Today, Apple began rolling out new versions of its iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS operating systems for iPhones and iPads, Macs, Apple Watches, and Apple TVs, respectively.
The updates are largely focused on the video services that Apple announced at its March 25 event—namely, a revamped Apple TV app, Apple TV Channels, and an expansion of AirPlay 2 to devices produced by Apple’s partners. A handful of bug fixes, performance optimizations, and other small tweaks are also included in the updates.
And no doubt deliberately timed with these updates, AirPlay 2 and Apple TV app support has finally rolled out to supporting Samsung TVs as planned. Apple says they’ll roll out to supporting LG, VIZIO, and Sony smart TVs “later this year.”
There’s still no sign of the Apple TV+ subscription service and its included original programming unveiled at the aforementioned event, but that wasn’t expected just yet. Apple will likely launch that this fall.
The new Apple TV app and Channels
The centerpiece of two of these updates (iOS 12.3 and tvOS 12.3) is the revised Apple TV app. Now available in 100 countries, it has a revised interface, the new Channels feature, a kids’ tab, and quite a bit more—all of which was previously described at Apple’s March 25 event and detailed in a blog post published by the company earlier today.
The headlining “Channels” feature is a new, easier way to subscribe to content from networks like HBO, Showtime, and Starz through the Apple TV app and Apple’s own billing system. You could do this before in some cases, but Channels is an entirely new platform that’s a bit different on the back end—the content actually plays in the TV app through Apple’s own system, rather than requiring you to download and open a third-party application.
This is a little more convenient, but it also allows Apple to enforce strict standards about tracking user viewing data—and it, of course, plays into Apple’s push to further monetize and control services used on its devices.
The other big change is access to the iTunes library directly from the TV app; previously, you’d have to actually buy your TV episodes and movies in the iTunes app but watch them in the TV app, which could be confusing. Now you can buy directly within the app.
Users can share subscriptions with others in their households via Family Sharing (up to six people), and Apple also added new personalized recommendation features in the app.
Now let’s get into the updates themselves. iOS 12.3 is arguably the most extensive of the four. It adds the new TV app and Channels feature just described, plus AirPlay 2 support for targeting those Samsung smart TVs that now support it (and the TVs from other brands that will support it later). See the description above or the notes below for all the details on the TV features.
In terms of smaller features, Apple’s notes for this update say that you can now follow a magazine from the Apple News+ catalog browsing view, and Apple Music will offer more frequent personalized recommendations. Apple also talked up the editorial curation of the kids’ section in the Apple TV app, so once again we’re seeing evidence of Apple’s big spree of hiring an army of editorial people to carefully monitor, filter, and select all the content that appears across News, TV, Books, Music, and the App Store.
Apple is investing a lot more in that approach and placing a much greater emphasis on it than any of its competitors. As we’ve seen at recent events, Apple sees itself not just as a tech company, but as a guidepost for culture.
Bug fixes include a fix for non-responsive Apple TV remotes, a solution for some Wi-Fi call drops, and a fix for an issue “where song information from a connected iPhone may not appear in a car’s display.”
These are Apple’s release notes:
iOS 12.3 includes support for AirPlay 2-enabled TVs and features a redesigned Apple TV app. This update also includes bug fixes and improvements.
- AirPlay 2 now supports sharing videos, photos, music and more from your iPhone and iPad directly to your AirPlay 2-enabled smart TV
- One-tap playback automatically plays your chosen TV show or movie on the last screen you used based on time and location
Intelligent suggestions are all done on-device so your personal information stays private
Apple TV app
- The Apple TV app features an all-new design that highlights expertly curated collections and personalized recommendations
- Apple TV channels offer subscriptions to HBO, Showtime, Starz, and more, available to watch directly in the Apple TV app, online or off
- Subscriptions to Apple TV channels can be shared with up to six family members, with no new apps, accounts, or passwords needed
- New-release movies are available to buy or rent in the Apple TV app, including the full catalog of over 100,000 movies and the largest selection of 4K HDR titles
- A new dedicated kids section helps you discover editorially handpicked shows and movies safe for kids of all ages
- The Apple TV app can now intelligently suggest playing to the most likely Apple TVs or AirPlay 2-enabled TVs nearby
The update also includes bug fixes and improvements. This update:
- Adds the ability to follow a magazine from the Apple News+ catalog browsing view
- Apple Music’s For You tab now updates multiple times a day suggesting music based on themes like genres, artists, and moods you love
- Fixes an issue that could prevent Apple TV Remote from pausing video, controlling video, or changing volume on supported receivers
- Addresses an issue that could cause calls made using Wi-Fi calling to drop
- Fixes an issue where song information from a connected iPhone may not appear in a car’s display
tvOS 123 also rolled out today, alongside an Apple TV Software update labeled 7.3 for older Apple TV units. The result is a new TV app experience for the third- and fourth-generation Apple TVs as well as the Apple TV 4K.
And these are Apple’s brief release notes on Apple TV Software Update 7.3:
This update includes general performance and stability improvements and this feature:
- Apple TV app: Now available on Apple TV (3rd generation), the Apple TV app gives you one place to watch all of your favorite shows and movies across all of your devices. Subscribe to just the Apple TV channels you want. Browse thousands of titles from the iTunes Store that you can buy or rent. And get recommendations for shows and movies based on everything you watch.
macOS Mojave 10.14.5 adds AirPlay 2 support and otherwise largely focuses on bug fixes and performance improvements. Apple says the update reduces audio latency on 2018 MacBook Pros and fixes an issue with OmniOutliner and OmniPlan. Point releases like this generally don’t offer much in the way of new features.
The notes from Apple for macOS 10.14.5 are as follows:
- Adds AirPlay 2 support for sharing videos, photos, music, and more from your Mac directly to your AirPlay 2-enabled smart TV.
- Adds the ability to follow a magazine from the Apple News+ catalog browsing view.
- Improves audio latency on MacBook Pro models introduced in 2018.
- Fixes an issue that prevented certain very large OmniOutliner and OmniPlan documents from rendering properly.
- Disables accessories with insecure Bluetooth connections.
- Fixes an issue that prevented resetting the user account password from the login window after using a personal recovery key (PRK) to unlock the FileVault volume.
- Fixes an issue that prevented the InstalledApplicationList MDM command from recognizing that updates are available for apps installed via VPP.
Hang tight if you’re still waiting for some big feature, though; Apple will likely outline big new features for the next major macOS release at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in early June.
watchOS 5.2.1 is the first update since the one that added support for Apple’s second-generation AirPods. The headlining bug fix “fixes an issue where the numbers on the Explorer face would not appear for some users.” Additionally, it brings the ECG app and irregular-heart-rhythm notifications to users in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Iceland, Poland, and Slovakia.
It’s not mentioned in the update notes, but the update also adds a new 2019 version of the LGBTQIA+ Pride watch face. Users can select either the 2018 or 2019 face, whichever they prefer.
Here are Apple’s release notes for watchOS 5.2.1:
- ECG app on Apple Watch Series 4 now available in Croatia, Czech Republic, Iceland, Poland, and Slovakia
- Irregular-heart-rhythm notifications now available in Croatia, Czech Republic, Iceland, Poland, and Slovakia
- Fixes an issue where the numbers on the Explorer face would not appear for some users
All of these software updates are rolling out to devices starting today. If you don’t see them yet, wait a bit and look again—they should become available to all users soon.