Apple has released a brand new Apple TV Remote app for the Apple TV. If you’re current Remote app user, please note that you have to download this new app. It is a brand new app and not an update to the old Remote app. If you’re not using a remote app for your Apple TV, please download the new app ASAP as entering text onto Apple TV using the app is so much easier. And this new app has Siri integration build-in, just like the hardware remote.
At WWDC 2016, Apple has made three changes to its policy in a bid to attract more developers to its platforms.
The first change came last week where Phil Schiller, the person in charged of the App Store, announced that Apple will open its in-app purchase renewable subscription to all categories of apps. Currently developers can adopt renewable subscriptions only for a few kind of app category, such as magazine app.
The second policy change is with Apple TV apps. Current policy states that all Apple TV apps must support the Apple remote. This is the reason why you do not see many console games being ported to Apple TV, as it takes effort to build for the Apple remote. This restriction will be gone. It is expected we will soon see more games being ported and made available on the Apple TV.
The third policy change is with regards to Mac apps and iCloud. Currently only apps on the Mac App Store is able to build iCloud features into their apps. Apple will relax this policy to allow apps outside of Mac App Store to use iCloud as long as the app is signed by a registered Apple developer. It is doubtful if this change will revert the decisions by many major apps that abandoned the Mac App Store.
A smarter Apple? A softer Apple?
Apple’s developer conference WWDC 2016 is expected in early June. Here’s a developer’s wish list of things hopefully Apple will announce this year. This list is in no particular order.
Unified UIKit and AppKit
Developers are presented with two different UI kit when developing for both iOS and OS X. It is high time Apple support targeting both iOS and OS X using one unified kit. At the minimum, Apple should make it easy for developers to use the same iOS UI code to develop for OS X.
It is speculated that Apple’s own Photos app is using the same ‘UXKit’ framework in both iOS and OS X version of the app. There is hope that Apple will release this framework to the public. It is an opportunity for Apple to revive the Mac platform. Nobody wants OS X to remain a dead native platform forever.
Xcode for iPad
If we do not see Xcode for iPad soon, maybe Apple should strip the ‘Pro’ labelling for its iPad Pro. How about partnering with IBM for a “Visual Swift” tool for building enterprise iPad apps?
Scripting for iOS
With the success of Workflow, expect to see this popular automation app sherlocked by Apple soon. Where is Automator and AppleScript for iOS when you need them?
iOS as bots platform
Bots are taking over the programming world. Most bots are found in messaging and chat apps. Apple should make its platform the bots platform of choice. Ideally there should be an SDK for developers to add app specific bots and make them available as system utilities. Not sure technically how it should be accomplished. A bot app for a unified bots interface? Or a bot SDK for app to integrate with Siri?
Apple might just build a bot platform on top of iMessages. But the app does require some innovative features to be in competition with the likes of Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and WeChat. Just an iMessages for Android might not save the day.
Split screen version 2
Split screen is a great addition in iOS 9. But two features are missing. The first is the ability to drag and drop between split apps. Touchscreen interface without drag-and-drop is like the first version of iOS without copy-and-paste. The second missing feature is the ability to run the same app side by side on split screen.
App Store and Mac App Store
Developers like to blame Apple when they’re not able to generate enough earning for their livelihood on the iOS and Mac App Store. It’s a debate if the race to $0 dollar app is largely Apple’s fault. But there is so much more Apple can do to help out developers. Some might say it is not in Apple’s interest to care for all developers, since the majority of earnings are from but a few. Developers that are struggling to survive can either choose another way out or hope that at least some help is on its way. Whatever App Store changes Apple put in place, it is doubtful if it will have any impact on the dire situation smaller developers are facing today.
Many developers have asked for a way to charge for upgrade for years. This is especially true for high price premium apps on the Mac App Store. Apple does not get it. Developer can release a new SKU for the new version of its app, but it is different from a paid upgrade. Without paid upgrade, no discount can be given to existing users. Many premium apps rely on upgrade from existing users, without such the business is just not sustainable. It is painful to see Apple just choose to ignore this feature request.
Apple supports auto-renewable subscription as an In-app purchase option but it has its quirks. First of all, it is not open to all apps and is under Apple’s discretion whether your app can use it or not. Imagine spending the time implementing auto-renewable subscription and then end up not being approved by Apple.
Then there is no option to allow developer to offer an “Unsubscribe” button from within the app. The subscription management is buried within App Store settings page.Then there is the issue of the app not knowing if the user has turn off renew automatically before the subscription actually ends. Developer can’t have the last attempt to prompt user to continue their subscription.
App Store team should seriously review how other subscription services are implemented. The current implementation is just not friendly to the app business.
There are a number of ways Apple can spruce up the current Apple TV. Apple TV is not the best general purpose media player due to its lack of 4K video. It is not the ideal game platform due to the limitation of its default controller. Third party gamepad is supported, but unless Apple release its own gamepad, not many will view Apple TV as a serious game platform. We don’t even get the most powerful A-series processor on Apple TV.
As an app platform, Apple TV is lacking in few departments. Where’s the camera and microphone when you want to develop a chat or video conference app? What is the best practice payment flow like for a shopping app? Where’s the SDK for Siri to develop an Amazon Echo like app? And there is no options for developers to use Apple TV as a HomeKit hub.
Apple developers will likely shake their heads after visiting developers.googleblog.com. It is disheartening when you visit developer.apple.com/news/ and read those one sentence news such as “OS X El Capitan 10.11.4 beta 7 (15E64a) Now Available”, “iOS 9.3 beta 7 (13E5233a | 13E5234a) Now Available”. It appears that the news site is run by the App Store team. Need news on the latest development of Swift? Then it is on another site. Need to know the latest developer sample apps released by Apple, then you have to dig elsewhere. Looking for some tutorials on how to use Swift 2.2, head over to IBM blog.
The news site is build more for managers of developers, with a total lack of articles and insight on how to build better apps for Apple platform. It is in Apple’s best interests to teach and train its developers all year round, not just during WWDC. Is it too much to ask Apple to dedicate some such resource?
Multi-user support for iPad
One common use case for iPad is as an entertainment and reading device for family members. Multi-user support is ideal to enable such sharing. Apple might think multi-user support will impact iPad’s sale. The lack of this feature will not propel a family to buy more iPad. It will only give them inconveniences.
Apple might want to consider a brand new padOS for its iPad, with multi-user support, terminal command prompt, file management access and full USB support. This will make choosing an iPad Pro over MS Surface a no brainer exercise.
iPad sales is not growing. Maybe its not because of the hardware.
User login for tvOS
It is strange that when you switch on an AppleTV and see the photos, music, apps of one family member. tvOS requires a user account login for its App Store, Photos, Music, Podcasts etc. There is clearly a mismatch. A TV is a communal device shared by many. Hopefully Apple is working on a solution for the next version of tvOS.
Native Docker support for OS X
Docker container technology is storming into cloud computing, and is becoming the tool of choice for many developers, especially for backend app development. OS X is currently not compatible with the container tech used by Docker. Using Docker on OS X is clunky, as it relies on a virtual machine running a compatible Linux instance. It is no surprise to see that OS X is running out of flavour with some developers who choose to run Ubuntu or Debian on their Mac.
Apple has released the videos for the Apple TV Tech Talk, a conference that it held across 10 cities around the world to teach developers how to make tvOS apps for the Apple TV. There are a total of 11 different videos covering topics from designing for tvOS, focus-driven interfaces, Siri Remote controller, on-demand resources, TVMLKit, the Top Shelf and App Store distribution and marketing. This is the first online video resources from Apple to learn about Apple TV programming as tvOS was not covered in WWDC 2015.
During an interview on stage at WSJDLive 2015 conference, Tim Cook announced that the new Apple TV 4 will be available for order next Monday October 26, with shipping expected the same week. Pricing starts at $149 for 32GB model and $199 for the 64GB model. Since Amazon.com has banned the sale of Apple TV and Chromecast, your best place to order the new Apple TV 4 is at Apple website.
Apple’s “Hey Siri” media event was packed with many announcements, and expectedly a number of details were not revealed at the event. Here are more information on Apple TV 4 you’ll want to know to get a better picture of what to expect.
The fourth-generation Apple TV is 50% taller (35mm vs 23mm) and 50% heavier (425g vs 272g) than previous model. It has A8 processor (vs A5 in 3rd gen) and 2G of memory. This spec is higher than iPhone 6/6 Plus which is using the same A8 processor but with 1G of memory. The beefier memory is much needed for improved caching and to support demanding games.
Apple TV 4 does not support 4k video. The HDMI port is version 1.4 and is not the 4k friendly HDMI 2.0. The service-and-support only micro-USB port is now replaced with USB-C. The optical audio port is dropped. This undoubtedly will make some users unhappy when they’re connecting their Apple TV via an AV amplifier that has no HDMI support. You will be fine if you connect Apple TV directly to the HDTV or via an AV amplifier that has HDMI input. Apple TV 4 will now support Dolby Digital 7.1 in addition to Dolby Digital 5.1. Great news for those with a 7.1 home theatre setup at home.
Wi-Fi in the new Apple TV is 802.11a/b/g/n/ac with MIMO. The wireless speed with proper setup could be faster than the wired 10Mb/100Mb Ethernet port. You may still want to use Ethernet for greater network latency and Ethernet is a more reliable connection in general. Apple could easily upgraded the network to gigabyte Ethernet at negligible cost. It is astonishing Apple could release a new networking hardware in 2015 with a technology that is older than 10 years. All hints point to a future revision of Apple TV with only wireless networking.
Curiously Apple TV 4 is using Bluetooth 4.0 instead of the latest Bluetooth 4.2. iPad Pro, iPhone 6s / 6s Plus and even the 6th gen iPod touch released this summer are all sporting Bluetooth 4.2. The latest Bluetooth 4.2 has better throughput and is more efficient. You’d expect Apple to support Bluetooth 4.2 for a device that is well suited to become a HomeKit hub. There is zero sign of anything “HomeKit” in the media event.
Apple is dubbing the new black remote “Siri Remote”. Siri integration is touted as the headline feature for you to use voice commands and for search. Unfortunately Siri in Apple TV will be initially limited to five languages in eight countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, United Kingdom and United States. There is no specific if or when Siri on Apple TV will arrive for other countries.
Siri Remote has build-in accelerometer and gyroscope for playing game like a Nintendo Wii remote. To prevent gamers from throwing the remote at their HDTV screens, Apple is selling a wrist strap called Remote Loop that resembled the one Nintendo released for Wii controller years ago. There is no information on the maximum number of remote/controller that you can used during a game session. And there is no pricing yet for buying just the Siri Remote.
Beside using the Siri Remote for games, Apple TV also supports third parties MFi certified game controllers such as the Nimbus Steelseries Controller that is prominently promoted on Apple site.
Updated: Apple has stated in its App Programming Guide for tvOS that while you can use third party game controller with Apple TV, all games made for Apple TV must support the Siri Remote. This will reduce the number of games available during launch period as time is required to add Siri Remote support into existing games. Complex console type games will also be limited as most of them are designed to play with a dedicated game controller.
As for TV subscription plan, it remains a rumour for now. Judging from the accuracy of recent Apple rumours, it is safe bet that we will see a TV subscription plan from Apple materialise towards the end of the year or early next year.
The aluminium Apple Remote is bundled with each Apple TV. With a centre scroll-wheel and 2 buttons below, the user interface exemplifies the Apple design for simple and ease of use.
The minimal approach to a remote might not be your cup of tea. Or that you’re using a universal remote such as Logitech Harmony 650 in your home entertainment systems and you’d like to use the same remote to control the Apple TV.
Turns out that Apple TV is compatible with third-party infrared remotes. You can use the remote that came with your TV or cable box to control Apple TV.
First check if your remote supports Apple TV directly with its factory default settings. If not, select a setting on your remote for Apple TV, one that doesn’t control any of your existing devices.
On Apple TV, using the Apple Remote to go to Settings > General < Remotes and select Learn Remote. Select Start.
Apple TV will display icons that represent the six buttons on the Apple Remote. The Up (+) button should be highlighted.
On your third-party remote, press and hold the button you want to be Up until the blue progress bar is full. Apple TV will select the next Down button. Repeat the steps until you’ve program all six buttons.
Apple TV, with its spartan looking remote control, is as simple as can be for a media streaming box. But that doesn’t mean it has no tricks on its own. Here are 10 tips for getting the most out of your Apple TV:
- To quickly put your Apple TV to sleep, press and hold the “Play/Pause” button.
- Press and hold the “Select” button during video playback, and you will get a menu to adjust audio, subtitle and speaker options.
- When you’re playing a video or nesting deeming in submenus, press and hold the “Menu” button to take you back to the main menu.
- Data entry using the remote is slow and error prone. Use the free Remote app on your iPhone or iPad instead. Or use any bluetooth keyboard via Settings > General > Bluetooth.
- Rather than using the default National Geographic pictures as screen saver, you can select movie trailer posters, your Photo Stream photos or Flickr album. Change it under Settings > Screen Saver > Photos.
- To hide apps on your home screen, go to Settings > General > Restrictions.
- To rearrange the icons on the home screen, first navigate to the app icon. Press and hold the “Select” button until the icon begins to jiggle, then use the arrow keys to move the icon where you want.
- In addition to iPhone and iPad, you can AirPlay content on your Mac to the Apple TV if you are running OS X Mountain Lion or later.
- Instead of using the stock Apple remote control, you can program non-Apple remote control if it has learning capability. Setup is under Settings > General > Remotes > Learn Remote. This allows you to use one remote to control all your home entertainment TV and boxes.
- To reset your Apple TV in case it is unresponsive, press and hold down “Menu” button together with “Down” button.