

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